An Extraordinary Visit
My first stop was Uganda. It was very refreshing to return to a country where l had lived and worked for thirty-two years and renew old acquaintances. It was a great privilege for me to be able to share in the life and work of our Sisters in Africa and witness the great work they are doing in reaching out to most vulnerable members of society... the widows, the orphans, people with HIV/AIDS.
Sr. Cosmas has worked in Uganda for the past thirty years. Though retired from teaching she continues to provide basic primary education in two slum areas, one in the rural area and the other on the outskirts of Kampala. Walking through the shanty shacks in Kigalamezi, suddenly l arrived at the gate of “Mamma Mia” nursery and junior primary school to behold a real oasis in the middle of nowhere.
The children were eagerly waiting my arrival and there was great rejoicing. Even the P1 class who were doing their test burst forth from the classroom. The pictures below speak for themselves. The children spotlessly clean, in uniform and appeared very healthy.
As well being taught the basics great emphasis is placed on hygiene and caring for the environment, which was evident from the neatness and cleanliness of the school. While there is no running water the children are taught the importance of washing hands after using the toilet. Admire their inventive technology.
My next stop was South Sudan to visit our three pioneering, Sisters Rosemary Odoul, Angella Nakigudde and Jestina Kufakunesu working in the Diocese of Wau. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9th July 2011 as the outcome of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Africa’s longest civil war.
South Sudan is a vast area with enormous natural resources and immense potential with its people being its biggest asset. Despite the oil wealth, South Sudan is one of the Africa’s least developed countries and faces many challenges, among them: malnutrition, hunger, lack of clean water and good sanitation. There is an urgent need to open humanitarian corridors to allow food and medicines to reach in those in need.
One could not be but impressed by the selfless witness of our Sisters together with other religious men and women, both local and missionary as they joyfully face each new day with very little resources not knowing if they will have sufficient food and medicine to continue with their programmes which bring hope. There is still much work to do: The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37)
My visit to Kenya took in a visit to all our projects run there by our Sisters and again it was amazing to see the work that does on a daily basis from early morning to late evening. I will focus on the Project “The Hands of Hope and Care” being run by Sr. Lydia Paradellar in conjunction with Caritas Austria and Misean Cara which now employs more than 65 employees.
This project is situated in Korogocho a parish of Nairobi, where approximately 400,000 people are crammed within one square kilometre. Sixty five percent of the population are under 20 years of age and it has one highest birth rate in the whole of Africa. Lydia started there in 2005 and was confronted with new challenges. She believes that Education is the key to shape a better future for the people, and thus she set out to create hope and provide employment as the way out of the miserable slums of Nairobi. She has established four schools and a youth centre in the heart of the slums of Korogocho, which actually means a slum in their language.
The children are served two meals each day, one in the morning, which is a bowl of sweet porridge and at lunchtime rice and beans and other vegetables that are available and affordable. The meals attract the children to school and release pressure on the families as their children are provided with food. The social workers visit the families convincing them to bring their children to school, discuss family problems with them and provide help to the family by way of clothing, school materials and medicine.
Walking through the slums, visiting these schools, l thought to myself that it must be one of the most poverty stricken areas imaginable, l ask myself “what can one give to help out a little”. Lydia’s effort to provide education, food and medicine is the starting point. These children are the key to the development of their communities and indeed their country. Whilst food, shelter and medicine will ensure immediate relief in times of crisis, education is one sure way to give them a future and the means to provide for themselves and their community.
No one person is going to develop a continent overnight, but our Sisters in Kariobangi are working together, supporting each other together and they are making a difference to the quality of life of the people in Kariobangi and Korogocho.
Sr. Bridgette Cormack FMSA