A Bright Future …
… Sancta Maria College of Nursing and Midwifery opens!
In 2020, the Bishop of Mongu approached the Loreto Sisters to manage the construction and operations of a new nursing and midwifery college in the remote community of Lukulu, in the Western Province of Zambia. The college is being developed on the site of the abandoned Sancta Maria Mission Hospital located in the centre of town. It will provide local young people with an opportunity for tertiary and professional training otherwise inaccessible to them in this remote and underdeveloped area of Zambia.
Without education, local youth are unable to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. An environment of hopelessness perpetuates amongst young people. It manifests through significant dropout rates from school, teenage pregnancies, prostitution, alcohol and drug problems, and the confinement of young girls to village life with no apparent future.
Having a nursing and midwifery college that recruits students predominantly from the local area with deep, established family connections and a familiarity with the adverse living conditions means that qualified nurses graduating from the college will be more inclined to stay and work in the region. Ultimately, this will result in more stable and skilled staff delivering quality health services in these marginalised areas of the country.
The college will also promote much-needed future economic development by creating a hub for health education and encouraging complementary business and health services to establish themselves in the region. With the recent approval by Zambia’s Nursing and Midwifery Council and initial renovations of the old hospital buildings complete, the college opened its doors to its first intake of 60 students on 23 August. The next crucial phase of works, which is well underway, comprises constructing accommodation for students and senior academic staff.
The college now has a new bus to transport students to and from their practical sessions at the local hospital, located five kilometres from the college. The community was so thrilled when the bus drove into Lukulu for the first time, the driver decided to take a tour of the town with the college staff aboard before finally arriving on site!
The final phase of construction will commence in 2022 and will safeguard the long-term future of the college. Building on the works to date, it will ensure the college is fit-for-purpose through the construction of new classrooms and more extensive accommodation to cater to the increasing student numbers, with projected new intakes of up to 100 annually.
Loreto Sisters in Lukulu
Lukulu is situated in the remote, impoverished Western Province of Zambia, with minimal access to health facilities, schools, clean water and sanitation. While the township of Lukulu generally serves the scattered rural community of approximately 70,000 people across the Lukulu District, it also provides support to the even more isolated communities of the Mitete District, situated across the Zambezi River from Lukulu.
The Loreto Sisters are well-established in Lukulu and have long supported the community, particularly through the provision of education, health and pastoral care. Upon arrival in Lukulu in 2006, Sr Pat Hanvey ibvm began work in home-based care, which over subsequent years has evolved into an integrated health care program as a direct response to the needs of the community and local Ministry of Health. Other work undertaken by the Loreto Sisters in Lukulu includes providing teacher training and community school support as well as saving the lives of hundreds of children and babies through the Baby Milk Program and Lunch Feeding Project.
We Couldn’t do it Without You
An enormous thank you to the Noel and Carmel O’Brien Family Foundation for helping bring this vision to life.
For over 60 years now, the O’Brien family, brimming with philanthropic heart, have lent their generosity toward numerous similar projects in Australia and around the world. This is not their first investment in the work of Mary Ward International and the Loreto Sisters – they’re also behind the construction of the Loreto community centre in Ostico, Timor-Leste, having previously funded the nearby Gari-uai Pre-School and Community Centre.
Noel still takes a very close interest in all that the foundation does, ensuring that it remains true to the spirit and intent of himself and his dearly beloved Carmel.
Growing up in the Depression years, Noel and his family saw plenty of hardship and, through this, brought out entrepreneurial skills that have been with Noel all his life. As young boys, Noel and his brothers started selling snowballs (the edible type) and peanuts at Melbourne’s Essendon Airport to help put food on the table at home.
This grew rapidly to the idea that they could do the same thing at the Essendon football ground. Little did they know that when they jumped the fence and started selling their goods, it would lead to something much greater. Noel and his brother Jack formed a formidable partnership as O’Brien Catering which lasted over 40 years, becoming the largest leisure contract catering company in Australia.
It is this entrepreneurial spirit that is also behind the family’s longheld commitment to helping those most in need, and importantly, inspiring and encouraging those around them to join them.
Author: Kirstin Del Beato
Feature Image: Students aboard the new bus