A window on life in Zambia
Sr. Josephine Murphy was part of the Manchester community when she joined the English Province Mission in Zambia in January 1984. This Province had two houses in Zambia’s Western Province—Kaoma and Mongu. Mongu Cheshire Home had recently opened and there were only six girls resident there at first. Josephine taught in Holy Cross Secondary school across the road from the Cheshire Home. She remained in Zambia until 2010 and returned again recently this year to monitor some of the Misean Cara Projects there. This is part of her experience of then and now.
About Zambia then
In 1984 Zambia was still a one party state following independence, but in 1989 President Kaunda allowed other parties to come into being and he handed over peacefully when defeated in the elections. The population of Zambia was relatively small and life was simple with most people living in rural areas, but the move to urban areas was beginning. The country was still dependent on donor funding to build up its health and education services and Irish and Indian sisters were still needed as teachers in secondary schools.
The reality of HIV and AIDS
HIV and AIDS came in the 1980s and devastated the population. Every family was affected by sickness and death of relatives, leading to poverty and great strain on the extended family which would normally look after the orphan children. Sr. Vianney who had nursed for many years in Kaoma hospital started a community orphanage to help relieve the situation. The sisters were also involved in education to raise awareness of HIV infection and programmes like Adventure Unlimited and Behaviour Change had a big influence for good.
Presentation Life and Ministry
In 1989 the Presentation Sisters in the six houses in Zambia (who belonged to the English, Northern and Indian Provinces) and who had been meeting regularly, formed the Zambian Presentation Vice Province. Josephine spent two years in the Sichili Mission where the sisters ran the hospital and out-clinics on behalf of the Diocese and she taught in the community secondary school. Communication was provided by the Capuchin Fathers’ radio twice a day or by the hospital radio, which was linked to the Presentation house in Livingstone. Sr. Zinha oversaw the Leprosy Welfare Centre and Sr. Prema ran the Homecraft Centre. A formation programme for Zambian women who wanted to become Presentation Sisters started in the 1990s. Before Josephine left in 2010 the Zambian sisters were trained teachers and nurses and in full-time ministries.
Josephine spent her last ten years in Zambia in Livingstone, helping in the novitiate and doing pastoral care of the sick before she got involved in a Diocesan project to set up a skills training centre for older orphans. This Youth Community Training Centre still caters for vulnerable youth from all denominations and offers them a way to find employment to support their families.
The present day
In 2013, the Zambia and Zimbabwe Presentation groups had come together to form the Africa Unit. Now in 2019, the sisters in the Africa Unit team are Judith Bingura and Sandra Ndingwa from Zimbabwe and Judith Haabasune and Numba Mukeya from Zambia. Many of the Irish and Indian Sisters who were in Zambia with Josephine have returned to Ireland, England and India, while Sr. Sue McGregor from New Zealand is still in Lusaka working in a drugs/alcohol rehabilitation programme.
HIV is still a problem in Zambia with many new infections but Anti Retroviral Drugs slow down the progression of the disease and parents live to see their children grow up. The education system in the country has expanded but children still learn in overcrowded classrooms and there is high youth unemployment. The country’s infrastructure is improving with better roads and bridges. If there is better rainfall this season it is hoped to overcome the problems caused by this year’s severe drought. Josephine adds however, that the population has now almost trebled since her arrival in 1984.