Text & Photos: Marianne Knuth [ZM]
As a learning village in Zimbabwe, we at Kufunda Village are learning our way into what it takes to build a healthy and vibrant community. We believe that change begins with conscious and confident people coming together to explore what matters most to them. Out of this, healthy action can flow.
What follows is our reflection on our experience and learning during the onset of COVID-19.Fundamental to our experience has been an invitation to turn more inward – into ourselves but also into our community – towards a deepened relationship with each other and nature.
Initially, we experienced a contraction into fear. In that first movement of fear, there was both a separating and a uniting that happened.
We are a small learning village, with 70-80 people living in the community. We quickly realized that we could close ourselves off from the world and be safe.
It is a gift and a responsibility in being careful and physically distancing. It is a key contribution each of us can make. But after much reflection, our distancing was springing more from fear than from care.
How can we meet fear then?
The farm on which Kufunda is located has a larger community of families than those involved in Kufunda. We realized that this wider community did not have a practice of coming together, nor did the Kufundees and the farm community have a chance to meet together.
We initiated community meetings and began to gather, to dialogue, to listen, to share. We remembered that we are one and that we could gather in a very large circle – out in the sunlight – with the necessary distance in between, but also with much banter and laughter.
In our coming together, we sought to find ways to address what we were facing – in conversation, sharing, and exploration of healthy living.
We know that our government and our hospitals are not equipped to deal with this pandemic. Based on the information we have gathered, we had 2 ventilators in the whole of Zimbabwe at the beginning of COVID-19. This led us to ask ourselves – what can we do to stay healthy and what will be our source of healing if we do get sick?
It took us on a collective journey, which included returning to our roots and the wisdom of our grandparents. We reflected that much of modern eating habits are deeply unhealthy for us and that much of the traditional food and practices such as fermentation, making bone broths, and using indigenous herbs for various ailments are incredibly healing. We have returned to our traditional teas and eating practices during these times and discovered that we far prefer them to what we buy in the shops!
We also went deeper internally.
Out of the uncertainty and fear arose a much deeper impulse of going inward and finding our own ground.
Once the lockdown was officially implemented, it gave us and our community time to follow this impulse together. There was a quality of slowing down to be with what was moving and finding the practices to support this.
These included nature observation, taking time to be with indigenous plants in quiet observation, and then to share what we learned. We also studied and we read spiritual texts together expressing what COVID-19 was about, opening profound conversations and insights around what it means to be human. Some of us gathered for conscious movement practices as well.
We lived into the deep understanding that our thoughts and feelings are as real as what is outside and that there is real medicine in tending them consciously and peacefully. We fully appreciated that nature is an incredible resource. Being in the community strengthened each of our individual journeys.
Something became possible that was not there before. It encouraged us to become more fully who we are while being more resilient and resourceful.
We made videos and audio clips of some of what we were learning during this time to share with the rural communities we work with. This has opened a wonderful conversation in communities way beyond Kufunda around healthy living and returning to indigenous practices, of taking charge of our own life, food production, and well-being.
We are returning to our programs, slowly but surely – resuming our work with young women of our neighborhood and opening the upper grades of the Waldorf School in our community. While some of life has started to return to more of a sense of what it was before the pandemic, the future remains uncertain as we see second and third waves manifesting elsewhere.
Whatever the future may hold, we have an awareness that we need to hold ourselves to the turning we have experienced, and the old and new practices that we have initiated. This means a renewed commitment to set aside the time, and then having the will to focus on our inner strivings, and not only to the outer manifestation of our lives.
We tried to turn the pandemic into an opportunity of growth – cultivating and committing to practices of connecting, nourishing, and understanding. The same movement that initially closed us off to the outside world also created a real deepening of closeness, communion, and ground on which we can trust. A ground that is a meeting between the old and the new.
You can find out more about us, our philosophy, and activities at kufunda.org.
Marianne Knuth is the founder of Kufunda Village in Zimbabwe.