AFRICA/MALAWI - To cancel the word "hunger": the commitment of the Franciscan lay missionaries of the Immaculate Conception

Tuesday, 3 March 2020 hunger   poverty   human rights   orders   school   education   children  

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Blantyre (Agenzia Fides) - "This year the rains have been regular in our area and the corn for polenta, the daily bread of the entire population, is now ripe. In some fields it is already drying up and I cannot wait to pick it up and cancel the word 'hunger', which has been on the mouth of our people since last year when Cyclone Idai had destroyed the previous harvest". This is how the testimony of Anna Tomasi begins, who has been in Malawi for 17 years, with the community of the Franciscan Auxiliary Lay Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception (F.A.L.M.I.) present in the country since 1974.
"Our community is engaged in the Archdiocese of Blantyre, which is located in the south. This year we have tried to help a certain number of people", continues Anna. "There is no corn in the government warehouses, or if it arrives it is in very small quantities and people argue to have a few kilos. So this year the prices are prohibitive for really poor people, more than 20 euros per bag. We have faith that March is also favorable month and so everyone can have the necessary to feed their families and to survive".
The activities in which the missionaries are involved range from healthcare, to education, to assistance in prisons. "One of our missionaries is a doctor and works full time in the diocesan hospital", says Anna. "My biggest commitment is in prisons where we try to bring some relief with the help I receive and give hope to those who have lost it. We give priority to education, from first grade to high school and beyond, a number of ex-prisoners have completed university studies or other courses. Several inmates have HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis and we help them with protein food. In the prison in Chichiri, on the outskirts of Blantyre (third prison in the country with almost 2000 prisoners) we have an infirmary for the most serious cases where we give daily food, the necessary for hygiene, clothing and special medicines that they would otherwise have to buy".
"Another sector in which I am engaged is the Rural Nursery Schools: we have 117 scattered in poor villages, with over 6,000 children enrolled. The teachers are volunteers chosen by the school committee with the village head. One of our young Malawian missionaries obtained a teaching diploma and she is now in charge of this sector. It is a joy to see how much commitment and love she puts into it: her missionary vocation is expressed in the relationship with children. I help her by seeking grants to carry out this project. We have built more than 70 kindergartens belonging to the village, thanks to help from different European countries. Locals contribute with bricks, sand and water to build. Our young missionary follows the teachers in a special way, offering training courses so that the children, in addition to a meal we give every day, also have a better intellectual, social and spiritual formation. It is a very beautiful and necessary project because government kindergartens do not yet exist, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the money necessary to guarantee food. Let's go forward trusting in Providence". (AT/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 3/3/2020)


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