This morning, Rita warned me that we were going into the “bush” to the “village”. The word “village” seemed to imply a unique distinction from all the other places we’ve visited so far. We’ve been to “peri-urban” areas, we’ve been in “community”, we’ve spent time in slums and markets and in “town”. All these designations have unique implications. It was today, however, that we went to a “village”.
“What is a village”? I didn’t ask that question because I thought I knew.
I grew up in a village – the village of Stirling to be exact. I can tell you where it is. I can tell you about the creamery there and the best butter in the world. I can tell you about the millpond that we used to play broomball on. I can tell you about the covered bridge and where the grocery store is. I can tell you where my grandparents are buried and where my mom started a store.
I love Stirling because that is where I’m from. In some small way I feel that it is mine. It lays claim to its own unique rural Canadian charm as well as strange titles like hosting the longest tractor parade in the world, but today I learned that Stirling is not a village, nor am I its villager.
Katuba is a village.
Katuba is located in the bush. I can’t really tell you where it is because it isn’t on the map. I can’t tell you about the streets because there are no streets. I can’t tell you about the stores; there are no stores. I can’t really tell you much at all about Katuba. But I can tell you about its villagers.
The villagers are peasant farmers and live in round mud huts with thatched roofs. Approximately 500 people consider themselves villagers here. They are entirely self-sufficient.
Katuba did not have an adequate school or education system until 2012 when a local NGO built a new school there. Today I visited that school. I spent some time in the grade 1 class where I gifted the students with handwritten letters from my niece’s grade 1 class in London, Ontario.
Many of children in Katuba go to school with no shoes. There is no paper. There are no pencils or books. Some of the children carry their infant siblings on their back to school. They come having had no breakfast. But when the teacher asks a question their hands wave, vibrating with eagerness and their arms outstretch to the curiosity of their little minds.
These are the future villagers. On their shoulders rests the responsibility of the strength to carry on the life and stories of the village.
In the village, life is simple.
This is where people help their neighbour and where man and beast live together in harmony. This is where young and old share each other’s load. There is no pressure. Life is not exaggerated. This is where you survive if you have a small field and a few bags of corn.
The village is education; it is respect and reverence. Village is play. It is sustenance and shelter. It is protection and peace. Village is relationship. Village is friends and village is family living together in peace.
As villagers we walk together side by side, for – we are the village.