Solidarity Machine

July 12 2020 | by

IN THE forest region of Guinea, the task of a girl is to take care of her house, and her family. She has to fetch water, collect wood and clean rice – three daily actions necessary in order to prepare the meal of the day, three daily actions that greatly reduce the time she can devote to her education. In the village of Nyalezou, Sister Jeanne Pascale Guilavogui had a simple idea put to her by one of the village women that would free up the girls’ time to enable them to attend school – to purchase a rice cleaning machine.

Nyalezou is a small village far from the nearest town, Macenta. It is within the diocese of N’Zérékoré in the south of Guinea. The people of this area are mainly either Christians or followers of traditional religions, whereas Guinea as a whole is 80 percent Muslim, and the Christian population makes up just 1.8 percent. No good roads lead here, and there are no schools or health facilities. There isn’t even a good source of drinking water. The population lives from agriculture and uses crops that don’t allow them to produce enough food to be self sufficient. The people are poor – they have less than one euro a day to live on – and the mortality rate for children and women in childbirth is very high due to poor hygiene and a lack of medical facilities. “The women are the ones who work hard to get ahead in life,” says Sister Jeanne, “that’s why we are trying to help them in their daily commitments, one of which is cleaning the rice each day.”


Recent congregation


The Servants of the Virgin Mary Mother, to which Sister Jeanne belongs, are a fairly recent congregation founded in Guinea in 1985 to respond to the needs of the diocese of N’Zérékoré. There are 42 sisters who care for the weakest and most needy – children, orphans, young people, girls, and women. “Our founder said that in order to educate a nation it is necessary to educate the women, so that they can, in turn, educate their children,” explains Sister Jeanne. “As nuns, we work in education and assistance. We have nuns who are teachers, others who are nurses, and yet others who offer assistance to women and girls in all kinds of difficulties. We also run two orphanages, a school centre, a secretarial school, and a “college” for girls who go to school and then live with us in a community.

“We wanted a machine to clean the rice because it is a difficult job for the women and takes up a lot of their time,” she continues. “Having a machine would not only help them in this work, but would be a source of income for us, as the women would pay for the service with some rice, and this would help us to find food for the orphaned children we look after.”


Modest cost


The cost of the proposed rice cleaning machine was €3,700. The model runs on diesel, which is found easily in Guinea, and would work very well for the women of the village, and for women from villages close by. Naturally, St Anthony’s Charities granted the sum, particularly because several previous projects proposed by Sister Jeanne have also been for small sums and have always concluded well.

The women of the village organised themselves in order to work in groups, and chose someone to become manager of the project, responsible also for ensuring the machine works efficiently. “She is a smart lady,” says Sister Jeanne, “and she was head of the village for a couple of years. She has a real desire to help the women to reduce their long, tiring daily jobs. She had the idea for a rice cleaning machine for several years and it was she who proposed it.


Bad & good news


“When we received the money, we gathered the women together and let them know that the money for the purchase of the rice cleaning machine had arrived,” explains Sister Jeanne. “What happiness there was for the women to have this news!” The first Thursday after the money arrived was market day in Macenta, and together with a group of women from the village, Sister Jeanne set off to purchase the new machine. However, there was only bad news waiting for them there. “We saw that the price of the machine had risen because of the state of the road, so we decided to wait until we could make the purchase with the money we had. We were informed about the price from time to time, and in the end we had to wait until early December to make our purchase. Actually, we were lucky: we spent less on the rice cleaning machine than we had planned – but this money was subsequently spent on its transport and installation.

Since the machine has been installed, the manager with three other women have been watching over it every day, making sure that it is well maintained,” reports Sister Jeanne. “The machine is now in a log cabin that we have built. It is well kept there and there is plenty of space for it because it is so big and beautiful. Our machine is safe, protected and well guarded. All of the women are happy about it.”

The manager and her committee decide who can use the machine and when – generally, the first to arrive uses the machine first. A young man from the village helps the women operate the machine, and he also knows how it should be maintained. “He’s the one who makes it work,” says Sister Jeanne. “He is a very good boy and very kind. He’s a great help to the women. They give him some of their rice each time they use the machine. He does a good job.”


Great benefit


The installation of the rice cleaning machine is already helping the women of Nyalezou and the surrounding villages on a daily basis, freeing up their time to spend on other activities and their education. It is a great example of how even simple, inexpensive projects sponsored by St Anthony’s Charities can bring big benefits to a forgotten poor community.

“Thank you all, St Anthony’s Charities and readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony,” concludes Sister Jeanne. “May the Lord bless you for all that you do for us. We entrust you to Our Lady whose servant we are, and to the Lord to take you beyond your own expectations. Thank you all.”

Updated on July 12 2020