Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.
~ Henri Nouwen
MARYKNOLL LAY MISSIONERS go “where it hurts” and transform lives in…
Rescue street children…care for the sick…visit prisoners…teach nonviolence…enable the poor to support themselves with dignity…promote faith development…help epilepsy patients…TEACH DISABLED CHILDREN…work with deaf people…teach children, adolescents, and adults…care for AIDS orphans…
Transforming the Lives of Disabled Children
The most vulnerable of East Africa’s millions of at-risk children are those with disabilities. Traditionally regarded as a family disgrace, or even as a sign that a family has been cursed, many of these children are cast aside by society–and sometimes by their own parents, who are unable to provide them with the degree of care that they require. Rarely do disabled children in Tanzania have the opportunity to pursue even a basic education.
“Literally you are barred from coming to school if you have a disability,” says Maryknoll Lay Missioner David Rosser, a certified teacher with a concentration in special education. But at Huruma School for Children with Disabilities in Mwanza, Tanzania, kids with special needs are embraced as human beings who also have gifts to share.
As special education advisor at Huruma (which means “compassion” in Swahili), David sees students who are blind, deaf, autistic, epileptic, paralyzed, or developmentally disabled as unique revelations of the Word Made Flesh – the utterly vulnerable Christ Child in our midst. David and Huruma staff help Huruma students get the education and support services they need so that each may develop to his or her own full potential.
Work with the deaf community…serve in HIV/AIDS and community health programs…teach music…help young adults develop healthy relationships…SERVE THE ELDERLY POOR…teach critical thinking where critical thinking is dangerous…welcome the stranger…help evicted families…
No Tears Wasted: Ministry to the Elderly Poor in Cambodia
Recently, Maryknoll Lay Missioner Dawn (“Dee”) Dungy went to visit her elderly friend Chanse, who lives in a squalid forced-resettlement community on the outskirts of Cambodia’s capitol and largest city, Phnom Penh. “I had to walk on the top of the sewer pipes while balancing carefully, so as not to fall into the wastewater,” recalls Dee.
Reaching her friend’s tiny, precarious dwelling, Dee greeted her with wishes for a happy Cambodian New Year. “Chanse returned the pleasantries,” Dee relates, “saying how happy she was because it was a holiday. But her face told a different story. I had briefly looked away and realized that Chanse had stopped talking. Water had welled up in her eyes, and she wept. The tears fell into the waste water under her house. In a low whisper, she thanked me for thinking about her.”
Not a lot of people think about Chanse and her neighbors, who live in toxic, rubbish-infested environments, and lack access to such vital resources as health services, land, and clean water. “So many of the elderly are abandoned by their children, who leave hoping to find work in the city, while leaving behind their children to be raised by the grandparent without any income. Or the parents have died due to AIDS or tuberculosis, and only the grandparent is left to fend for the child. There are no jobs in the area for them, so many beg at the market or make paper-beads to sell.” With a group called Loving Hands Outreach, Dee helps to provide Chanse and others like her with mosquito nets, clothing, conversation, home repairs, and access to health care.
Still burdened with the legacies of conflict and genocide, Cambodia remains among the world’s poorest countries. The destitute elderly often fall by the wayside. Dee knows the weight of their suffering. At the same time, she feels blessed by their simplicity and friendship. Determined to help Chanse, Dee says, “I hope that her tears aren’t wasted.” With compassion, tears of sorrow and even floods of despair are transformed into endless waves of hope. Will you help Dee Dungy and other Maryknoll Lay Missioners turn the sorrow of the poor into joy? Please consider a donation to support our ministries, or becoming a Maryknoll Lay Missioner.
Feed the hungry…coach soccer…do community organizing…teach art… help abandoned and abused girls…work in Christian Base Communities… visit and advocate for prisoners…teach children and adults how to read…bring water and basic sanitation to remote communities…build wheelchairs…teach sustainable agriculture…offer physical therapy…empower women…TEACH TEENAGERS JOB AND LIFE SKILLS…care for the sick… enable the poor to support themselves with dignity…defend the environment…train catechists…help the poor to tell their stories through street theatre…do parish ministry…teach nonviolence…help refugees…
Transforming the Lives of Disadvantaged Teens…with Chocolate Chip Cookies
– adapted from an article by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Carolyn Trumble
Growing up in the United States, I always loved the comfort and taste of a chocolate chip cookie just out of the oven. So when I was asked by my fellow educators at the youth center/school I work in São Paulo, Brazil, if I could teach the teens and teachers how to make cookies, I responded with an excited YES. We spent two full days teaching eight different classes of teens ranging from ages 12 to 18 how to make cookies. So begs the question: Can chocolate chip cookies change the world?
The teens come from poor neighborhoods where parents often work all day and some into the evening. We have daily conversations with the young people about the violence they experience on a regular basis in their neighborhoods.
During an evaluation session, when asked, “What did you like doing last month?” almost all 75 kids yelled COOKIES! So why was it so great for them? The obvious answer is that they taste great and no one knew how to make them. Another reason is that some of the kids went home and made them for their families. This is a big deal because many young people, especially boys, don’t do much cooking. One young man told me his father was so impressed because it was the first thing he had ever cooked. This meant a lot to Bruno because his father had shared how proud he was of him.
If, as a missioner, I can share with these young people something as simple as making cookies, teaching them different life skills and bringing them great joy in the process, I may have done just a little bit to help change their lives. Maybe I helped plant a seed of pride, self-confidence, new perspectives, and a vision of a larger world. Perhaps the cookie was part of changing a life and bringing comfort to young people living in a challenging situation – if only for a few moments.