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Mmam’hiko Project: Botswana

The Sisters in Botswana, Angela, Botshelo and Pulane (a second year novice), are presently involved in working towards an important project in Mmam’hiko, an isolated bush area where the people live in scattered dwellings without access to roads, transport or water. It is near Metsimotlhabe in the outskirts of Gaborone.

Because of its lack of access to transport, schools are a distance away and this causes problems for the future of the young children living in the area. Sister Angela first came into contact with the people through an AIDS project run by the Diocese. Most families here have some members with AIDS. Most households are female led. Since that project ended, the sisters have been feeding the children every Saturday, helped by donations. This means that at least the young people get a proper meal once a week and the difference in their health has been noted. Their mothers cook the meal outside, in a large pot. A canopy has been erected where the children can eat, sheltered from the hot sun. The age of the children ranges from babies to teenagers but there is a large number of
under sixes.

After three years feeding the children, it became obvious that the situaIon of the children and the families would not get any better without some help. It was decided then that the most meaningful way forward was to build a pre-school that could facilitate a daily meal and access to basic educaIon. This would result in children being saved from ignorance and malnutriIon. It would also encourage and support the parents in their daily struggle and perhaps lead to further development in the isolated area.

Children have to walk long distances to get to the main road and as parents are poor, transport costs are a challenge as well as the other costs that educaIon involves. To attend school, children need uniforms, lunch money, fees on occasion and transport costs. As the people have little work these costs are beyond them, resulIng in children going sporadically to school or not at all. Moreover, the younger children are too small to walk long distances.

An applicaIon has been made to Misean Cara, the Irish fund, and we are awaiIng the outcome. The Chief has donated land to build on. We hope to build classrooms, a kitchen, a small outside playground, an office. The Sisters will run the school. It will be a Cross and Passion Mission.

This is a project affecting the very poorest in society. Most parents have never had any schooling and are concerned that their liBle ones do not follow the same pattern of marginalisaIon and illiteracy. This project will break that cycle. Some families subsist as part of a state welfare program of street cleaning which pays a small wage. Most families have someone with AIDS.

A lot of spade work has been done by the sisters such as getting background informaIon, data, writing letters, getting Bills of Quantities from Builders, visitng the different Ministries pertinent to the project as well as speaking to Ministers who will listen. This all takes time and effort. Pre-school teaching and care of the young fit with the gifts of the Sisters. Botshelo and Pulane both have experience of it and Angela is Manager of a Day Orphanage run by the Diocese, originally set up for AIDS orphans. We are hoping than once the pre-school is set up, then the Ministry of Education will allow us to take in the first two years of primary educaIon and pay the salaries.

Mmam’hiko also fits with our option for JPIC and our Sisters in Botswana are definitely trying to live it out among the poor who have no-one to help them except, in this instance, the Passionist Sisters.

We will need to fundraise for this as Misean Cara is a co-funding operaIon and the congregation has to pay a quarter of the costs. Please remember the project in your prayers.

– Sister Rosaleen Murray,  C.P.

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