During summer time/rain season in Ethiopia, the students doesn’t have regular classes, but it is quite popular to organize summer school or other activities for the kids.
This year also CLM in Ethiopia were involved in such a program. Tobiasz was coordinating the project and invited the rest of the community to take part in it. Over 80 kids participated in the school during 3 weeks. They had different topics related mostly to health – nutrition, HIV/AIDS, first aid, hygiene etc.
A few months ago, 12-years old Aman, after falling from a tree injured his spinal cord. His family brought him to us as the last place where they could receive some help. Unfortunately the damage was so serious that we were medically unable to do anything. Only we could try to get a wheelchair for him so he can become more independent. There is one organization in Awassa that distributes orthopedic equipment, so together with Aman we went there, full of hope. Unfortunately they could not help us. I was so disappointed… So the boy went home without anything … After a few weeks I visited this organization again and found out they have a new delivery of wheelchairs! However, I had no contact to Aman (most of our patients do not have a permanent address, phone number, or any other means of finding them). I felt really bad with it, that the chance to help the boy appeared too late, and now I probably never will meet him again… But God is reliable! I recently visited another child in hospital and how great was my surprise and disbelief when I saw Aman’s smiling face on the bed next to me! It turned out that he was getting discharged from the hospital the same day, so his mom willingly accepted the offer to come to our center (where we would continue to treat bedsores for which he was hospitalized) and at the same time try to get equipment for him. The next day Aman was with us, so we went to ask about the wheelchair. And we heard – “We are very sorry, but unfortunately we have no more …”. And such a cry in my soul – “Lord, this boy has already been disappointed once, now you put him again on my way, so please help!” And a moment later – “Although we have one wheelchair, which for a few weeks no one picked up, so if it fits can you get” And of course it fitted perfectly! How great was Aman’s joy when he started to go around the center 🙂 And how great was my joy and gratitude to God for this miracle! For the fact that I met this boy again, for having arranged a wheelchair for him and it’s so immediate, because normal waiting process lasts 2 months 🙂 And also a lesson of trust for me that God never let us down and that He also knows better when it is good time to have something happen.
What is the best way of spending holiday? This question was not in the mind of children living in the neighborhood of the clinic I work in. They mostly come from poor, large families and their parents cannot afford any holiday activities for them. Time just passes while they get bored. We decided to take them out of this summer idleness.
Using their time, which they have in overabundance and financial means received by the group of Polish Comboni Lay Missionaries, we tried to make for them something pleasant and useful at the same time. We organized the summer school. 80 boys and girls of age from 12 to 18 took part in that. Children were divided into three groups: older boys and girls separately and youngest students –together. Each group attended in 1-week program.
We started each day with a prayer “Our Father”. During the classes they were taught about nutritious food, hygiene, environment protection, family planning method and first aid. They were taught about problems facing teenagers ie. addictions, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, female genital mutilation and forced early marriages.
For the purpose of better perceiving of the knowledge many of the lessons were conducted as outdoor activities: practical exercises or games. After the classes about nutritious food children went to do some gardening, when they learnt how to make patches and plant vegetables. At the end of the hygiene lesson toothbrushes and toothpastes were distributed and all children brushed their teeth. Lecture of the first aid, when short “what-to-do” movies were shown, was followed by practical exercises, where young students played roles of fainted, burnt and choked people as well as their lifesavers. During one of the games they learnt how to behave in a good manner – for example when seeing white person better to greet him instead of calling “youyouyou”. What they learnt during all the week they painted during the last lesson.
One of the classes concerned the creation of the world. There were shown pictures proving beauty of the world created by God, ie. wonderful landscapes of Ethiopia, beautiful sunset at the Awassa lake, at the side they live. Just after that there were presented photos of the rubbish scattered in their neighborhood. After this short lecture we went with zeal to pick-up the rubbish from the clinic compound.
During the school break each student received a pack of biscuits. Every child received daily nutritious lunch: injera with different vegetables, what could be consider as a good example of nutritious food they learnt about during their classes. The school has ended with official graduation ceremony, where certificates of attendance were distributed. Every student as a gift received a school set, consisting of exercise books, a pen, a pencil, and a sharpener, what for many families was a significant reduction of the household expenses. Additionally, twelve the most active students received an extra math’s set (compass, ruler, setsquare).
Everyone like the school so much. Teachers were happy that students were interested in all the subjects. Children are already waiting for another summer school next year.
In the first week of May all our community participated in the new comers’ course. It was organized by Comboni Family but participants were from different congregations. All together we were over 30 people.
First day we had lecture about Christianity in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of the first Christian countries in the world, starting from IV century. Also in the Acts of Apostles we can read about converting the Ethiopian.
Second day we focused on the Catholic Church history, which was also very interesting, as e.g. how it happened that Ethiopia has two different rites – Ethiopian Ge’ez one (based very much on the orthodox tradition) and Latin.
Then the next day was about the liturgy, mostly about the one of the orthodox church, which also has a lot in common with the catholic one.
And then following day was about culture and some every-day life issues. These four days were common for all of us. But the last day was only for the Comboni family, we got a lot of information about history of the MCCJ’s missions in Ethiopia (starting from the time of Comboni himself) and CMS, and also some present issues of the Comboni Family’s presence.
It was very enriching time. We got many information, but also many new questions appeared, so we are motivate to continue discovering Ethiopia with its history & culture, to serve better here. Also it was beautiful time to be together and getting to know each other.
This year our community spent Holy Week and Easter at the Comboni missions among the Gumuz tribe. Madzia and I stayed in Gublak most of the time; Adela and Tobiasz stayed in GilgelBelez. However, we all visited both places. I would like to share with you something of this impressive experience.
The journey from Addis Abeba to GilgelBelez was very tiring. We spent 13 hours on a bus packed with people. At times, only the beautiful landscape gave us some relief. We arrived in the evening and, while we were having supper together, the fathers told us a lot of stories about the local people. Many of them sounded incredible. We were very happy to have the opportunity to meet those people and the missionaries during their daily activities.
We spent the next day in GilgelBelez, a town where many different tribes, including the Gumuz, live. The Gumuz face discrimination in their daily life because of the dark colour of their skin. They were even discriminated by the churches until the Catholic Church came. Today the parish community is made up entirely of Gumuz people. In the days before Easter we could observe them working together preparing for the feast. They all worked hard for the good of the community. We also visited a certain boy and his family, whom Madzia helped two years ago. She showed him and his parents some exercises and found crutches for him. Now he is able to walk on his own. It was nice to see the good results of Madzia’s work. We also visited the town and the kindergarten belonging to the parish.
After our short visit to GilgelBelez we moved on to visit Gublak, a mission founded five years ago. Before the Triduum we saw the daily work of the missionaries. They celebrate Mass in the morning and then each one goes about his work. The main job is visiting villages to teach the people about Christ and our faith. We went to some villages together with them. The first thing they do when they arrive in a village is to greet people. Only after the greetings can the meeting begin. The people pray and sing and, then the fathers, the sisters or the catechists give them some instruction. Some of the people are already baptized while others are still catechumens. The catechists act as translators from Amharic into the Gumuz language. There are very few texts in this language and the missionaries speak only Amharic. During a meeting with the women, Adela and Tobiasz gave them testimony about family life. They had prepared it for some days with their Amharic teacher and it was their first speech in Amharic (after a three-month course!). Congratulations to them!
Then we started the Triduum. I went with Father Isayas to bring the catechumens to our compound on Thursday. Starting from the furthest village we brought some of them on the pick-up car. The catechumens who live close to the mission came on foot to the church in the evening. On Holy Thursday evening, I went with Fr. Isayas to a chapel where we celebrated the Last Supper Mass. There were around 50 people (most of them children or teenagers). During his homily the father described what happened at the Last Supper and explained, about the institution of the Eucharist. Then he washed feet of twelve chosen young people. After the Mass, we had a time of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I must say that the youth behaved properly.
After that we took some of them to our compound where they joined the 130 young people already there. From Thursday till Sunday the youth stayed in the compound. They had prayer, teaching, and group work and participated in the main program: the Stations of the Cross, the Friday Liturgy, the Passover Liturgy and, the Sunday Easter Mass. I was very impressed by the people. They participated very actively. The catechists who are also young boys served all this time, from the morning until night. They did it with joy, without complaining. They translated, they organized the prayers, the services, the meals and, they kept order and discipline. During the Passover Liturgy 102 catechumens were baptized, on Sunday there was a group of 24 adults who also received baptism. Even if the Mass lasted so long, it was great to see the people who became Christians. It was something very meaningful in their lives. Some of them were really moved.
Most of the new Christians are very young, children or teenagers. Most of the adults who received the baptism were the mothers of the children who were baptized in past years. It is amazing how the Catholic Church is growing where there were no Christians at all just a few years ago. Many of those people don’t know how to read or write and do not know Amharic. Nevertheless, they listened to the missionaries and believed. Of course they still need Christian formation and that’s why the missionaries’ work is so important. Saint Daniel Comboni must be very happy to see the fruits of their work.
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