Last days went by with these two ambivalent feelings. Moments of sadness interspersed with moment of great joy- this because of our children.
On All Soul’s Day we attended the Mass which was celebrated on the local cemetery situated near our St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Gulu. After the Mass we went with our children to pray at the tomb of our small Angel-as we used to call Moses, who died 6 months ago. After prayer we covered the tomb with flowers which we’d picked from the tree growing in St. Jude Children’s Home.
Here The Day of All Saints is a day of great joy- in this special day children receive sacraments of baptism, First Communion and even Confirmation. The Mass in the Cathedral is pretty long- 4 or 5 hours, because there are for example 150 children to be baptized. Anyway we are in Africa, so the length of the Mass is normal, and good that our Cathedral is big and long so all people can enter. After receiving all sacraments all people gathered in the church, lift up their hand and candles and shout loudly to show their happiness. At the beginning, I was very surprised that the day, which in Poland is a calm day of reflection and prayer, here in Gulu is a one of the most happiest day. But when during the Confirmation each candidate reads the name of Patron out you get the feeling that All Saints gather in one place- beautiful experience, unforgettable.
Children from our Orphanage received the sacraments of Baptism and First Communion earlier- on October 28th– memory of St. Jude, who is a Patron of our Orphanage. Children from both schools- Nursery and Primary, all workers, orphans and friends of our Orphanage met under the big tree to celebrate the Mass. Seven our children have been baptized and eight children first time received Holy Communion. It was a very joyful day for all of us. Children who received First Communion were in different age, between 10 and 16. None of them asked about toys or super gifts. All of them were prepared well by our catechist.
I came back to Uganda 5 months ago- I already live according to my routine, which is different from the one which I had 2 years ago. Now, the majority of my time I spend with children. In the morning with babies and disabled, in the afternoon with children from Primary 1,2,3 and children from Nursery School. But many different people who come to our house break our daily routine, for what we are very grateful. Some of them come for short time- like Peter- our Lay Comboni Missionary from Poland or for longer like David- Comboni Lay Missionary from Spain, who came for more than one month. Also meetings with Comboni Family, during the feast like on October 10th- the Feast of Comboni or just simple accidental meetings on the street, in the town or in the church. All these meetings give us a lot of joy and positive energy. So if someone plans to come to Uganda for a few days or maybe for longer, remember that our house is always open and you are welcome.
“Our children have just finished their holiday season. This time it lasted unusually long – 3 months. The reason was the election of the new president of Uganda which took place on 18 February 2016. Fortunately everything went well and there were no big problems. In less than three weeks I will be back in Poland again. Well, something ends, something new begins. During the holiday season, I spent most of the time with the youngest children who have some problems at school. It was a kind of remedial classes. After the renovation work, the classes were held in the dining room that was turned into the class room. We spend a lot of time there, learning but also having fun. We painted, created things from plasticine, coloured and cut. In Poland it is something common but for my kids in Uganda it is always something special and new.”
Besides being the general administrator, here I am also someone between a baby sitter and a social worker. All this time I have been here, I have discovered that this is the best place for me. It is amazing and surprising at the same time, because it was not something I had intended to do. Mission teaches obedience and commitment in places where there is a need, not in places where one thinks he/she should be. Sometimes our imaginations are not real; our point of view differs from the real and true needs of the world. Because we think that our needs are: time for prayer and, above all, openness to the Holy Spirit. We also need all of these to discover what God really wants from us, in this particular place. I can’t say I know it already, but I search for it, all the time. I am starting to understand why I have been sent here. Now, as I am actually finishing my two years mission experience, I know I will return here, to my children, to St. Jude.
St. Jude is not just children, but also people who work there. Baby sitters, people who look after the children – I spent lots of time with them. At the beginning of my mission, I was dedicated to managing all the employees, which was really hard, as I was the youngest person here and I was preparing to become their supervisor. I was supposed to check and assess. It was not a very comfortable situation, because I came here to help, not to control. However, as I mentioned before – mission teaches humility, but also verifies our vision about ourselves, our knowledge and behaviours. I have to admit that sometimes even the easiest things ended with some misunderstanding. The way of being, talking, gesturing were interpreted wrongly. Fortunately, we have learnt from one another eventually.
Mission is also a community, very extraordinary in my case. We were sent to a totally new place and created a new community in Gulu – before it had been only in Matany – where Danusia (another CLM) was. There were four of us, young and inexperienced girls: three Polish and one Spanish. Even the time we spent in prayer, talking, resting but also arguing and causing misunderstandings, was beautiful and intense. What always united us, though, was the mission, the people and, most of all, prayer. Each one of us is a different picture of God, but with the same faith and big open heart.
On behalf of my community and myself, I would like to thank all of you, for every little gesture, holiday cards, emails. On behalf of my children, I would like to thank for all the financial support: thanks to it our children now have new uniforms, better food, the possibility of better health control and … we coloured their world. But most of all, I would like to thank you for every prayer, every sigh about us: without you, we would not be here
My first mission in St. Jude Orphanage in Gulu is coming to an end. My contract is over in March. During these almost 2 years I worked among Acholi people. My first duty is working in administration. But I try sometimes to do something with children in the afternoon when I don’t need to be in the office. I’d like to tell you about an amazing girl who I work with, who has thought me a lot and who shows me every day what is the most important in the life.
Jacqueline is a 16-year-old autistic girl, who appeared in our St. Jude few years ago. She previously lived with her grandmother, but because she did not have time for her, Jackline spent days with goats, which were around. When she came to our center she could not even walk, so this skill she has been taught here. In addition, due to her “company” Jackline instead of talking rather she produced (and sometimes she still does it) something like goat’s scream. After more than a half-yearly treatment the frequency of issuance this horrible sound has been reduced, but it still appears, especially when she is dissatisfied, hungry or something makes her upset.
My work with Jackline is a beautiful and extraordinary adventure. I have already learnt very much from her. It is amazing how every day I can discover something new in her, a new character trait, things that she likes and she doesn’t like, favorite color, food. The beginning of my work with Jackline was quite hard, because she does not speak. In addition autism is linked with some degree of disability (mental retardation). So, at the beginning I had to learn everything, her response, why she behaves in this way, what means the sound that she does notoriously, what means that expression. But slowly, slowly, I have discovered many things and I have noticed a lot. As I mentioned above I’m still learning and it is the biggest beauty of this work. But it wasn’t the most important at the beginning. The most important thing was to gain the trust. For children with autism it is hard to trust someone new. Jackline initially did not want to even grab my hand, she was afraid when I pulled her hand and wanted to take a walk, even she did not want to smile. It was a difficult time because I did not know how I should react, how to work and what path peel to somehow cope with this problem. I knew one: love for a child is the most important, if you give sincere love to someone, then the child will feel that you care about her and finally the child will trust. And this is indeed the best solution. Of course classes, stimulation is one thing, but love should be always above everything. And the greatest expression of her trust was one of her gesture when she was sick. One day I was looking for her in order to take her to classes and accidentally peeked into our small “clinic”. It was there that I found Jackline-weak and sad. She was sick. First thing which we do is malaria test. So we had to do it. And in her case, the nurse knew it would be the worst, because she doesn’t allow anybody to touch her. But when I entered the room and our sight met I saw in her eyes peace. Although she says nothing by sight and behavior she can express everything in a very beautiful way. The visit came to an end successfully. But when I was going with her to go out, Jackline suddenly put her head on my knees and decided to just lie down. Yes, we spent the whole afternoon like that -she quietly was lying on my lap and me with great joy and emotion of heart watching her. This was for me the most wonderful experience and the best proof of her trust and confidence. Of course I still continue my work with Jackline, because there is still a lot to do, but slowly, slowly, I hope that even more will develop.
How easy it is to enjoy doing nice things, creating, inventing and “building” from our imagination and the materials we have around.
In St. Jude Orphanage, has appeared “Art Studio” a place prepared by my Spanish friends who came to visit us this summer and cleaned, ordered and painted a warehouse, and then transform it into a beautiful place.
It was a dream that came true, because due to my “artistic branch” I wanted to do something “different and nice” with the children of the orphanage. Sometimes with older (14 or 15 years) communication it is not easy because they are in that difficult age, where they reveal a little against everything. I was sure that through these activities communication would be simpler, and so it proved.
Many ideas in my head, a lot of time collecting precious African scraps from the market, collecting plates and seeds, plastics, bags, and keeping them patiently, wanting to do fun things with all the material.
It is an artistic laboratory where we get together to work making purses, pocketbooks, earrings, bracelets, and other things that will be discovering as we go finishing (because different ideas continue to emerge). We listen to music, talk, and the best is to see the result on the beautiful store that has emerged after two months of work.
The aim is not only selling, even thou it is always important to get some money to help us every day, which is not easy.
We wanted the kids to have the chance to work with imagination and creativity, elements that I think are important for the development of the person. We do not wanted to get together only to make bracelets, but see a table full of things and think “where can go from here?” Propose, inventing, and why not … dream a little.
Before starting, I asked God for patience to explain the kids how to work and also asked to convey my enthusiasm, because the most excited about this was me, and I think I’m still the one J.
The results are wonderful, and I must say we have surprised everyone, including Brother Elio, the director, workers, and people who come to visit the orphanage, have been delighted with our little artistic corner.
The work of course are divided according to age, some are dedicated to stick hammered sheets plates and let them flat, others cuts letters, others uses glue, scissors, others joins balls with elastic … but what it is the best It is that we are really enjoining, and we all love seeing the result of our work.
When they realize they can do beautiful things, become proud and want to do more, and the fact of seeing them “exposed” in our beautiful store, makes them feel important.
So now, if you come to visit St. Jude Orphanage in Uganda, apart from playing with the children, go for a walk with the kids who are in wheelchairs, read and paint, run, and do all sorts of things that can occur with 100 children together, you will have to go through our “Art Studio”, first to see how well they work, and second, of course to buy some souvenirs in our shop.
Here in St Jude (Gulu), we are a community of 4 CLM who live and work here. We are very lucky, because around us live some Ugandan CLM, Comboni brothers, sisters and fathers who are much opened. We know that all the time we can count on them, when we need something they always help. We feel a big big support from them. Even when we had difficult time here, when we were a bit down, they came to us to give us a good word, to speak, to be with us. This particular moments showed us that we are really a family not only when is a big feast, celebration but we are together also in difficult and sad time. It was very nice to feel it.
We organised our community life, which is very important for us. Every day we discover how big blessing community is for each of us. It is nice to come back from work and speak, talk about doubts, about nice and bad moment, it is very nice to have this opportunity to share. Every one of us is involved in many things but we have our own community moments. We pray together every day. Each of us is responsible for one day per week and prepare evening prayer. We have our own small chapel in the house, so in the evening we gather there to pray, share and give thanks for every day, praying also for strength and love for next day. Wednesday is our community day what means we go together to the Mass that we offer for our community. Another time when we are together are during the meals. This is time when we can share our work, experience, ask about something, discuss and received advises.
Once a month we have a retreat day that is in Layibi. Sometimes we ask father to prepare something for us and sometimes we just go to think, to be calm and to pray in peace. Usually is half a day and later we have a chance to speak with fathers in Layibi to ask about a lot of things, to compare our experience, to received some advices from them, because they have long experience working among Acholi people.
We have created our first community project. We created this educational project for children to give them opportunity to go to school or to continue education. Education in Uganda is very expensive, parents must pay a lot of money and really, they do not have. So we decided to make this project for this kind of families, children. We included also our workers. Each of them could choose one child from family and we paid one term of school year. The same situation is with our mothers. Other part of our project is to support children for whole year. With the help of one of our worker, we chose 11 children from very poor families and we decided to support them for whole year. Of course, we chose children who are really good, whose results were good and who wanted to continued learning. All of them they are from Secondary School and their situation at home is very difficult. Most of them they are orphans, another with father who is drunker, another with many children so studying is impossible. So we support them paying them school fees and other requirements (like exams fees, uniforms).
About our work… I (Asia) still help bro. Elio to keep properly administration and account department. This kind of work I do it up to lunch break. Later I am a teacher and special need’s teacher. I try to introduce English, because our children have a big problem with that. I also work with one autistic girl, I try to find a communication channel with her. I want this lessons to let her grow up, spread horizons. I work also with older children. I prepare them to exams, the last exams in the school.
Ewa spend much time with the babies while their “mothers” work in the barn (before they were alone by the compound doing all sorts of “dangerous” things for them).
Also put some movies to the older kids that are a little “off the hook” for the kind of life that has been here more focused on the kids. Ewa is very in touch with everyone, and that we “drag” to play basketball, volleyball or whatever with them…
An institution level she is responsible for workers, to bring some control schedules. Also enjoys working with mothers in the physical work every day, putting corn, millet, beans and other things to dry, then you put them into the silos.
With older boys we have a beautiful project, we want together to put in order dormitories and prepare an special place for them inside with tables and chairs to allow them to read, draw and talk instead find them every time around the compound with nothing to do.
Carmen is ordering (with them) to “whitewash” the rooms, we painted the lockers, they were very old and faded colour, with the colours of the Ugandan flag, who elected them, and now we will put the names with “cool” letters.
After we want also to paint a scene (or some sports or movie) on one of the inside walls. We will use the projector to copy the image because of that all of them can help (obviously, everyone wants to participate).
I help with the organization of storage and distribution of food, clothing and other necessities for children. Everything is posted to better manage resources.
I like to work in the store like Ewa, we are very proud of how foods are perfectly placed, after much work, for use it in the dry season.
In our free time we enjoy sharing with children with mobility problems, for all of us they are very special.
Monica is doing a great job with them, physiotherapy to try to remove some of that rigidity that has blocked the majority. She is also doing gymnastics with children who have trouble mobilization but well “head” and they love it.
All enjoyed when sat together with them in the fresh atmosphere, with music, toys, changing position, with the help of lots of colourful cushions we have done with the old foam mattresses.
We felt at home despite some misunderstandings arising from the difference in our cultures, but the will is good and we are taking good care of each other. In times of difficulty, we greatly appreciate being together and being so well, we thank the community that we are.
As you can see, we are involved in many activities. Every day we try to find something different to do with children to change some routine. Every day we try to do our best to our best to make their lives better, happier and more interesting.
Last Sunday we’ve started a very important time in catholic Church- Holy Week. Today is Holy Saturday and the great waiting .
We’re very excited and very happy that we can spend this beautiful time among Acoli people.
Here the way of celebration any Feast is incredible. Making a start on Palm Sunday. The church was full of people, each of them (from the youngest to the oldest) is keeping a sprig of palm and waving it. It was amazing, because you felt like during the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. Incredible!
On Palm Sunday the priest asked all of us: what are you waiting for? What are expecting from this Holy Week? What are Acoli people waiting for? People here know how important the Resurrection is. They’re waiting for Him, who has risen from the death. They’re waiting for Him, who suffered to conquered our sins and give us a new lives. They’re waiting for Jesus, who brings joy and hope.
And we wish you all this things. We wish you to meet Jesus who is risen from the death, we wish you stop and think of this big Mistery, think of a great God’s love who gave His Son to die for us and our sins. Let Jesus give you strength on your mission ways, strength to follow Him every day, fill your hearts joy, peace and hope.
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