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.
Our Lay Community has lived in St. Jude for few months. We work here, but we also live with mothers and children. In our orphanage live more than 130 children of different ages. Over 40 children are disabled to varying degrees, including deaf and blind children, children with cerebral palsy, children suffering from paraplegia and two young that have had various accidents. Also children with HIV and tuberculosis live here in St. Jude. Other children, although healthy in physically sense, they are sick in the spiritual sense- after the experience of rejection from family and experience of the war.
Despite all these diseases and difficult experiences our children are full of life, joy and smile. Every morning we hear their play, laughter and singing. Our children are simply made for inventing new games, especially for making toys out of nothing. They can find a piece of cardboard, a circle and a stick and a new “modern” racing car is rushing through our compound. The old tires are the best toys for them- turning them into racing gives them an extraordinary joy. However, girls really like to play in the imitation of mothers. They find a teddy bear, they quickly wear him on their back and pretend to have a child. It’s better when they find a piece of material to attach the bear to the back and keep their hands free, then it’s called “byelo”.
Older children help mothers in their homes. The girls learn how to take care of the house, cook typical Acoli dishes like “malakwan” or “boo”. The boys help in the store where we keep food- corn, rice and different varieties of beans. That’s all during the holiday. When the school stars most of them attend classes from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
The life of children with disabilities is more monotonous. We try to enliven it. During the day we take them for a short walk in the yard, they have rehabilitation, we play with them in a special room with toys to awake their imagination and change scenery. And despite that some of them have a high degree of disability they have learnt to recognise us. We also recognise their interest, for example Gerard likes tractor coming back from the farm. Then he touches the tires, watches how the cabin looks like. While Geoffrey likes when you stroke him on the cheeks. Bridget smiles when you tell her “good morning my beautiful Bridget”. Our children are full of joy and show it through smile, some even scream and in their eyes we can see friendship and trust which put in us.
Our life here is focused on the children, the time passes very quickly, but sometimes it happens something what “freezes” us for some time. More than one month ago, Isaac died. Isaac was a little boy with disability. He loved when you carried him to exhibit his face to the wind to feel the brush. He had an unusual smile. When he was carried he clung and when you put it back to the wheelchair he clenched his small lips-like a warrior-so as not to cry. Today he is gone from us but this experience has stuck in our hearts.
Every new day begins the same way, full of energy we face new challenges. In the evening we thank God in our small house chapel for the strength and love that we received. Tired but happy, we look forward to a new day.
The Community in Gulu is complete, we have finally met with Ewa and Joana waiting for us with open arms in St. Jude Orphanage.
Monika and I now fulfill our second week and we are celebrating with an intensive “Acoli” language course, that will allow us to communicate and try to learn and understand those who are our brothers for these coming years.
The first days in Kampala, we had occasion to meet with the Comboni Lay Missionaries and share an interesting talk about how we are going to organize this time we will be in Uganda with them. They explained how they live the lay status, what are their plans and dreams, their limitations, and personally made us very excited to check that we are much closer than we thought.
We also share dinner and prayer in a very friendly atmosphere and with the feeling of being at home. It is a fortune for us that there are CLM in Uganda and Gulu, because we’ll just join what they are already doing and see what may occurs being together.
The next day paperwork and preparing for the long journey that leads north to Gulu. We said goodbye to the Community of Comboni Fathers in Kampala so well received and welcomed us on our arrival.
These are days of discovery, “landing” in a new land, it is time to observe and enjoy the contrasts.
We have also been fortunate to meet Dana (Polish Comboni Lay Missionary, who is completing her service time in Matany) and Marco and Maria Grazia with their sons Francesco and Samuele (Italians Comboni Lay Missionaries) who also complete their mission time in Aber. We went to visit them accompanied by F.Ramón and F.Luigi.
Just one day to share experiences, but enough to see that it was a nice life time for all of them.
It is very positive for us to meet other lay people nearby Gulu who knows realities, is positive as well listening stories and experiences of those who have preceded us, which help us to place ourselves before starting to take over our reality.
That is our time to learn Acoli, sharing Eucharist, meals and tours with Acoli people and the Comboni family and quietly enjoying what Uganda is giving us these first days.
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