Lights in the Darkness

by Marianne Knuth on August 6, 2012

Last night we closed our youth programme. After three months and two days at Kufunda their journey will be taking them back home to their communities. 21 beautiful young people from across Zimbabwe (Central, South and East). Last night I saw their tears, and felt their tremors, their sadness and their fear at returning home. Their love for each other and the time they have spent together.

I have felt over the last weeks how lights have been turning in on in each one of them, how they have come to know and see and believe in themselves. It is as yet a fragile flame. It is only a beginning. Many of them have come from living as orphans, struggling young people in challenging circumstances. They have joined with others here, where they have been asked to tell their story, and their mind, and their heart. They have been guided to connect to their deeper passion and impulse, whilst working side by side with others, dancing, singing, learning in community, about community and sustainability – about working with what we have, together.

Have we taught them enough? Have we ignited the spark of self and of love of learning for them to be okay to journey on alone? For them to know how to begin the work of building a community of fellow learners around them?

Only time will tell. I must believe both yes and no. Both yes and no. I was stunned last night to only fully comprehend how enormous this is for many of them, for most of them. How I still hold a romanticized version of the rural communities. Of there still being community out there. I am sure there is, and yet so many of them spoke of alone they had felt before coming here, and of their fierce appreciation for the friendships they had made here.They spoke of a desire to go back and begin their work, and of their fear of being alone again. They spoke of how few people these days seem to want to work towards community, connection and learning to live in harmony with nature.

Just a few months ago, some might have said the same of these young folk. And so perhaps many are out there, isolated, disconnected, not yet even conscious that there can be another way, or that our world today is slowly but surely eroding our strong bonds of community.

As this programme has come to an end I have been reading Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein. In it I have become increasingly clear how our monetary system is inherently flawed, and is influencing every single one of us across the planet. With it we will continue to commoditize our commons – our nature, our community, our culture, our social connections. In the relentless search for growth everything needs to be turned into money. And so it is – I see now even more clearly – that it is becoming harder and harder for someone to return to their community with the intention to work with the orphans and vulnerable children (25% of Zimbabwean children are orphaned, 37% are vulnerable, source: UNDP). Because how can they afford to? Rather have them cut down trees and burn bricks for sale, or create a chicken project, or a bead project, or some small income generating project – which actually is not that essential in the rural communities, that are still quite self-sufficient – although with the monetisation of everything, this is also disappearing. To be pragmatic the youth must go back and find the projects that can pay – because in this they will find money and thus a ‘living’. But the children without parents, the reforestation projects, the community learning centres – these are not practical, these are not easily monetisable and so they cannot easily be done. Can’t the community pay for it, you might ask. Yes, but when it is between someone else’s child and sending my own to school – what will the choice be?

So as this programme ends, I feel a little fear as they go back with wonderful intentions, important questions, and good ideas for things they can do to begin to build a stronger community that comes together beyond the domain of money, that comes together to discover what it cares most deeply about and begins to work together for that. And I know that money can and will get in the way.

At Kufunda we will continue to learn our way into what a more full gift economy can look like. It will include growing more of our own food. Let us grow almost all of our own food, even if it means spending more time growing. It will include doing more things for each other, sharing the things we have that we don’t need, both in the village and in the community around us – I think it will include some of what Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth writes about learning the deeper practice of collective presencing. It seems that we are in a place where we can truly begin to practice some of what the future is calling for. Infinite growth in a finite material world is not possible, and so the time will come when we will either redefine our monetary system which is driving this growth (with its debt based money) or it will collapse. The time will come when we need to come back to what we know of community, of working together, of learning and creating the things that we truly need – health for ourselves, our communities and our children, laughter and joy from our playful exploration, our creation of music and dance and theatre and art… and I realise that we have it all already. It is all already here.

And so I sit this morning as Winnet and Listen, and Evans and Kudzi, and the others are traveling back home, looking at the challenge they will face, of going ahead with the work with the children despite there not being money for it, or the work of the reforestation or the building of the community centre. I hope the flame that is burning in them will be strong enough to keep alight. I commit myself to support them, to be with them as together we figure out what it means to do that which is needed – and longed for – in a world which by our flawed design is asking us rather to sell our soul and our time, than to heed our soul and bring our most treasured gifts.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,