A Day of Fun for the LEWP
By Maria Daniel
Some of the members of Loretto Empowering Women in Pakistan share a meal of biryani, a rice with veggies and chicken dish, on their outing together with Loretto’s Pakistan sisters.
(Photo courtesy of Maria Daniel)[/caption]Recently, Samina Iqbal, Nasreen Daniel and I took the women’s group of the sewing class, Loretto Empowering Women in Pakistan (LEWP), on a picnic to the beautiful Changa Manga Forest. We had given the field trip information to the women about two months before going so they could get family permission. Unfortunately, some did not get permission from their families to attend; they could not go. Some of the women then asked us to speak to their families. We went to their homes to talk with them and some agreed to let their daughters attend the picnic while others did not.
The Changa Manga Forest includes a wildlife preserve in the Kasur and Lahore districts of Punjab, Pakistan. It is only about 80 kilometers southwest of Lahore. It was once the largest man-made forest in the world, but has undergone illegal deforestation at a massive scale in recent times.
The name “Changa Manga” is derived from an amalgamation of the names of two robber brothers (dacoits), Changa and Manga. The dacoits were a constant source of terror for the law-abiding citizens in the 19th century. They would “hold up and plunder” any passing trader. The robbers had a den in the “secret heart” of the forest where they sought shelter from the British peacekeepers. They eventually were captured by the police and became the inspiration for the name of the forest site. The Salvation Army opened up a camp at the forest site as a place for reformation of criminals.
The forest is known more widely as “one of the oldest hand-planted forests in the world” and hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is home to a variety of species: 14 species of mammals, 50 of birds, six of reptiles, two of amphibians and 27 species of insects. Thus, other than producing timber for the local industry, the forest serves as an important wildlife reserve.
We went with 15 women in the morning. We had made biryani (rice with veggies and chicken). We had a big enough pot to feed 25 people.
For a few of the girls, it was the very first time they had gone for such a long trip. Two of the girls were sick as they had never sat in a vehicle. It was a good thing that we had taken some plastic bags with us. Once there, however, we all played some games where we had some gifts for those who won. It was a fun day in this beautiful forest preserve for all of us.