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.
All of this is done with an eye towards making sure that the children are loved, integrated as much as possible into society and, of course—having fun! The centre is a place of hope and joy, and is an inspiration to us all.
Providing schooling in Papua New Guinea
Kerema is one of the most disadvantaged towns in Papua New Guinea. The town is extremely isolated without road links to the national capital Port Moresby, or to any other province. The north and west hinterland are not accessible and south is the sea. Up until a few years ago the town of Kerema was welcoming regular shipping services. However now all of this has stopped and shipping comes to the town only through expensive charters. Due to this, resources and facilities are very limited and in high demand. Store goods are sold at some of the highest prices in the country.
The Diocese of Kerema was established in 1976. The relatively new diocese comprises of 11 parishes. Of a population of just more than 100,000 people, Catholics in the diocese make up just over 10 per cent. The isolation of diocese and the limitation of resources means that children are being greatly affected. Each day, the number of children suffering from malnutrition and the illnesses brought on by malnutrition is increasing.
Although it is only a small town Kerema has a lot of street children. They do not go to school because then can either not pay the school fees, or they have no family to look after them. They therefore hang around the church compound. They often end up in the hands of police because of robberies.
The Church—supported by the PMS—is currently providing a teacher for 50 children, as well as meeting their basic need for clothes and food.
Alleviating hunger in Albania
Closer to home, but in the midst of poverty too, Sister Tone Qeta of the Angelic Sisters of St Paul in the village Fushe-Milot, Albania, turned to the PMS for help.
Fushe-Milot is in a part of the world we don’t normally hear much about. The village is becoming more and more populated as families leave the impoverished mountain regions in hope of a better life. But the village lacks adequate social structures and is unable to cope with the influx. Even electricity is only periodically available. Most adults are without employment, teenagers and young adults immigrate when they can and the children are left with very little, the streets being their main playground. However, via funding provided by the PMS, Sr Tone has been able to give basic nutrition to children who otherwise would have had very little to eat.
“The children that frequent our nursery school come from poor families that have on average four children,” she said. “This project was born of the necessity to nourish these children who are deficient of vitamins, protein, carbohydrates and so on.
“We have worked here for three years with children between the ages of 3-6 years old, managing a nursery school. This has helped us understand the reality and respond to the needs of local families. Our attention has been particularly to the education of minors in the age of preschool and the education of women, to help mothers rediscover their dignity.
“The variety of food we offer for the children is a luxury. We thank you from the heart for the money which you have sent. This money has been for our centre a precious manna—like from heaven! We started with 58 children, but the number is always rising.”
Hopefully by sharing these child-focussed projects that are supported by Missio Scotland and our worldwide partners in the Pontifical Mission Societies, you have gained an insight into just some of the fantastic projects that our children—your children—are assisting with as a result of their support for us. In doing so, they are playing their part in the Universal Church and directly helping the Church to give life and hope to people all over the world.
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