Just wanted to let you know that so many people are still suffering in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 triple disaster in the northeastern portion of Japan. Especially the ongoing radiation problem from the nuclear accident is causing hardship to the people.
Yesterday I met a woman in her 50‘s whose family lived only a few miles from the reactor. They had just finished building a new house when the nuclear accident occurred. They still have to repay their loan but, of course, can never live in their house again. The woman‘s husband was the president of a con-struction company and they lost everything because of the disaster. They evacuated to Yokohama, but because they are in their 50‘s it is very hard to find another job. Both had normal health before the disas-ter but suddenly she developed very high blood pressure and her husband is so depressed he never leaves their apartment. She told me that the older people get some kind of welfare assistance to live on and the younger people can find work but the ones in their middle age are caught in the middle.
All kinds of physical ailments have increased in Fukushima prefecture including thyroid cancer, glaucoma. The clean-up at the reactor is very complicated because of the excessive amount of contami-nated water that keeps accumulating. They store it in tanks but they are running out of storage containers so some of it has been released into the sea.
The contaminated soil is to be stored ‗temporarily‘ in some of the nearby towns. What can be done with the nuclear waste is still unknown. No permanent solution has yet been found.
In Tokyo life goes on as though there never was a tsunami or nuclear accident and so much money and energy is being poured into preparations for the 2020 ―Olympics.‖
On the positive side, in Kamakura where I live, the Buddhist, Shinto and Christian leaders have held a joint prayer every year on March 11 -alternating the place: shrine, temple, or church. Literally hundreds of people attend to pray for those who have died and for the well-being of the survivors.
This has helped us to deepen our under-standing of each other and look for ways to co-operate with each other in reaching out to the people in Tohoku (North–Eastern Japan).
Street children are seen by the community as hooligans or ruffians and are to be avoided. Some see vulnerable children as orphans the result of their parents misconduct as they died of HIV/AIDS. Consequently they are not given the opportunity to live and act as children. The vulnerable youth are always mistaken for petty thieves and people who cannot be trusted. Children over time begin to identify with the projections of the community losing in the process their self dignity. This in general affects their self esteem even after being reintegrated back into the community.
Recently a street child who was participating in class under a tree stole a tap from one man’s compound in order to sell it to get food. This boy is the product from a relationship between a father and daughter. From birth this boy was an outcast. He was sent far away to relatives who could not accept him. The community seemed to know his history and even in school he was ostracized. He felt he had no other option but to go to the streets to find his future. The old man suspected that the tap was stolen by a street boy. He was aware of a group of such children who gathered nearby under a large tree. Enraged at the loss of his water tap he found the group he had observed under the tree. He accused the teacher for keeping thieves. It took several days and a return visit by the “thief of his water tab” to soften his heart. The teacher made the first approach and explained the history of the boy who had taken his water tap. The boy was allowed to approach and ask forgiveness. The old man was so touched by the boy and his story that he found a place for the boys to sleep securely at night and gave them some small monies in exchange for chores around his compound. And we see here how whole communities need to be educated about the vulnerable children in their midst seeking only to survive. Communities when educated and informed on the plight of vulnerable children can make the children thrive.
How are we helping….
Sister Jean Pruitt, pictured above, founded The DogoDogo Centr nearly 25 years ago. Dogodogo’s vision is of a Tanzania in which all children are empowered to enjoy their basic rights to survival, development, protection and participation in society.
The word “Dogodogo” is translated from Swahili meaning “young ones”.
Our new mission in the very southeast corner of the South Sudan had just started a school where there had never been one for over 100 miles. The idea of going to school for little kids who were accustomed to running wild and free, chasing the sheep and goats, was entirely foreign to them. However, when they heard that if they went to this new thing the missioners had started they’d get 3 meals a day, that quickly changed things! Every morning I was delighted to see the little kindergarteners racing down the road, clutching their plastic plates close to their bodies. They couldn’t wait to get to school! That was MOTIVATION!
These days, most of my time is spent giving lessons at school or preparing for them! I am teaching 12th grade Biology and Geology at two local high schools and trying to improve their education with extra activities. I was very happy to read Pope Francis’ latest Encyclical, Laudato Si´, and discovered there is much I could pass on to my students as we delve into topics such as ecology, genetics, sustainable development, global climate change, our relationship with God and all creatures of the Earth. They enjoy learning from the Pope and I feel it’s giving them a new way to integrate their faith and relations to Earth.
On July 16, I coordinated a Geology Contest held between 3 local high schools. Our theme was inspired by the Pope’s message and so we made a banner which read, ‚In order to live in a better world, we want sustainable development . There was also Speech Contest, by which I was able to get a sense of my students’ own understanding and hopes. It was such a rewarding event—and the fruit of collaboration between many people! I was also able to meet new teachers and share my Geology lessons with them. I made contact with a local, Portuguese-run school and trust that our relationship will grow. Besides this, I enjoy the Peace and Leadership Seminars, leading Liturgies of the Word and spending time at home. It’s been a joy to have Juana—and I’m grateful for her presence. So, what else can I say? I love life and being on this journey! Peace and blessings to each of you.
This is almost my sixth month in Aileu, East Timor.
I have been attending a language program for 9 weeks and volunteering in my free time.
It has been a very good experience; it is helping me to understand a little bit more about the Timorese culture.
In my first weeks, I experienced culture shock and what a change from Cambodia. In any case, I am grateful for the experience and the insights I gained through that. I feel more adjusted and grounded in the reality in front of me.
I observed a lot of abuse against children and animals during my walks and stay in Dili. I’ve had a few occasions to witness verbal and physical abuse and I felt helpless that I could do nothing to help the children, but I also learned through one of my teachers that I should have done nothing since it is part of the culture and one of the traditional ways to educate children. It is/was hard!
The great news is that a number of organizations with the government are starting to respond to this problem.
I continue to enjoy my visits to rural areas with the mo-bile clinic and spending time with special needs children and young adults. It is so wonderful to see their faces of joy!
I was also asked to teach English to a group of young adults. They seem very motivated and enthusiastic in class. It is fun to be able to teach and refresh my knowledge of how I learned, too, and still do.
While Sr. Rosalva is on renewal I am accompanying a group of Catechists every other Saturday. It is wonderful to listen as they reflect on the readings. I am just a listener and enjoy seeing their interaction and sharing. Many of them ask about our sisters who spent time with them.
Winter has arrived here and the winds, too! I am trying to keep warm after so many years in a warm country!
It is wonderful to hear the wind sound, and at times it carries the voices of young people singing, laughing or talking. ~Juana~
This newsletter comes at a time of tranquility…both here in the country and in our personal lives. East Timor is at peace—I say that having lived through a period of occupation and its end with killing and burning, and a bit later with civil ‚war‛. I refer to this as history—but is it?
Fifteen years could be looked at as the present. In the year of 1999, we ended the occupation phase and I wonder just how many people in the world know where East Timor is!! So today I reflect on the present. Silently I say a prayer of gratitude for the BBC TV show on every hour ‘BBC BREAKING NEWS’. It has given me an education of the present. Now Libya is not just Gadhafy but a whole nation of people striving to be free and play a part in their country. The ‘Arab Spring’ for me was a real spring season, with freedom cries pushing up and bloom-ing. That was a moment that not only put those nations on the map but also showed unforgettable images of their people.
The struggle goes on, but thanks to the BBC I see peoples’ yearning and suffering. Now the Mideast for me is no longer vague but a sea of humanity. I went to high school during (what has been called) ‘the apathetic ‘50s’. There was Europe and the Americas in our lessons. Then WWII (which we called ‚The War‛) showed us The East—from a war perspective, of course. It was the US vs. USSR until its break-up. But, let’s not go down memory lane…
My point is gratitude to the BBC for catching me up on our world! We had The West and The East. Now we are filing in the middle. Yes BBC is BREAKING NEWS indeed!
One day while working in a poor Latino ghetto in Houston, Texas, a little boy about 8 years old came into my room with a darling little girl. I asked who she was. He told me that it was his little sister. I asked “What’s your sister’s name?” He answered, ‘Hergee”. Never having heard that particular name before, I asked .”Why do you call her Hergeee?” He quickly answered, ‘Cause she’s sweet like a Hergee (Hershey) bar. Beat that if you can!
One day I was working with a large group of Aymara children in J uli, Peru. This was a group called the Eucharistic Crusade. It was formed as a catechetical response for those who had recently made their First Holy Communion. As always, it was extremely cold there and the children were all wra pped u p in their shawls and hats. As I looked over the group, I spotted one little fellow, Juan, who was shivering i n his homespu n shirt and trousers. When class was over I invited him to come with me to the convent. We had recently received a shipment of used clothes from CRS from the United States. Most of the clothes were too large for him but I did find a tee shirt that would, at least, keep him a little warmer u nder his own shirt.
Juan had walked about 4 kilometers to come to this meeting. Off he went with his new shirt, walki ng those 4 kilometers again to his house in the campo.
That night, as another Sister and !sat in our cold house that was slightly warmed by a gas heater, we heard a knock on our door. I went to answer it and there in the darkness stood Jua n! He had walked those 4 kilometers back again and wanted to give me something. He opened a little homespu n bag out of which he took two eggs and ha nded them to me. His mother had sent these in return for the shirt! I hesitated about taking them as they could surely use them for their own family, as they were so poor. However, l couldn’t not accept them, which l did. After this he turned and left and walked back those 4 kilometers again to his home!
As I write this, I was immediately brought back to my recent time in Bangladesh. I have never seen such poverty in all my years, which includes service in East Africa and the Middle East. There are families who make their homes on the street.
As I walked each day, I saw a blind man with his 10- or 11-year-old daughter begging. Most of the time, the girl was so tired she just fell asleep in his arms. There we saw a blind man (with a young girl asleep on his lap) begging for help.
Another frequent sight I saw was of a 5- or 6-year-old girl who sat begging with her baby brother (about 8 or 9 months old) asleep in her arms. The girl had a tiny little skirt on with a bare chest while the baby was naked.
When I walked on the crosswalk in order to cross the road, I saw families who were claiming their space after a night on the street. I was told that they sleep there each night and also gather there when the rains come.
In the face of this poverty, Maryknoll Sisters Miriam Frances Perlewitz and Claudette La Verdiere are doing their best to educate as many Bangladeshi students as possible. Sister Miriam Frances began an English Medium School and is now in the process of training young graduates of the school to take over the administration and teaching in the school. The children in the school are being trained to think critically, using values taught in their classes, as they continue on their journeys through life. Hopefully, these will be the leaders of Bangladesh sometime in the future and the values instilled in them in their education at the Bacha School will produce leaders who will help in the development of the country.
Sister Claudette is also teaching at the seminary in Dhaka. She is helping to train leaders for the church of Bangladesh.
This experience in Bangladesh taught me much about resilience in the face of the difficulties that life gives us. They smiled, put on their best sari’s, and looked magnificent as they strolled along the crowded sidewalks. Is grace something that comes in the soul, so that nothing can take that grace from us?
I’d like to share with you how the birthday of Sister Cecelia Wood and the 33rd anniversary of Our Lady Of Victory Training Center for handicapped youth was celebrated in the Philippines.
There were celebrations all day on September 17 to let Sister Cecelia know that everyone was happy that her 93 years were appreciated. On September 20, it was Homecoming Day, with former residents joining those now living at Our Lady of Victory, to Celebrate the Anniversary. Sisters Cecelia and Sister Maria del Rey (RIP) began this work.
Word from Our Lady of Victory said that ”resident-clients, past and present, honored Sister Cecelia by symbolizing what she has meant in their lives. Diana looks at Sister Cecelia as the key who opened many doors of opportunity toward self-reliance. Lyn Valerio had a Philippine flag to symbolize Sister Cecilia’s long service to the Filipino people. Danilo likened Sister Cecilia to a candle who brought light to his darkened world. Many chose sunshine and sunlight to symbolize Sister Cecilia in their lives.
Some chose a house to symbolize the gift of shelter which Sister Cecelia has provided them, having been homeless before. Archie compared her to a compass always pointing north to show his direction. Inday chose a flat globe to express what Sister has given her: a widened and broadened world. Juliet picture herself as a tree now bearing fruit symbolizing the skills that she has so far acquired from Our Lady of Victory.
Songs, dances, and birthday wishes also were dedicated to Sister Cecilia.”
During the day, other groups came to be with Sister Cecilia. It is wonderful to see and hear about what God has done through one person’s life (and is still working in and through her life). In giving thanks, I also remember the many people who have made this work possible. Through these 33 years, the support has come.…enough for today but never enough for the “tomorrows.” However, when tomorrows turned into a “today,” God provided, through generous people. To all these Partners in Mission with handicapped youth, “THANK YOU.”