Poem by Richard Pio, Participant on the Communiversity Programme
A post by Irvine Muzuva as he returns to the village after a year in learning at YIP in Jarna, Sweden.
It has always been & It will always be
The whispers from the rocks and forests
Peace i found within me
Smiles on their faces and within their hearts
There is always warmth everyday life
With the sun right above my head
from one to another rock and tree for shade
Then sinking with the boat of beautiful memories…
from the lives i have lived when i was away
It has been and it will always be
This update has to be in the name of the Kufunda Leadership programme (or the Communiversity Programme as the participants have taken to call it!). We kicked off in late June with what is surely our strongest cohort to date. A diverse group of younger leaders from from rural to urban Zimbabwe have gathered for six months of learning around sustainable community. Many of them are themselves already working with youth in their communities and so we can feel how what they learn is readily being integrated and stretched into very tangible future dreams. This is our fourth programme of this kind and we can feel how the learning and adaptation from the earlier programmes is paying off. The programme is happening with strong contributions and collaboration of Kufunda’s friends and partners from Zimbabwe and beyond, making for a rich pot of learning. Also in July, we joyously welcomed back Irvine Muziva from his year in Jarna, Sweden as part of the Youth Initiative Programme. He came back as a young man who has grown so much. He has stepped in as an apprentice facilitator of our Communiversity Programme. July also saw the visit of environmental activist, Vandana Shiva to Zimbabwe. Kufunda together with two of our community farmers joined in the talks and activities around her visit. She deeply inspired the village around our own choices towards working with traditional seeds and creating seed banks, and helped us see how much more is possible, and necessary.
The last two months have been full of joy at the village.
We hosted our Village retreat for the second time. It is our new tradition which includes the full village, young and old. This time we celebrated harvest time, and in cultural style we DANCED our crops home. The whole village spent a few hours dancing on the beans as a simple, fun and engaging way to dehusk them. The top picture shows the light that can shine during such a dance.
We continued in preparation for our Culture Day, a collaboration with the Tree of Life. Around 300 people joined us on May 2nd, to express, witness
and celebrate the different cultural expressions from around Zimbabwe. We ended the month with an Art of Hosting workshop, in which we hosted over 40 young leaders from across Zimbabwe for a four day experience and exploration of participatory leadership, as a part of our programme selection process. We selected 20 of those 40 for our upcoming Leadership programme, which begins at the end of June.
We have been enjoying the good rains and the summer spirit over the last few months. It being the rainy season we have been working together every Wednesday in the fields. Last week we finally began to harvest. We have millet, beans, sweet potatoes and more goodness coming out of the soil.
We have enjoyed all the many new Kufunda children who have joined the new class at Nyeredzi, this year. We continue after school and weekend programmes for the older children. All in all it seems like the children are really finding and taking their place in the life of the village. We look forward to our second intergenerational retreat this April to reconnect, celebrate, and imagine together.
Several of our facilitators journeyed to the communities to spread word of the next Leadership Programme, and to evaluate the impact of the last programmes. In communities where there was capacity to support the young people in returning there was a very clear positive impact. Elders trusting these young people to step into the leadership they had been deepening at Kufunda. Where this was lacking many of the returnees struggled to create their own space and platform to apply lessons learnt. This year an intergenerational learning session in each community will support the young leaders in bringing their leadership back home. Irvine, one of our alumni, continues to inspire, during his year of learning in Europe.
December was a time of Retreat. We hosted our first intergenerational retreat. 84 people all living in or near the village joined of all ages. It was glorious. We came together to end the year with appreciation and to imagine next year from that place – as a village. From Babe to Grand parent, we were all there. A women’s retreat followed soon after, with rural and urban women coming together for four days to reconnect to our power and grace as women and human beings. It was powerful. Equally powerful was how we were hosted by our men. They were in the background, cooking and tending to the hearth. We agreed that our next such gathering will be for both – it will be Women Are Medicine and Men are Magic!
Also in December was a series of workshops by our friend Lucy West, from the US, who came to teach children, teachers, and parents how to make maths more enjoyable and meaningful. It gave new ideas of how to learn together, and illuminated that oftentimes poor performance has little to do with an ineptitude on the side of the child, and more with the teacher and the methods employed. Most of life is mathematical. Lucy invited us into the possibility to engage with it.
The holidays were full of activities for the children, old and young. The new year saw us opening the Nyeredzi doors to some of our slightly older children, with 18 Kufunda kids in total going to our new school. The school is already making such a difference to the life of the village, with the joy of learning so palpable in our children, and bringing parents to life with the many questions and enthusiasm of our youngest.
We have much to be grateful for in 2013. At the beginning of this year, we came together and began the year, by sharing all the things that we appreciated from 2013. Most of what follows below was a part of that appreciation.
These all fall within one or more of our three main foci:
Education for Life, Sustainable Communities and Participatory Communities.
Children at our Centre
In 2013 we co-created a new school, with friends in town. A place worthy of our children. We have initiated holiday and weekend programmes for our children, and the neighbourhood kids, and we continue to work with women in rural communities (14 kindergartens) supporting them in their efforts with the youngest children through a loose learning network of caregivers and teachers.
Last year 8 children went in to Nyeredzi, the new school, every day, as of this month 18 Kufunda children go into Harare each day for a different kind of education, which works with their creativity, their curiosity and their sense of wonder. The village is taking note of the difference between these children who go to a place that is based on love and awe of our little ones, versus the children that attend the school near Kufunda that is more based on principles of discipline, structure and control.
“I can see something new coming into my home through this child.
Something is born in the family which is important.”
Father of one of the children, who is now going to Nyeredzi.
Some of the older kids who can’t go to Nyeredzi, because it is only for 5-9 year olds at this time, have asked for activities that happen at Nyeredzi, or that visitors to the village bring.
And so in December we began a holiday programme for those children. Together with their toddler sisters and brothers, an average of 15 older kids came three times a week to enjoy crafts, story telling, cooking and baking. We soon ran out of knitting and crochet needles – the kids were so enthusiastic! They found their own needles – long grass stems and the sticks of lolly pops, to continue the exercises at home. We also do memory games and a bit of reading, numbers, maps of the world, biology, mineralogy (where does sand come from? And what stone were arrow tips made from?) – whatever questions the kids have. Also on the list are: treasure hunts, night walks through the bush, poetry, dancing, trips to game parks. Soon the adults will be envious! This continues now during the school term as a weekend programme.
Spreading the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter
The Way we work has become more of an explicit focus, after dear friends during last January’s Learning Festival asked us to share and teach the collaborative and co-creative way that is core to the way of Kufunda.
And so sharing the Art of Hosting (AoH) has been a big part of 2013. Five Art of Hosting workshops took place here last year; a local practitioners network has sprung up, significant in the way people are helping each other host events, gatherings, and change processes.
With the network of Human Rights Organizations:
A project of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, invited us to do a training workshop for their network of Human Rights Organizations. in April. The participants were drawn largely from people who had participated in a two year Learning Series – a joint initiative working at the nexus between Human Rights and Conflict Transformation. After a week of companionship, deepening into conversations that matter, and experiencing the power of meaningful conversation, there was a sense that this is an important key for real shift to occur in this country. And that Kufunda Village could have a distinct role to offer in the realization of this shift, if we choose to.
Art of Hosting with Trust Africa:
Two weeks later we hosted an open enrollment Art of Hosting workshop with Trust Africa. This time the participants were artists, activists, NGO leaders. The impact was the same – a deep resonance, strong relationships and excitement at the possibility that we can craft a new world into being through how we are with ourselves, and each other. At the end of the workshop, a community of practitioners was formed. This group has been meeting monthly since then.
In total, five Art of Hosting sessions have been held in 2013. Some were by request, like the one for Lawyers for Human Rights, some were for our own internal programmes, and one was an open enrollment one.
The community of Art of Hosting practitioners is going strong, meeting regularly and co-hosting events for each others projects. An example is the stakeholder gathering for the Book Café. This event supported the stakeholders in shifting their space into becoming a Community Arts Centre.
Another example is co-hosting a stakeholder gathering for the Newlands Urban Renewal Project. Co-hosting a community clean-up campaign and more recently a dialogue between artists and aids activists on how to use the arts to create more awareness on AIDS.
Hopefully this is only the beginning of a network of community dialogues about what is possible, as we connect in community around what really matters to us.
Leadership for Sustainable Communities Programme
Our fourth leadership programme came to an end in December. It was one of our most successful programmes to date. We had learnt from and integrated our lessons from the other programmes. The things that had worked, but perhaps more importantly things that had not. What have we learnt? That it makes no sense to teach something for the future when we can live it today. And so instead of spending time in the classroom learning about community engagement or village governance, we fully involved the students in our village. They joined in fully. They became a part of us. It required a stretch and an opening on our part – but ultimately left all of us all the richer for it. They came carrying gifts. They have not had a place to offer their gifts before – not really. In a country where unemployed young people are mostly seen as a problem to be solved. And suddenly they had a little more space; suddenly their voice was valued; suddenly they were asked questions and invited to contemplate their answers and to bring their creativity. They rocked the village with their energy, passion, and enthusiasm. And we taught them a thing or two about what is possible in human community.
A real village does not just consist of people between 20 and 65. They have all ages. As do we. This year we have invited the youngest and the oldest and everyone in between to truly join Kufunda. Not just as the place they happen to live, or work, but as the community they choose to be part of building.
Two events stand out in the move towards this stronger embrace of the diversity of the village,
The Warrior of the Heart workshop, took place in August, with visitors from Harare, Denmark, Ireland, the US, South Africa, and Kufunda. Most of our children joined the week of exploring Heart based Warriorship. Their voice and their spirit was as important as that of the visitors from afar. Morning practice, flowgames, evenings of dance, reflections on the questions we each carry. The children brought us the gift of recognising that we are all needed to make up a real community. Somehow our time together felt more Whole. We were Village Learning Together.
This continued at our intergenerational retreat in December. It is something that we have decided to do every school holiday. We also invited the children and parents who are a part of our new school, and the people who work around Kufunda, even if not formally a part of Kufunda. We were 86 people! From new borns to elders. To enable such a diverse spread our design had to be very very simple. It was. Two days. Day one celebrating everything that is dear to us, walking the land appreciating the developments of the year, drawing what we are grateful for, dancing together, meeting in circles of the different generations sharing what makes us love this place, this village. What a powerful first day. Day two was dreaming the future together. Things from Swimming pools, to music rooms, to women’s gatherings emerged in our dreaming. And of course we danced some more. The joy was palpable. You probably could have cut through it and taken it home as a souvenir. Being together as a true village, with our children as much a part of it as any adult; allowing the different ages to have and find their voice and their expression and gift it to the whole. It seems we are learning something about community, and what it means to be a learning village.
Gratitude and love plays a bigger part than we could have ever imagined.
In that place the connection has wings.
Women Standing Upwith Men at their backs
We closed the year with a Women Are Medicine Retreat. It is the second of its kind, the first one taking place in Turkey in June of 2013. 30 plus women gathered from all walks of life for four days of retreat. The intention wassimply to slow down, and be together. In the words of one of our elders: “We were working at a new edge. We had an agreed intention – to empower the feminine but no plan. We worked in an organic spiral willing to change direction to take the risk to follow spirit – and dance it into being” It was pure magic what unfolded for us, heeding a deeply feminine way to call the feminine back into being. And the beauty was that it was made possible by our men being at our backs. Tending the fire, cooking the meals. Please link here for a beautiful story of the role of the men in our women’s medicine retreat.
It can be fun to learn Maths!
Lucy West joined us for two weeks to teach a different way to teach Maths. One that actually makes sense to the kids (and adults!), is fun, engaging, embodied. There was much play with tangrams, with dice and other simple things that help connect with the numbers, forms, and patterns of the universe. I personally learnt about the mystery of geometry simply by sitting and working with understanding the fractions of different patterns whilst playing with them. I shan’t try to explain the conclusion here – because the whole point is that the process of understanding is key. From 3 year olds to elders, we all found insight and fun in learning maths through a different entry way.
Lucy worked tirelessly – she ran a workshop for the facilitators of our second chance programme, she tutored the rural women who host kindergartens in their communities, she did talks at schools in Harare to help open a sense of what is possible in teaching and engagement with and for our children. She will continue to support our work of finding much more accessible and natural ways to support the learning of our children.
Thank you Lucy!
And thank you to each and every one of you that made 2013 what it was. A joyful learning adventure for each and every Kufundee from newborn to elder.
And the journey continues!