Since 2007, ASEC has been training Catholic sisters in Africa in technology, administration and finance through the Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program. Through SLDI, sisters gain the practical skills and confidence to build strong networks and take up leadership roles in their congregations and communities.
Wondering what happens after a sister receives education and training from ASEC? We reached out to several SLDI alumnae in Zambia to better understand how their training is impacting their ministry work. Here are the stories of four sisters who immediately applied their new skills to make a difference for hundreds of people they serve.
Warmth and Care for Premature Babies
Sr. Memory Zingwaya, RSHS, is an alumna of ASEC's SLDI program and the Sister-in-Charge of Maternity and a Nurse/Midwife at Monze Mission Hospital in Zambia. The hospital only had one incubator and when it stopped working, they had to take the only incubator left from the ambulance. The situation was dire, leaving the maternity ward unable to accommodate the number of premature babies needing care at the hospital. Without incubators, premature babies in the ward may not survive due to hypothermia or jaundice.
During the SLDI training, Sr. Memory learned the skill of proposal writing and was connected to an FMDM sister who encouraged her to submit a grant proposal to fulfill the urgent needs of the hospital.
Sr. Memory submitted a proposal for additional incubators to the hospital management, the congregation and the Bishop. After reading her proposal, everyone wanted to help. The Bishop approved the purchase of one incubator while they waited for a response to the proposal. Her proposal was also accepted by the FMDM sisters and she received funding to purchase 4 additional incubators for the hospital. In addition, the Government of the Republic of Zambia purchased one. Now, the hospital has 7 functional incubators.
Sr. Memory says the new incubators are a blessing because they not only keep the babies warm, but they also double as a phototherapy machine, making them even more valuable to the hospital. Phototherapy, or light treatment, eliminates bilirubin in the baby's blood and treats jaundice. She said that previously they would have to put multiple babies into one incubator and now they have enough equipment for each baby to have their own.
"I'm really grateful for the training that I acquired [through SLDI] because I was able to use the knowledge. I applied and was granted the incubators so I feel this has helped a lot of babies. And, it has also reduced the neonatal deaths; those who die due to hypothermia or due to jaundice."
Quality Healthcare and Housing for Pregnant Mothers
Sr. Asperanza Bahati Massawe, CDNK, is a Tanzanian sister serving as the Administrator of Minga Mission Hospital in Chipata Diocese, Zambia. Sr. Asperanza attended ASEC's SLDI workshop in Zambia and studied Finance. Through the skills she learned in the program, she wrote a proposal to acquire funding for the construction of a maternity wing and mother’s shelter at the hospital. She says,
"I would like to thank ASEC for supporting me on this training which I received here in Zambia. ...When [the ASEC Country Director] called me, I was scared for the program but later on I came to realize it was a good program which helps me to work better than before."
The mother's shelter is used by expectant mothers as they wait to deliver their babies. It provides the women with a private, safe location to stay that’s near the hospital. This is especially helpful for women with pregnancy complications or women who have traveled long distances. Some women stay in the mother’s ward for 2-3 months before giving birth.
Through her ministry, Sr. Asperanza is contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, ensuring healthy lives for pregnant women and their babies. Through her construction project, she's also contributing to SDG 9, which emphasizes infrastructure that supports economic development and human well-being (Target 9.1*).
Safe Transportation and Savings for Postulants
Sr. Angela Agness Sakala, TS, is a Postulant Mistress for the Teresian Sisters. She studied Administration in ASEC's SLDI program and learned the skills of resource mobilization and proposal writing. She wrote a proposal to acquire a mini bus to transport the congregation's postulants to and from the formation house. The mini bus holds 13 postulants; who are all very grateful to be beneficiaries of the vehicle. One of the postulants, Josphine Kasendelwa, says,
"I think the coming of the car is helping us a lot... before we never had a car we used to walk from the convent to church about 3km."
She added that the vehicle also cuts down on expenses for the postulants that otherwise would have to take public transportation to go to medical appointments and other places that are too far to walk.
Preserving Culture Through Art & Music Training for Youth
Sr. Perpetual Namasiku Mutonga, LSSF, is an SLDI alumna serving as the Director of Radio MosTuny in Zambia and the Bursar General for the Little Sisters of Sr. Francis.
She says, "I was taking Finance. I was very impressed. It added value to my work. It added value to my pastoral."
She is now able to help the radio staff put their books and accounts in order. She's also trained a number of other sisters in her congregation in Finance and Accounting, including her Mother General. Shortly after sharing her knowledge, Sr. Perpetual was appointed by her Mother General to the role of Bursar General in her congregation. She says,
"I never had such a job! I was happy because even when I took that job as a Bursar General I knew that I have skills which I can use [to succeed]."
Sr. Perpetual also created a program to promote local artists in Livingstone and the surrounding area. Her program promotes culture and the response was overwhelming! Over 100 young people have registered and community performances are held every Thursday on the radio. They have produced a lot of original music from local artists that they can now share on the radio.
But, the program didn't have funding so Sr. Perpetual was able to use the skills she learned in SLDI to write a project proposal to sponsor the growing program. Now they have the funding to travel to surrounding villages and record the local singers. She says that the program provides opportunities for talented local youth who otherwise would not have access to such recording facilities. They also use some of the funding to train about 60 promising artists on the topics of culture, music and poetry.
As you can see, when you give African sisters the tools they need to be more effective in their ministry work, they immediately take action. Through SLDI, sisters are learning to be effective leaders, articulate the needs of their communities and find the pathway to successfully fulfilling those needs. In addition to the skills they learn, sisters are also connected to each other across ten African countries. Upon graduating from SLDI, sisters continue to participate in ASEC alumnae workshops and networking events where they are encouraged to share their knowledge, experience and advice with each other.
Learn more about ASEC's work in Zambia.
*SDG Target 9.1: Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.