We publish a summary of the latest news from our missionaries in Sierra Leone.
The two pictures sum up the power of hope. In the background of the first one there is our school and in the foreground an eye-catching inflorescence: we are at the peak of the dry season, very few leaves, no grass, but nature does not fear even dryness, when it reaches its time it explodes. In the second picture the students come into the yard and wash their hands before heading for their classes. This too is a sign of life, new hope that wants to fully flourish again in the hearts of all of them.
On April 14 schools reopened. The big road passing in front of our schools was filled with colours, the result of students walking to their schools in the various uniforms. A lot of talk, small races as if to overcome even time. Joy and life. It was moving to see more than six hundred students come into our school, but at the same time we were all a bit in suspense… Unfortunately, after two hours from the start of classes, a child began vomiting in the classroom. At once the precautionary measures were taken and then we were able to track down his sister, who came to pick him up. You say, it is normal! So it would have been if Ebola had never appeared. However the situation is improving day by day, and some students arrive late apologizing because, living in remote villages, were not aware of the reopening of the school.
During the enrolment of boys, how many stories we heard, how much death went through the families, how many difficulties overcome in despair, how much solitude lived far away from loved ones, how much uncertainty in tomorrow! Brothers and sisters of all ages lost, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts, cousins… missing but… the extended family has opened its arms and, new love, new friends, new warmness entered the orphans’ hearts. New life, new opportunity to look forward. What a great thing is welcoming! And all this also happens thanks to your continued support.
In the villages, when we go to deliver aid, children are no longer so fearful and come close smiling. We began to give to orphans, in addition to food, even clothes, slippers, sandals and notebooks (for those who are of school age). Seeing the clothes all cheered, and passing them one by one in their hands looked at them in disbelief. Our commitment is to restart hope for the future. Smiles are multiplying and becoming contagious, songs join in this hymn to life. Faces are cheering up, although not all of them. Food for now remains the most important need, but little by little their condition will be considered in a comprehensive manner so that everyone can get a complete help. We add to material aid a small sum for those unforeseen needs, which we cannot provide for. More than 800 orphans are fully cared for, received in 150 families. If we do an average of 10 people per family the real assisted are about 1500 and maybe even more.
Towards the end of May there were several new cases of Ebola and the World Health Organization along with other Organizations are trying to understand their cause and origin. Perhaps the survivors are spreading it or maybe the virus is mutating. It is too early and difficult to give answers, however controls are very strict and interventions increasingly determined and efficient. We hope and pray that even here, in short, we can say, “Ebola is over.” In the meantime, however, we must continue to keep sanitary-hygienic precautions in order to avoid any risk.
Remember that kid that every morning would sit on the porch and stare the tree in front of him because “his mother had died down there?” Well, he really was not a child, but a boy of 15 who at the moment is attending our school. In fact, two weeks ago a social worker asked us if we could accept him because he had expressed a desire to attend Murialdo Secondary School. He immediately fit well into the class, and smile reappeared on his face and we really hope to be able to help him in the best way. Fortunately no new cases of Ebola were reported among the students of various institutions. This also helps and encourages the resumption of “normal” life.
You cannot imagine the impact that your assistance has on the lives of families and villages. First, people are regaining confidence in the future and are already working to fully resume agricultural activities. Everyone, from adults to women and children, is involved. Everywhere you notice a great desire to do: preparation of forest land by cutting plants; digging the ground and also preparing the rice fields, especially those that will be filled soon with water. There is a real fervour in this, a sign that the desire to return to normal life is great. Another effect of your generosity is that since we bring aid to orphans and villages, no more children died, indeed all show liveliness and a good physical growth.
The sharp rise in poverty is the logical consequence of the impossibility of “doing” caused by Ebola. And this poverty is not only lack of money: families where young people and adults have died find it difficulty to farm the land, to find some extra help; not all children are sent to school because… they have to contribute to the maintenance of younger siblings; when someone becomes sick it is difficult to bring patients to a clinic because there is no money to pay for treatment and medicines; the economic contribution that we give to each family is often used to repay the debts made with other families. The uncertainty in many homes can also be read on the faces of those who live there.
Unfortunately Ebola leaves some signs and different disorders in people who managed to overcome the virus: bouts of headache, ringing in the ears, impaired vision, loss of balance, the skin is filled with small pustules like those of measles, very painful and itchy. Suffering seems to continue to accompany them. We hope that there are more studies to learn more about this disease and that the survivors are able to overcome these hardships too, and return to their daily activities without being overwhelmed by discouragement.
Our and their gratitude may reach your families as a blessing. The “life” that you are giving is already strength also within you and you may be sure, many of the joys that you are feeling, are also the result of the memory that these people have for each of you. God bless you.
Some of the children helped by the Josephan missionaries: