Photo courtesy Father Daniel Lokanga
‘We have planted more than one thousand palm trees …’
ST. ALBANS — Former area priest, Father Daniel Lokanga, now serving at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Rutland, has two shipping containers ready to be shipped, filled with goods relevant to his project to assist his native country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Delays caused by a lengthy civil lawsuit and restrictions placed on shipments by the DRC remain continuing problems, however.
Knights of Columbus in St. Albans will hold a fund-raiser turkey dinner at 5 p.m., on Friday, June 20, at its hall on South Main Street in St. Albans to assist with this effort.
The Knights raised $6,000 in its first fund-raiser and the Rotary Club in Derby Line has pledged $4,000.
Shipping and other expenses are still outstanding. Some items gathered earlier by the priest and his supporters are already in use today in the Congo. Provisions from another container, which was the subject of a civil lawsuit in Franklin County, are ready but still to be shipped. Also, Lokanga’s supporters are ready to fill another container whenever they are given the OK by the priest.
The first plowing of farmland to prepare for crops and arrival of some of the material that will go into the planned building of his school’s first classrooms has taken place, according to the priest, who served in St. Albans from 2004 until a few years ago.
Father Lokanga visited DRC in January and February of this year where he began to see his dream taking shape.
“Now we have a big house to start some activities. . . . We have planted more than one thousand palm trees that are used to make palm oil,” he wrote in a recent e-mail.
He continued, “We have a huge plantation of manioc. Manioc is roots that are used to make powder that the local population eats daily. The manioc leaves are also a popular local vegetable. The first container that arrived still has numerous items that we use to do the work of the project.”
The problematic container, the goods of which were dispersed by a Georgia, Vt. storage company while they were in its possession, has been refilled and is ready to be sent. The priest is still holding it in Highgate because the Congo government prohibits the import of any cars made prior to 2006. The container in Highgate, which includes an older model vehicle, was delayed because of the lawsuit involving Red Barn storage in Georgia, he said.
The priest said he has sent a letter to the appropriate DRC officials asking them to make an exception because of the actions taken by the Red Barn that delayed shipment, he said.
Though the court found in the priest’s favor in the legal dispute over lost items, his attorney has received only $800 of the full $13,000 awarded him, said Lokanga, who previously served Roman Catholic churches in St. Albans and Georgia.
“I have asked the attorney not to send me that money now, but to tell me what strategies he intends to use to enforce the decision of the court,” Lokanga said in his e-mail.
Meanwhile, the work of his friends and the priest goes on, a project that began almost on the day the priest arrived here in 2004.