Dear co-workers, supporters and friends of Sewadars,
We hope you entered the New Year with a breath of fresh air and with renewed energy.
2011 is going to be the year of delightful events, one of which is the upcoming international festival taking place on the foothills of the Himalaya at the holy bank of the Mother Ganga river in Rishikesh (India). This celebration, entitled “11.11.11” (see website http://11-11-11yoga.com/), is going to be a 7-day gathering of music and Kundalini Yoga to celebrate the dawning of the Aquarian Age, which is the spiritual time the Earth is entering after 13’000 years of a materialistic experience, according to the sacred yogic scriptures called “Vedas”. We with friends and family will be attending provided all circumstances fall in place as planned. We invite all of you to contact us if you want to join our group as great teachers and musicians will be leading this event which hosted at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram.
For us, the beginning of the year was colored by an intense involvement of making contacts with local conscious leaders as well as humanitarian organizations and groups working here in Luanda. We found that though there are organizations set up and eager to serve, they are all faced with similar challenges such as funds, infrastructure and most of all lack of governmental support. Of course some of the larger well established organizations that have been here for many years have on going running programs but they are by no means extensive enough for the amount of work needed to reach the vast population living well below the poverty line. Just some numbers that international independent NGOs have come up with are:
- 65% of the population is below the age of 25 years and 90% of this age group has no formal education, jobs or livelihood.
- 60-70% of the population is illiterate with most of the young men having no chance of achieving their “manhood” (defined as being able to meet the cultural definition of a man in Angola would be financially providing for family such as children and wife, owning a home and holding a job.)
- 93% of the population is not using cooking gas or having access to government supplied gas lines or electricity so they are either breathing the fumes from the use of generator (the pulmonary diseases are high because of that) or cutting down trees for cooking use.
As you can see there is lot of work needing to be done to raise the standard of living as the numbers are shocking, especially if you consider that the majority of the population is illiterate without a possibility for receiving good education or means to support themselves.
I. Kimbo Liombembwa
We went to interview the Non-Governmental Organisation Kimbo Liombembwa (see pictures on the right and click on the slideshow), which means “village of piece for the child” (see Friedensdorf International, firstname.lastname@example.org). The NGO was founded in 2001 by a German, Mr. Ronald Gegenfurtener, who passed-away two years ago. The mission is to go to the secluded villages (where sometimes even cars can not reach) in the countryside of Angola to look for injured or ill children caused by traumas from the war such as landmines, war injuries, malnutrition, insufficient healthcare etc. These children are selected based on their need of a heavy surgical intervention or the severity and complexity of their case that can not be attended to locally due to the financial background of the family and the local facilities. The children are then sent to hospitals in Dusseldorf (Germany) for their treatments which are financed through the charity. Each year two full airplanes are sending Angolan children in need of medical care to Germany. The organization manages to run the project despite the fact that they do not even have a proper office in place here in Angola. They are currently renting a bunker as an office to receive the parents of ill children coming to beg and plead for their children to be selected to be sent to Germany. The organization requires that all the documents brought at the time of application are original and certified by an official doctor. The material the NGO receives through the charity is stocked in a small room that the organization has available to them as courtesy of the catholic monastery next to their location (see pictures).
In two weeks we are invited by the representative Angolan doctor of the organization, Dr. Rosalino Neto, to go with him to one of these challenging expeditions in the countryside. We will keep you informed of the understandings and conditions after our visit. Based on the visit to this project, the success rate of the surgeries, children and families helped as well as the qualification of the doctors involved, we consider this type of NGO very important for the emergencies of the healthcare situation in Angola. However, we feel it is also extremely important to develop the adequate and necessary infrastructure here locally in Angola itself rather than of always having to depend on the goodwill and the “pity” of foreign countries.
II. Project Criskari Life-School
We heard about a Portuguese and Angolan woman who is feeding 200 to 250 children daily at the Mussulo Island (it is an island seen from the shores the mainland of Luanda). One week later, we took the local boat to visit this mission in order to find out what it takes to feed so many children daily and to study how to provide healthy food and how to eliminate malnutrition by using local foods (see pictures on the right and click on the slideshow). Isabel Fontes Pires, founder of the project and author of the book “Inaandra, Quality of Life”, invited us warmly to her house which is surrounded by a beautiful little garden of local medical plants. She is also a member of the international humanitarian organization Rotary (see http://www.rotary.org/en/AboutUs/Pages/ridefault.aspx). There is a Rotary Club in Luanda and we are planning to visit it next. Miss Pires is also a researcher in local healthy nutrition, vegan and Reiki Master. She is often invited by local newspapers or by the radio to share her visions and her knowledge about the holistic approach of life. Her daughter just opened the first store of organic food in Luanda.
As soon as we arrived at her house, she gave us a bowl containing a yellow liquid. We had to rub this strange bitter homemade lotion all over the uncover parts of our body… it was our first experience of a natural mosquito repellant! She used the neem plant of her garden, simply boiled into water, to produce the so efficient “local spray”!
Then we walked through the beach passing small huts and shacks as well as wealthy beach bungalows to reach the facility she is running. The contrast between the rich and extremely poor is so prevalent everywhere in Luanda as well at the vacation spots such as this island. Reaching the main location we saw that it is a space provided by the local Catholic Church. In the main building they are cooking and feeding the children as well as teaching them as much as possible about the environment and the local plants and fruits that provide nutrients and vitamins. The two meals (breakfast and lunch) that she provides daily to the impoverished children of Mussulu are vegetarian and cooked with local vegetables. She believes that many of the illness stem from the processed food and the meat. She is providing vegetarian food to the children as an example of a healthy nutrition in order to teach the people not to forget the richness that is growing on their own land and that they do not need to eat all the imported meats and foods from neighboring countries, Europe and the USA. The vegetarian aspect was a great inspiration for us as our own project of creating a holistic school SEWADARS would be completely vegetarian as well (see posted text of December 2010 on this blog). We felt encouraged to see that the children were adapting very well to the food despite that the Angolan cultural after the Portuguese colonialism is a meat-eating culture.
The priority of the center is to focus on informing and teaching the young children about nutrition and the environment. It was chocking for us to see so many children with a protuberant belly and yellow hair, two obvious signs of malnutrition (see pictures). Most of these children’s parents are unemployed, drug-addicts and alcoholics, a result of a wild capitalistic society that maintains wealth in the hands of a small group of the social elite resulting from post war.
Facts: In the last decade of the colonial period, Angola was a major African food exporter but now imports almost all its food, which makes the food prices exorbitant and impossible for the majority local population to afford. Luanda in Angola is the world’s most expensive city, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer (Tokyo is in second position). This is a leading cause to the increasing malnutrition and the high infancy and adult death rates. There is a major lack of government incentives for the local farmers or industries to cultivate and grow the local agriculture as most of the resources are focused on the build of roads, housing and other corporate interests such as the petroleum and diamond industries. The unemployed majority population is surviving only on white rice, manioc and beans eating maximum one meal a day with may be some bread and tea for breakfast. Hard fact to face is that most of the Angolans can barely afford to eat one meal a day not because their country can not produce the food but rather because their local agriculture is not prioritized yet. Angola is the one African country that has the most rivers and rain fall in the continent. It is naturally a country full of recourses and a rich agricultural environment but again lacking the support to grow it.
III. Dr. Pinto, herbalist and chemical doctor
Some days after our arrival to Angola, during a family week-end at the beach of Mussulu Island, a friend who had joined us told me, after knowing of our interest for natural medicine, that he has an acquaintance who is a very qualified herbalist. He said: “Even people from the Government come to see this doctor who lives in one of the poorest area of Luanda, and if you want to visit him, you have to meet him very early in the morning because he is treating patients all day long…”
Few days later, we took the 4x4 Toyota for our expedition in the very heart of the pulsating population of Luanda. It was a day after the rain and the already challenging streets made of dirt were just overflowed by water (see pictures of the slideshow). The imposing trash was coming even more out of this chaotic and almost apocalyptic slum area we were crossing in our comfortable car… what a crazy world of dualities and illusion we are living in. Some are enjoying extreme luxury, some are sitting in the trash all day long and even eating it, like this old man we saw from the window of the car in our way to, sitting in the middle of an amount of stinking trash. On our way back, six hours later, he was still there, at the exact same place, not having moved from an inch!
Dr. Pinto is working in a little room just opposite to a catholic church (see video clip of chant on the right of local women practicing at the church). As you can see all our visited projects are able to function somewhat based on the good will of the local churches and their very limited space. There is a HUGE need for charities and funds for projects like this and Sewadars. Dr. Pinto has treated, since 2001, 13’269 patients all through natural medical treatments. Being a certified doctor in conventional medicine as well, he still treats his patients with phytotherapy, homeopathy and with natural local plants, something he learned and inherited from a long lineage in his family. His grandmother taught him most of what he knows regarding his understandings of the local Angolan plants. He was also taught by Brazilian priests how to use the pendulum (see picture) and bio-energy for healing, a tool he uses consistently as a guide for listening to the patient and being guided by the patient for the best suited treatment for their illness. His practice of natural medecine since 28 years has given him an expensive knowledge about all the local diseases such as thyroid, polio, malaria, parasitizes, cholera, and how to treat them with local medicinal plants, where to find them in the jungle and how to prepare them (see picture of the Aloa Vera plant, called here “Chandala”). Unfortunately, his laboratory is a minuscule room with only three little beds to dry the healing leafs and roots and some plastic bottles to create the mother-tint for the homeopathic pharmacy. He is struggling since years, with an Angolan society of natural healers, to legalize the traditional and natural medicine by the Angolan Government. Indeed, this way of treatment is repressed by the western allopathic vision here and he has faced many challenges for his cause.
We decided to verify the accurateness of his work by using Jasmine as a guinea pig (see pictures of the diagnostic). After the required two weeks of treatments with homeopathy and vegetal teas of “mussequenho”, “umondoluo” and “assa-peixe”, the persistent diarrhea and the fainting sensations Jasmine had faced on our arrival to the country disappeared completely.
Dr. Pinto told us that he wants the Angolan people to rise in the knowledge of the richness they have and that’s why he is interested to collaborate with us for the creation of our Sewadars School so that he can take the lead of the medical care of the orphanage. The next steps are:
- Finding a field where to build the holistic school and orphanage
- Finding a competent principal for the academic courses of the school
- Find sponsors and investors to start the construction
- Find an open-minded teacher for each teaching program, including arts, music and organic farming
- We will be responsible for the yoga and the holistic aspect of the school and orphanage
As for now, we asked Dr. Pinto to create a list of all the different medical and highly nutritional plants to start a teacher-training book. Therefore we need for now concretely:
- a camera and a laptop computer for Dr.Pinto to start to put his knowledge on the paper, to reduce the validity of the African axiom: “When an African old man dies it’s an entire library that dies.”
- a projector for the promotion and presentation of our project to raise funds
If you have or you know about an eventual possibility of getting these items for this cause, please contact us by email, thank you very much! We of course also welcome funds to purchase these items however everything in Angola is 4-5 times the cost of purchasing in Europe of USA. We can get Angolans that travel abroad to purchase these items and bring so we just need community effort to start with these items to get the energy going either via funds or donation of the items themselves. Even if each blog visitor pledges to donate a few dollars it will go far. We are making many efforts to raise funds now and we need everyone to participate that can and would like to. Sewadars has an account set up with WellsFargo in the USA and is registered under Jasmine Rence as a NGO.
Thank you for your support and for all the well wishes we received from you for our success in moving the project forward.
Jasmine Kaur and Claudio Lamsa
Thought Meditation: “See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of Yogis; conquer your own mind, and conquer the world.” – Japji Sahib