I hope that you are healthy and happy and I wish you a blessed Holy Week and Joyful Easter.
Life in Aru continues to be full for me. This week began with the tragic deaths of three neighbor children on Monday night in a house fire only a hundred yards or so from the volunteer house. We knew the children since they would sometimes come over to talk or play. It's still hard to believe they've died. We tend to think that we and those around us have lots of time to live, but in times like this we remember that every day is a gift, as is every person who crosses our path.
Easter Break begins on Holy Thursday and lasts for two weeks. I'm looking forward to having time to work on house projects and Luca, Fausto, Sr. Daniela and I may take a trip to Bunia near Lake Albert to visit the community there and see some more of Congo.
I recently wrote an article for the VOICA newsletter. I will paste it below to give a bit of an update on the projects going on here in Aru.
Making Progress with Projects in Aru, Congo
Greetings from Aru, Democratic Republic of Congo, where VOICA is taking root! We VOICA volunteers are now working with the Canossian Sisters to start up a bakery, establish a farm, set up a computer center and build the volunteer house.
I (Tricia Pipkin ,Colorado, U.S.A.) arrived on September 1, 2007 and began teaching English at Adia Lemi high school, and giving English and music sessions at St. Magdalene of Canossa preschool. I plan to serve in Aru for two years.
Fausto Signoretto (Verona, Italy) arrived December 8, 2007. He wears many hats: driver, bakery assistant, engineer, farmer, electrician and general handyman. He also has committed to two years of service.
Luca Serotti (Brescia, Italy) arrived with Fausto on December 8. Already, he is becoming famous in Aru for the delicious bread that he makes at the new bakery.
Simone Lovato (Verona, Italy) arrived January 22 and departed February 28. He was very busy employing his expertise as an electrician as he installed electrical systems and solar panels during his five weeks with us.
Bakery: Construction of the new bakery and the large wood-burning oven inside was completed in December. Fausto and Luca lined the oven with corrugated sheet metal, soldered oven racks and began experimenting with different dough recipes and techniques for properly heating the oven.
On December 23, the long-awaited container arrived carrying the industrial-size electric oven and mixer. Luca began using the mixer immediately to mix the dough in the evenings during the three hours we have electricity from the main generator. Often Fausto and I also accompanied him for dinner and community nightlife at the bakery.
The electric oven required more electric power than the existing generator produced, so a new generator was ordered from Kampala, Uganda. Towards the end of January, Luca began baking with the new electric oven. Now he produces about 1000 rolls each day and it is selling well. We have also begun baking pizza, banana cake and corn bread. These are novelties for the people here, but they're catching on fast. The profits from the sales at the bakery will help fund other projects in the province.
The bakery shop has also been a good place to interact with the local people of Aru as we sell the products of the bakery, candy and soft drinks. We are discussing ways to make it a social gathering place with opportunities for sharing God's word and for fellowship.
Farm: What was simply an open field near a year only ago is now the beginning of a working farm that will help fund Canossian projects. Nine cows, one bull and two calves sleep in the newly constructed barn. A chicken house awaits the arrival of its hens and the fields are being plowed for planting. A tractor and plow arrived in the container in December, and Fausto worked diligently to design and build counterweights for the tractor that would allow the plow to be used, and he has begun training a local man to drive the tractor. Planting will begin in the next month or so with the coming of the rainy season.
Cyber Café: The finishing touches are being completed in the construction of the cyber café that will house five computers that allow access to Internet and about twenty others for general use. These computers also arrived in the long-awaited container and Fausto and Simone loaded the needed programs and began setting up the computer systems. Internet service possibilities are being investigated and the solar panels await installation. Access to computers is extremely limited in Aru. We hope that this center will provide opportunities for the people of Aru, especially students, to learn computer skills and do research.
Volunteer House: Within the next couple of weeks we hope to be completely moved into the new volunteer house. Major construction was finished in January. Simone and Fausto, with some help from Luca, installed the large solar panels and accompanying electrical system that now provides twenty-four hour power for the volunteer house. The painting of the interior was finished at the beginning of March and plumbing is almost complete. Now we need to move the wood stove from the old kitchen to the new and put up the curtains. We are grateful to last year's short-term volunteer group, the province and all who contributed to the construction of our house!
And One Project in Ariwara: Solar Panels for the Hospital! During Simone's stay in Congo, he spent almost a week working with Fausto on installing the solar panels and accompanying electrical system for the hospital in Ariwara. At the time of writing, Fausto has returned to Ariwara to continue working on this big project that will give the hospital much-needed access to twenty-four hour power.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to make these projects possible. Please keep us in your prayers, that we are able to make Jesus known and loved through these projects and in all our our work.