17 May 2018

Letter from the Desert (23)

November 17, 2017

Queridos Amigos de la Misión.

Dear friends of the mission:

Thanks to all of you, what yesterday was only a dream, today has become reality. I write this letter from Addis Ababa, where I came to pick up the famous bus. I write with a mixture of excitement and gratitude for, at last! What seemed like an impossible dream has now come to be.

Here it is! With a capacity of 38 passengers and it is now on the way to Gode!

Here it is! With a capacity of 38 passengers and it is now on the way to Gode!

Many of our Tamara children are HIV-positive.

Many of our Tamara children are HIV-positive.

Many of you have contributed with your very generous donations and sacrifices in order to buy this vehicle. We give thanks to all of you, in the name of the Catholic Church and particularly in the name of so many women and children who have no voice. They truly are human scrap and waste who find no mercy from anyone here.

During the construction of the mission’s building, the Church has been present day after day in the life of the community visiting the people. I frequently, receive requests to visit the sick, which allows for an opening in order to be present to those who have nothing and nobody to look after their basic needs. They are broken “christs,” abandoned “christs.”

When we started visiting the brothels, besides playing with the children and talking to their mothers, we use these conversations in order to identify those who are more vulnerable in the community. We began by taking sick women and children to the local hospital. During the course of these visits, we discovered that many of the women we contacted were afflicted by AIDS. We took them to the Regional Hospital for treatment. The hospital specially requested our help in order to search those patients afflicted with HIV-AIDS who had abandoned their treatment. As a result of that cooperation, the Church established a memorandum of understanding with the Regional Hospital, with the support of our Apostolic Vicariate, Bishop Angelo Pagano, OFM, Cap.

Many of the women we contacted work in the brothels of Gode (euphemistically called “buna bet,” which means coffee-house). They work as waitress, cleaners…etc. But also as prostitutes. These young women, often younger than 25 years of age, with the burden of having to feed their young children, have no means to make a living, only whatever they make at the brothels.

Even though these women are “independent” prostitutes, once at the brothel, they begin to work under the authority of “the mother” of the house, who feeds and shelters them (they each have to pay their own rent). They are not prostitutes by choice, but because of need, losing their sense of self-esteem and self-respect. They feel they have no choice and, even if they have a vague idea regarding the danger of contracting AIDS and other diseases, they consider it a necessary risk they have to take in order to solve the financial difficulties they encounter.

These women come from different places, different regions of Ethiopia. We are in touch with women who come from Tigray, Amara, Wolo, Oromia…, as well as with some who belong to the local Somali community. The “magnet” that brings most of is the activity of the security forces, which is very important in the city of Gode and its surroundings. Each woman has her own story to tell which unfolds like a true nightmare.

As you might recall, the reason for purchasing a bus, was the long distance that separates the center of town from us. People could only have access to us by motto-taxi service which is very expensive in order to come to the Church’s compound. Our project has allowed us to provide transportation, back and forth, to women and children who attend the Tamara Project daily. However, it was impossible to increase the number of women and children who could attend the project with the limited space of our current vehicles.

This bus will now give us the possibility of bringing to Galilee a greater number of women and children. This will be more efficient and will allow our current staff to be more present to those who participate in our formation programs as well as the care of their children. It will also open for us the possibility of starting elementary formation of these women´s older children and for those children who live too far away from city schools.

Mothers bathe their children as soon as they arrive, they then have breakfast. They eat like lions!

Mothers bathe their children as soon as they arrive, they then have breakfast. They eat like lions!

Our ladies come every morning to learn how to make handicrafts in order to acquire the necessary skills, to be able to sell the products that they have created with their own hands (instead of selling themselves). We are teaching them how to make purses and wallets to be sold. This is not only a means of making a living, but a way to raise their self-esteem. They now realize they have no need to sell themselves to a man in order to stand on their own two feet. This also allows women to leave for a few hours during the day the environment of the brothels and streets of Gode.

autobus4

These classes take place in the mission’s building that we call “Galilee,” remembering what we read in God’s Word:

“Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10: 34-38).

Just like Jesus began his work of salvation in Galilee, here in this Somali parched-land is where the Catholic Church has begun her works of love and to reveal the love of God manifested in Christ for our salvation. This is our “Galilee.” This is where it all begun, where the Good News was proclaimed for the first time, through works of love to the poorest of the Somali people.

We accompany each woman and their children (if they are sick) to the hospital or to the clinic, to attend their appointments to treat their HIV. We pay for their blood tests or any other test they need (usually these are not free and they cannot pay for them).

Around the school there are many communities that are far away from the city. For this reason, children cannot go to school and do not have medical assistance, if something should happen to them. We want these children to come to our center. This means that we will open two classes for children (between 25 and 30 in each of them). Which will complement the craft workshop that we have started with women.

As mentioned before, we hope to serve between 50 and 60 boys and girls, some the children of the women who assist to our program. Others are children who belong to nearby communities. We had 30 of these very vulnerable women divided in groups of 10 during the first year.

But above all else, what is truly important for us is that they can experience the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, through the ministry off the Catholic Church in each one of us missionaries.

These women are for us broken pieces of the body of our crucified God. They and their children carry in their bodies and souls the wounds of the passion of Christ: women, children, multitudes of people crucified by the evilness of so many and the indifference of the majority.

We give thanks to everyone in the name of so many poor people who cannot do it for themselves.

I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of missionaries, and Mother of the poor, to enfold us all within her holy mantle of mercy.

We pray for you every day before Tabernacle of our little mission.

Firma

Fr. Christopher.

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