Chris and Alison Hawksbee
News and Prayer letter,
March 2010

Dear Friends,

We hope you are all keeping well, despite all the cold weather you have had. We say that, because we spent December and January in the UK. It was good to be able to spend time with my mother (Chris’) in Tunbridge Wells. Whilst in the UK, we were able to visit some of our supporting churches, mainly those around and close to Tunbridge Wells. Thank you for your fellowship and encouragement. I’m not too confident about driving in icy conditions; I’m more used to the muddy earth roads out here, but even that is a bit trying as I get older. When I was younger I saw it as good sport. So, at the moment I’m looking out for a used 4×4 to make driving in muddy conditions a bit easier.

Thanksgiving for: When we arrived back at the end of January, we found that Javier, one of our church members had done a very good job house sitting for us. The dog and cats were still alive, and pleased to see us back. We were still able to see that the amount of rain fallen was sparse and visiting some of the communities in the Chaco, their water situation was still far from satisfactory. The rain has been in small doses and so the ground soaks it up quickly not shedding it to fill up reservoirs. Also, it is not enough for the family allotments. Pray, that God will send us more rain in order to fill the reservoirs, water cisterns and be able to plant their subsistence crops.

Thanksgiving for: Just before travelling to the UK in December I spent some time working with an NGO ( non government organization), at their request to help them link up with some of the communities I visit, with a view of helping them with some projects which would be sponsored by the International Development Bank. I’m pleased to be able to let you know, that, these projects have been approved and we are now busy getting all the budgets together for implementation. The NGO I’m helping is called Global Chaco, and is headed up by a Christian friend, who is also keen to help strengthen the local churches where the projects are based.

The Communities to benefit from the projects are: Saria and Karanda and 20 de Enero. The latter two are side by side in the El Estribo settlement. In November we did a participatory diagnosis of the community needs with them in order to prioritize their needs. You’ve guessed, it was “water”! I actually was able to get a Mennonite farmer to come in with his gear to dig another small reservoir and feed into it long drainage ditches to capture and funnel water to it. A rain of 40mm nearly filled this small reservoir. It has actually meant that the latter 2 communities had somewhere from which to fetch water. We now hope to improve the water supplies even more and put a water filtration tank in 2 communities to feed 2 water cisterns which usually store rain water harvested from roofs. Providing there is water in these reservoirs, these cisterns can provide drinking water for the communities even when the rain water harvested from the roofs has been used up. We don’t need to filter all the water in the distribution system, this is used for washing. The ladies are used to going to fetch water from the cisterns, as the clean rain water is the first choice for drinking and cooking with. So, we can filter water and top up these cisterns. Please pray, that the communities will be diligent in doing the appropriate maintenance that these filters require in order to be effective, and so provide them with clean drinking water ( maintenance isn’t their strong point).

The other areas that the NGO will help these communities is by providing more hives to strenghten these enterprises, cattle and small livestock production, help for the health posts and dental care visits. Please pray that all the funding will be forth coming and that the NGO will manage these projects efficiently and set a good example, with a view to further support in the future.

Pray for: There are a few courses that I have approached the Ministry of Agriculture to run for us in conjunction with the above projects. Namely, basic livestock husbandry courses, a course in cheese making to take advantage of the milk from the cows, follow up on beekeeping. And I want to get 2 brick making courses for these communities. The Government housing programme might well buy the bricks for its’ programmes in the area.

From the community of Makhlawaiya, I accompanied Romualdo Rojas to an institution who might possibly sponsor his community with more beehives. Itaipu, is the big hydroelectric dam between Paraguay and Brazil, they have funds that can be destined to help community development. Please pray for this venture that it will be positive and that the beekeepers will be good stewards of the equipment they might possibly receive. Thanksgiving – Romualdo continues to administer the community cultivator which is invaluable for keeping people working in their allotments. They have had reasonable rains and so their allotments are looking good.

Adobe houses:

Thanksgiving-I was pleased to hear from Esteban Galeano (my helper), that a couple of people were making their own adobes, with a view ti improving their houses. Continue to pray for this. They had to suspend work due to lack of water for making the mud.

I also want to help 3 or 4 pastors from the La Patria settlement build adobe houses for themselves, maybe with a bit of help from volunteers coming out on the Mission Paraguay in July/ August.

Visits to Argentina: I hope to fit a visit in this month and travel around a few more communities and see how they are continuing their beekeeping that we set up in the early 90s. On Toba group was still working 30 of the 31 hives that they received. This continues to give them a regular income. Many other organizations copied the example, and this has helped many people.

Prayer: For Alison and I it is a new phase in our lives, as, there are just the two of us once again, we now have no children at home with us. It means that Alison is on her own when I’m away. Our youngest, Ben, went to the USA to study at university. He appears to have settled in and doing fine He has several other Paraguayan friends there.

For your consideration:

As to the channels for our financial support now that SAMS has merged with CMS.

Practicalities: I was able to discuss this with CMS when we visited them in January. They are happy to handle our income, and they would charge a 10% flat rate for this service. They also suggested that the support be paid directly into our bank account in order to avoid this fee. However, we feel that some of our supporters would prefer to give via a society or registered charity; this is what we opted for before.  I also approached SAMS Northern Ireland this matter, they have remained independent. They are more than happy to handle donations towards our support, and they would charge a 5% fee. This is very helpful. Some individuals give via the gift aid system, and SAMs used to reclaim this tax part back. Both societies can continue to do this, but it won’t be possible if these gifts are paid directly into our account. Support from churches doesn’t have this situation. CMS have encouraged us to continue making use of the coverage they can give us even if our funding goes via other channels. SAMS Ireland has charity status in the UK and Ireland.

I’m sorry to burden you with this matter, but it has been due to the merger. We still work alongside the Anglican Diocese of Paraguay and Northern Argentina.

Love and greetings,

Chris and Alison Hawksbee


Chris Hawksbee

Working in association with SAMS/CMS, in Christian development work amongst Ameri-Indian groups.

Working in the Paraguayan Chaco, and also, visiting Ingeniero Juarez in the Province of Formosa, Northern Argentina.

Paraguayan Chaco:

Work undertaken;

Visiting the Indian communities of El Estribo, La Patria, Saria, Sombrero Piri (La Herencia) and Makthlawaiya (Maxlawaya), accompanying them in their process of development.

The pastors of these communities invited me back in 2005, to work with them as their adviser on development issues. This is a very varied job and most of the time verges on the edge of frustration.

One can give advice to people on development, but at the end of the day they decide what they want to do. So often the immediate situation and its needs clouds the medium and long term planning for aiming towards real change. The Political power and standing of the local leaders often have a detrimental effect on the rest of their communities, where getting things for themselves and their immediate family in the overall name of the community is the norm. There is very little desire for transparency by the leaders, and no desire to work to plan to try and get out of poverty. So, being a Christian and an adviser can make them feel uncomfortable. My main area of work is with the pastors, listening and encouraging them. If they come up with some feasible projects, we investigate these possibilities. Their objective is to work via integral mission; however, this concept to them means that the Anglican Church should provide everything for them. This isn’t my view, as this gives a false view of what Christianity is. So, this sometimes causes some friction. I try to work with them to help them solve their own problems and guide them towards sustainable development. Also, to get them involved in influencing their line of development with their leaders. There are many NGOs who operate in the communities who operate differently trying to solve their problems for them. This is what most people prefer rather than trying to resolve their own problems and grow in capacity to take responsibility for their own development. This is quite a formidable obstacle to wrestle with.

I’ve been working alongside Esteban Galeano, who is my helper, having also worked as an agricultural extension worker for the government. He lives in El Estribo and is a very capable guy in the areas of agriculture, horticulture, beekeeping and matters to do with water supplies. He also preaches in his local church and his wife leads the women’s group.

This past year, we have been working on 10 small adobe houses (ie. Using sundried earth blocks). This has been funded by Mission Paraguay. There have been many hold ups, mainly due to the long drought, which is still gripping many areas.

In August, we had a team form Mission Paraguay who helped with some of the work on the new church in Rio Verde, St. Matthews. This is pastured by the Rev. Ed Brice. This building is due to be inaugurated on the 29th November. It will also be used as a place for the Bible training course for the Indian pastors and their helpers.

With the drought, we have lent out the equipment for drilling pilot holes to locate good water. We have encouraged communities to return to the old system of hand dug wells as a means to solving the immediate water shortage needs. Other projects have helped with emergency interventions. However, there is a long way to go to secure more water supplies. It is costly as well. Water shortages have become a part of life over the last 3 years, and we need to take action to secure more storage systems. Lack of good water leads to all sorts of health problems and extra hardships.

In agriculture the activities with food security via family allotments continues in order to contribute to providing food for the families. A group of Mennonite churches continue to plough for the families.

With regards the cash cropping, the sesame crop yielded a very poor crop due to the drought conditions.

On the positive side we got a small grant from a church in California towards a cattle project in Saria. We have delayed the purchase of cattle due to the drought, but should get this deal done this next week.  They have received rain and so are sorted for water.

Honey production has been low. This has also been low due to the effect of the drought. Many hives have been abandoned by the bees that have gone looking for better horizons. So there is a shortage of honey in the market, and the price is high.

I carried out a couple of evaluations for Tearfund in northeast Brazil in September. One was on a well drilling project and the other a rural development project.

At present I’m helping an NGO, who are preparing two projects in the area I visit. I’m pooling my knowledge of the communities to aid them. They have access to more funds. It seems that my area of work is increasing to help other NGOs to be more effective in their work, also, in Northern Argentina, where I was able to have a productive time with INTAS, their agricultural extension service.

We continue to be members of our local Church in Zeballos Cue. Where, there are various activities aimed at ministering to children from the neighbourhood. The first is a small kindergarten and pre-kinder. This has around 20 kids. Pray for Gloria the teacher who is also expecting a baby in February. Secondly, there is the Saturday luncheons club for needy children in the neighbourhood. Between 40 and 60 children attend this. Various activities are focused on with them including some form on Bible related activities.

This year, I was asked to/ voted onto the council. I also continue to preach, about once in 5 weeks.

So, my work is quite varied.