Children Helping Children worldwide
DURING my time as Missio Scotland’s Communications Officer, I have been most heartened and greatly enthused by my interaction with Catholic school communities, where I have gained an insight into some of the excellent work that many of them have undertaken in support of Missio Scotland, the Scottish branch of Pope Francis’ own charity, the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS)
Having leafed the Scottish Catholic Observer archives and taken a look at some of the historic information available to us within the office, I was impressed at the extent of their support and the different ways in which it has manifested itself—much of which I was able to detail in last week’s feature. It is safe to say that by supporting our work both spiritually and financially, our school pupils have fulfilled and are continuing to fulfil their call to be missionaries—an integral part of our faith—and living out the motto for our Missionary Children Society of ‘Children Helping Children.’
To that end, I am often able to inform the pupils, when I visit their school, of some of the children throughout the 180 countries and 1100 dioceses on five continents that we are able to provide support for thanks to their gratitude. In this feature, I’d like to share a story from each continent about how our children have made a difference to the lives of their brothers and sisters throughout the world in a number of diverse ways as a result of their support for Missio Scotland.
Building blocks of education in Malawi
In Malawi—and African country with strong ties to Scotland—the construction of a new school building in the district of Dowa was recently completed. The Nambuma Boys Primary School now has two new classes as a result of funding from the PMS.
Fr Francis Lekaleka, Director of the PMS of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe, urged parents to ‘support children in their education and in their spiritual life,’ and also invited the children to be generous with each other, just as other children were generous with them, in supporting the construction project of the new school building. He also thanked Archbishop Tarcisio Ziyaye for having identified the Nambuma Boys Primary School as one of the beneficiaries of Missionary Children funds this year.
The opening ceremony, which took place on May 16 in the presence of chiefs and people from the surrounding villages, saw schoolchildren bring colour to the event with singing and dancing performances. Speaking on behalf of the community, the chief of the village Malovu thanked for having ‘such a beautiful structure that is a blessing of God,’ while the councillor for primary education in the area,
Ms Chunga, who represented the Ministry of Education, praised the Church for development and encouraged the PMS in their work saying: “This is the kind of development we expect from the Church. The Ministry of Education urges you to continue these projects in other schools", she said.
Fr Samson Kumkumbira, parish priest of Nambuma parish, praised the PMS for the timely intervention and recommended that students and the surrounding community take care of the structure.
A better future in Bolivia
In Camiri, in the south east of Bolivia, many children aged as young as 10 work as shoe-shiners so they can make a meagre income to support themselves. The PMS helps by giving these children the chance of a better future. Funding is being used to give the shoe-shiners a nutritious lunch each day and, in return, they attend school regularly.
Monsignor Leonardo Bernacchi of the Apostolic Vicariate of Camiri writes that many of the children have family problems, live on the streets and are open to abuse and exploitation. Two lay volunteers make sure the children have at least one good meal a day and offer some guidance and support.
The PMS helps many other positive projects for the children of Camiri. These include: funding for communal kitchens and dining rooms for local children, children’s homes and boarding schools and school materials for local children. Mgr Bernacchi says that there is a continuous stream of abandoned children and mothers at the Vicariate office asking for food and school equipment, such as books and pencils.
In Camiri, the indigenous Guarani have been displaced by other peoples who came to the area after the discovery of oil in the 1920s. Now the oil wells are exhausted and most people—especially the Guarani—live in extreme poverty. The population is very young with 40 per cent aged under 20. Family life is unstable with men often deserting their families. Many children pass into the care of their grandmothers while their mothers earn a pittance working as washerwomen or house servants. They have little money to spend on their children’s food and schooling.
“Responding to the great number of children in poverty and neglect we have asked for help to alleviate their situation at least with the children’s necessities,” Mgr Bernacchi said. “With your help we are giving the shoe-shiners of Camiri a better future.”
Special needs in Nepal
In Nepal, most families have neither the information, nor the resources to care for a special needs child. Those children are sometimes seen as being cursed, leading to a life of exclusion and shame. For a family already struggling to make ends meet, having a disabled child can seem like an impossible challenge. However, it is a challenge that the Navjyoti Centre in Kathmandu—bolstered by support from the PMS—is willing to tackle head on.
The centre is a day school for children with developmental disabilities that brings dignity and understanding to their otherwise very difficult lives. Around 80 children come daily to Navjyoti Centre, most of whom arrive in a bus donated by the Indian Embassy. Lisa Perekkatt, from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, together with the 15 teaching and supportive staff work with these children from 10am to 3pm. Committed teachers accompany the children from the time they come to the centre until the last one leaves. Some of them have been here for more than 25 years. Many of their houses are partially damaged and not safe to live in and others lost their houses completely. But many of them worked along with the Sisters in distributing the earthquake relief materials at Koshidekha and Baniyatar.
Navjyoti, which mean’s ‘new sacred flame,’ bridges the gap for disabled children, giving them a safe and nurturing place to be themselves and learn life skills. The curriculum is tailored to each student’s needs and abilities. Some play games, while others go to speech therapy or practise reading, writing and maths. For the most able, the centre offers classes in vocational skills like bicycle repair or making candles, giving students a way to contribute to their families and boost their self-confidence. Some of the children who attend the centre have even taken part in Special Olympics. Many have received trophies in sports. They spend time in indoor and outdoor games. Art, music and dance are all part of the lesson plan. They also enjoy the annual picnic and educational tours to various places within Kathmandu, and are given opportunities to celebrate various festivals and important national and international days.