As we start the time of waiting for the feast, when we remember the birth of Jesus and His New Way of Living in relationship with humankind, we lift up our hearts in thanksgiving for all the good people who have done so much in helping the people of Sierra Leone; the Sierra Leonean people whose homes have been devastated by the sickness and death of their loved ones. Your empathy made room for the people of Makeni in your hearts and allowed us to enter into their lives, to give them hope and care in their time of need. Many, like Mary and Joseph, were told there is no place for them in the various categories of need coming from different offices and the people are sent on to continue their search for relief. Your generosity has enabled us to fill in the gaps and gather them together to share and allow us to ease some of their needs and offer them the joy and love that Bethlehem brings. Your creativity in giving is boundless as it enables us to find countless ways of helping those affected by Ebola.
Recently a lady, who lost her 17 year old daughter, her husband and his second wife, came in to visit the Sisters and to say thank you for the counseling, food and care she had received through the program that you have enabled us to start. This lady had recovered from the virus but later had a nervous breakdown, due to the trauma, and was not sleeping at all. It was wonderful to see the transformation in her, even though she still needs to continue attending Loreto Clinic for her support and medication. From being a very broken woman on the day she first arrived, she now has the confidence and she hopes to start taking control of her life and find a way forward. Many of the people coming to the group sessions speak of the relief in knowing that there is a haven of hope for them in St. Joseph’s. We offer them food and psychological support. They know they will be warmly welcomed and listened to and be assured of finding their way of facing their future through our support and encouragement.
Christmas in Sierra Leone is traditionally a time of joy and celebration, like it is in most parts of the world. But the expression of joy is different, for example the children do not know Santa Claus, and a new dress, new shoes and beautiful hair accessories for the girls and football jerseys for the boys is the equivalent to Santa and they all like to walk the street showing off their style. With excitement it is something they all look forward to. Each family cooks various varieties of food and sends dishes to neighbors, friends and family. This sadly is not going to be possible for many this year because of the fear of infection. Many can no longer afford to do this as they have been made redundant or lost members of their families, many of whom were the bread winners. The Sisters traditional gathering of all the people living with disability in Makeni, and the children coming after Church will have to be cancelled this year due to the ban on gatherings during the Ebola crisis. Instead we are visiting our Leprosy patients, visually impaired people and those in the amputee camps with gifts of food and other goodies. Christmas without children cannot be the same but knowing the resilience of Sierra Leoneans and their gratitude for life will not stop them rejoicing as the New Year Church Bells ring out at midnight on 31st December and they all dance and sing “Papa God we tell you Tenkie, me no die oh”. A New Year will come and we pray Ebola will be banished with the vaccine that we hope will be here by then. We are so happy to be able to distribute the beautifully prepared Christmas shoe boxes that we have been receiving to the families affected by Ebola. Unfortunately we cannot gather them together to celebrate in one place but the gifts are bringing a lot of joy to the children and this is despite the grief and trauma that they have to deal with.
As we await the last consignment of pallets we would like to express what words cannot convey; how the overwhelming support from our friends and all who have contributed and responded so generously since July has brought us from our initial powerlessness to a place where we can relate to the reality of the tragedy that has been unfolding in front of us. Our Ladies that have been supporting the survivors, the Cluny Sisters and our VMM volunteer, Mercy, would all like to wish you and all your families every Blessing and Joy during the Christmas Season. Mercy leaves for Kenya having done tremendous work in keeping everyone informed and Sister Mary, with hopeful courage, will take up the pen and hopefully the computer, to keep in touch with you on the progress here in Makeni.
This has been a wonderful time of combined effort and we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for what you have done to make all this possible. We have had the privilege of working with you who are such creative, organized, skilled and generous good human people. We have learned a lot and you have made a strong circle of goodness around Loreto Clinic, Holy Spirit Hospital, the people of Makeni and St. Joseph’s School.
Happy Christmas and God Bless you all,
From Sister Philomena, Sister Amala, Sister Romaine, Sister Antoinette, Sister Mary and Mercy
If you would like to help the Sisters continue their work please go to VIRGIN MONEY GIVING