Monday, April 14, 2008


Missionaries of Charity

Here in Sierra Leone there are no social safety nets and the need for urgent housing and feeding for the destitute is a critical function. Unlike developed countries Government here is neither capable nor able. The Missionaries of Charity offer a really remarkable and heartwarming service under difficult conditions. They are Catholic missionaries who offer service to the poorest of the poor, based on the teachings and example given by the famed Mother Theresa from Calcutta. The Mission in Makeni was started in 1989, well prior to the war and the nuns here maintained the mission throughout, even suffering the death of 4 of their Order.

I have had the opportunity to chat with Sister Rikta on several occasions. Together with other VSO volunteers we put together a Christmas Party, and since then we have chatted about the needs of the Mission. This afternoon we talked again and I took John Keating a fellow volunteer from Ireland. On previous occasions I have been asked about my own beliefs and I have found it wonderfully refreshing to find that my openness about my atheism has not offended and rather we have had a really involved discussion with humour and directly about religion. John today joined in the discussion and we had a great debate.

The Mission in Makeni is quite small and houses 110 including 60 children. These people are really in desperate need and Sister Rikta refers to these people as the dying destitute since they suffer from disease including HIV/AIDS, TB, Polio, whilst some are just seriously wounded. Many of the children are severely malnourished. Sister took us on a tour and the plight of these people is obvious. In addition to the residents, the Sisters also feed about 200 others who simply turn up each day for a meal. I see these visitors each day as I work in the adjacent Makeni City Council building. Many are blind, suffer from mental illness, or are physically disabled. Obviously these people are not cared for. I am unsure if or how they are housed but they arrive in a terrible state and the Sisters carry out a wonderful service.

About two weeks ago I found the Sisters trying to find the mother of a small 10 year old girl along Teko Road. A local hospital had to discharge the disabled girl to the care of the Sisters since the mother just hadn’t turned up. A small piece of paper with an address was the only clue. However the mother could not be found. This is a common story unfortunately. Families just can’t afford to look after the infirm. It is really very sad and the Sisters again perform a wonderful service.

The Mission facility is small and there is not much open space. The Makeni City Council has offered some land now forming part of the Council property so that the facility can expand the open space. The Plan has been approved and I have seen the survey. This is quite heartwarming for a Council dominated by Muslims and with a Muslim Mayor. As I have said on previous blogs I find that the embracing (not just tolerance) of other religions to be a particularly impressive characteristic of Sierra Leone and sets an example for many other parts of the world. The donated land needs to be walled and Sister Rikta has asked me to help with the quotations for costs at about $9,000.

I find that the conviction of the Sisters is the most inspiring aspect of the Mission. They seem to function, as Sister Rikta explains, more on a philosophy of Divine Intervention, that somehow her God will provide. The costs of the Mission seem to be met by charitable people everywhere. It is a magnificent example of how people can come together to help.

Hi we the family of John Keating and wish to donate to help with the cost of building the wall for the missionaries of charity. Could you please give us the necessary information to make a donation. Please ask John for our contact details, Thank you
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