023: the Global Family Network, part one

“Well, hello Chelsi!  It is so nice to meet you!” Mel cried, approaching her position on the porch, arms wide open.  Chelsi struggled to match his enthusiasm with her greeting.
“It’s nice to meet you too.” Mel’s arrival though anticipated, felt abrupt; his bubbly personality caught her off guard.  Her and the 65 year old British man embraced before she had the time to acknowledge and greet her fish farmer, Felix.
“How are you?” Felix asked as they walked over to sit on the walls in the shade of her chinzanza. 
“Hot.”
Felix laughed. “Yes, it is hot season now.”
“But the other farmers tell me the rain will be coming soon. Maybe the second week of October. But hopefully not before my house is fixed.”
“Maybe there will a little rain in October. But it won’t start really raining until November.” They joined Mel, having already seated himself. 
“It is so great to be finally meeting you Chelsi. Felix has been telling us all about you and about so of the work you’ve been helping out with at the Farm, yeah.  I’m sorry my wife, Jean Ann couldn’t be here. She woke up feeling ill this morning so she stayed at the house. But tell me how are things going here in the village?”
Chelsi had a vague idea of the relationship between Mel and Jean Ann and Felix.  Even the coming of Felix to the village, the pieces of his story just never seemed to fit together for her.  She knew he was Lunda, a tribe concentrated in Northwestern Provence, but raised and working in Livingstone, Zambia’s premier tourist destination, as a hotel and hospitality manager.  How he became a connected to the British couple, running a farm outside Solwezi left her puzzled.
“I see you’re living in Mike old house.” Mel continued.
“Yeah, I’m in the process of trying to get the village to help me fix it up; new roof, new walls, new floor, before it rains. You knew Mike?”
“Yeah! Mike and Annie and Andrew down in San’gnombe. Am I saying that right?” Mel turned his hefty trunk to face Felix. “Sand’gombe?”
“Yeah, Sandang’ombe.”
“Sandang’ombe.  Mike was here last year when we brought the pigs to the farm.” Mel pulled out a smartphone and tapped the screen a few times before passing it to her. “You can see the pictures there.”
She scrolled through the pictures. “So you’ve been down in the area of Kaymanga for about a year now?”
“Yeah,” Chelsi pasted back the phone. “We’re running the farm to raise for our charity, Global Family Network.”
“Right, Felix has told me a little bit about it. And then you build houses for the old people that have been pushed out of their family or their children have died and they’re taking care of their grandchildren in grass lean-tos.” Just sitting and the sweat was beginning to bead on her forehead. “But I’m still a little unclear how the farm settled in where it is today, and how you and Felix became acquainted.” 
Over the next hour Chelsi learned that Jean Ann and Felix became close friends while work with the same charitable organization in Livingstone; Jean Ann as a missionary from the UK and Felix in his spare time.  Some years after Jean Ann moved home Felix contacted her and Mel saying that he had found his passion in life, “God’s calling for him” as Mel put it; to help reconcile old people, who are often pushed out of village society after being condemned as witches, with their families or building proper housing for those without families and are caring for children, often orphans of HIV/AIDS.  Felix proposed the idea of starting up a farm, closer to his tribal home, to fund the charity in the long-term but ask for help from the British couple to get started.  Jean Ann and Mel accepted the proposal and so the search for finding and buying land to start the farm began.  From here the story was lots of heart ache and bureaucracy. Of the course of the next two years they vied to buy three different plots the land.  Government Ministry works pointed them from office to office to office always telling them their paperwork was incomplete or the order in which it was filed was in correct. In one community after making an offer to a village and having it accepted by the headman, the headman turned around and sold the land to a mining company, stole the money and left the village. But just when even Chelsi, who knew the ending, was about to give up all hope that the story had a happy ending, Mel paused.
“And then a man, an old respectable man, a village leader in Mitukutuku, called us over to his house for a meeting and he said, ‘I see you here, trying so hard to make our community a better place and we want to make sure you can stay.  I have a small garden plot in the dambo, I want to lend it to you, so long as all the profit from the farm goes back to helping the community as you promise.”  Chelsi could see Mel’s heart well with joy just by recalling the memory.  “And the next day we went down to see the plot, and my god, it was just the most beautiful spot… Well you know, you’ve seen it.”

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