Ireen from Zambia, Africa, had a difficult childhood. When her father passed away, her mother couldn’t afford to care for her children with her small income as a housekeeper. She sent her four children, including Ireen, to live with their grandfather. He also had trouble providing everything the children needed, and often could not afford their school fees. “I started at Kasisi Primary School when I was five, but had no one to pay for my school fees,” she recalls. Irene wasn’t able to regularly attend school for many years.
“We travel all the way from the East, are you sure this is the place where the King of the Jews is born?”
“I am not 100% sure. We were told to follow the star. And the star stops here.”
“A messy manger? To pay homage to a child born in a messy manger?”
“Well, since we are here, might as well go in to have a look.”
“What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, King to own Him. The King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and Angels sing. Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.” (What Child is This lyrics)
Power for a sewing machine: 220 volts. Power for a chainsaw: 58 volts. Power for an oven: 240 volts. Power for a man or woman to earn a consistent, competitive daily wage: stronger than the sun!
Unemployment among parents is a consistent issue across all of Chalice’s sites. Finding daily wage work (such as agricultural labour) is challenging and often seasonal, and permanent positions a pipe dream to many. Naturally, many people become entrepreneurs, making use of their skills and available resources to start a small business – be it a handicraft, or a service, or an agricultural endeavour.
On my first day in Kumbakonam, the town where Chalice’s Tamil Site is based, my colleagues and I took an evening stroll through a residential neighborhood. I kept seeing chalk designs on the ground in front of the house’s doorway. Some simple, some more elaborate.
My colleague explained to me that this practice is called rangoli, or sometimes kolam. Residents, often women and girls, will draw fresh ones in the mornings and evenings in front of their homes. At times, such as on special occasions or during festivals, the designs will have specific means or honour specific deities. Sometimes they are just decorative and an opportunity to get creative.