Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Basankusu: Pineapples, fish and a broken tooth

During the past month, the “Rural Women Determined Against Malnutrition”, the registered name of our association, were pleased to see our numbers drop to only five. They didn’t waste time, and were soon planting pineapples and soya beans in our garden. These crops will provide food for the children and an income to support our work. Pineapples grow on the ground and send runners through the soil to make new plants, like strawberries do.

“The pineapples will take more than six months before we can pick them,” explained our nurse, Mama José, “but the soya will be ripe in about two months. We’ve got to be ready for the next wave of malnourished children coming to us.

Francis with pineapple plant

At the moment, there is some fish for families to catch in the small streams. That’s quite easy, lots of children go with their mothers to catch catfish, which slither along in the small streams.”

Rural Women Determined Against Malnutrition ... working hard.
She explained further, “The women dig a hole and scoop out the water; they put a basket into the hole and the fish come down the stream and fall into the basket. That’s an easy way to feed your children for free,” she said. “Towards the end of April, heavy rains flood the streams and the fish swim off to deeper water. So no more free food! That’s when we always see lots of malnourished children at our centre. The hungry months continue right up until the end of August when the next free food arrives: that’s the edible caterpillars! Just like the free fish, they are very rich in protein, which helps the children to grow.”

As I walked home from our vegetable garden, I walked underneath the branches of an avocado tree which leant over the path from someone’s garden. I counted twenty ripe avocados hanging on the tree. It just shows what people can have to eat if they just think ahead – sadly, some people fall on difficult times, or times of illness, and end up not being able to feed their children.

The very same day, at our Mill Hill Missionaries house, I enjoyed some tasty catfish like the ones I mentioned.

I tried to be like the locals and crunched hard on the small bones. It wasn’t very wise; I broke part of a tooth! In Basankusu you might be able to have a tooth taken out, but I didn’t want that and to find a proper dentist I needed to travel to Kinshasa.

The routine has now become familiar. I was able to get a canoe ride with the visiting Provincial of the Daughters of Jesus sisters. Two days on the river was followed by two days waiting for a plane which failed to turn up the first day ... and I arrived in Kinshasa.

We were eventually reunited with our suitcases three days after arriving, but didn’t complain (well, not too much anyway).

I will be back in Basankusu soon – in time for the malnourished children who we know will soon arrive.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers ... and even better, send a small donation to help with this work.


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