lunedì 1 agosto 2016

The good sons

In Chaaria we give shelter to 53 mentally and physically challenged inmates. Their ages range between 15 and 65 years.
Our founder, Saint Joseph Cottolengo, used to call them his “Good Sons”, in opposition to what normally people called them, that is “retarded”, “stupid”, and so on.
St Joseph Cottolengo used to say that they are our jewels and the center of the Little House. Sometimes he called them “the apple of the eye” in the Little House.
That is why we try to serve them and to honor them: our founder teaches us that in those humble creatures we can touch and assist Jesus himself.
He says that the more they are severely handicapped, the more they represent Jesus.
Most of our inmates are orphans and nearly all of them are abandoned.
It may happen that at the beginning we are in touch with the families: they promise that they will keep coming to visit the person they want us to admit, but, as soon as they obtain what they wish, and the disabled in accepted in our center, normally they disappear slowly, up to when they stop coming all together.
On the one hand this is of great concern to us because we would like the families to help us in taking care of them and we wouldn’t wish to detach the boys from the natural environment at home; but on the other hand we realize that the lack of care from the family in itself is an important component of their poverty: actually they are abandoned, neglected, unwanted, forgotten. 

Even when we force some families to take them home for few days of holiday, we notice that our inmates come back sick, dehydrated, dirty and sometimes even full of jiggers.
Actually, for the great majority of them, we are their only family.
This means not only that they live with us the whole of their life, but also that they will be buried here in our small cemetery, often with no relative attending the funeral ceremony.
Some boys are actually poor and the family could not afford to take care of them; somebody else has really nobody (put the case of Njeru or Isidoro; think of Kimani who was fond among the street boys in Nairobi); but others have stable families, who refuse to take care of them and even to pay the minimal monthly contribution we would like to receive from them.
In any case, we are not able to discharge them home: they are either alone or completely neglected.
The center for disabled originally was built for 30 inmates, while now the people admitted are 53; the reason of such overcrowding is that we have so many applications for extremely needy cases. We would like to say: “we are sorry, the facility is full”, but we have no heart to do so and we continue to add extra-beds. In spite of all our efforts we still have hundreds of applications we are not able to accept: the reason of such a situation is that there are so few centers for disabled in Meru.
Our center is supposed to be for mentally challenged people only, but sometimes we are in front of challenging situations in which the disability is not mental but only physical (above all after a trauma involving the spinal cord and causing paralysis): strictly speaking we are supposed to refuse inmates like that, but the total lack of facilities where to refer them sometimes makes us bend the rules and accept also such cases (with all the problems arising later when a normal person lives together with a mentally challenged one).
Sometimes we are asked which criteria we follow when we are to decide who to admit, considering that the applications are much more than what we can receive.
Following the spirituality of St Joseph Cottolengo, we try to abide to 2 main criteria: the first is to give priority to the poorest, either financially or because of total abandonment; in case we may encounter more than one person fitting equally in the above conditions, we then choose the most severely disabled.
Living with our “Good Sons” is not easy at all: sometimes they smell so badly; often they pass urine and stool on themselves and we must take care of them; they are to be fed, bathed, put on the wheelchair and back to bed again; we must have double attention to realize when one of them is sick, because they are not able to express themselves.
But, honestly speaking, it is also very rewarding, because they are tender and nice: they know how to show love and affection, and they are able to fill our hearts of tenderness. Living and working with them we realize that it is much more what we receive from them than what we are able to give them.
Being their only family, and recognizing in them a special presence of Jesus who wanted to be present in the little ones, we try to give them the best we can: therefore, we not only clean them, feed them or take care of the biological needs; we also offer them occupational activities, special school, outings, small feasts and celebrations. In fact, if they are our good sons, we must be good parents for them.
We also pray with them because we recognize that we are all children of God who loves us and takes care of us with his Divine Providence.
When I am with our “Good Sons”, often I think that our life together is an exchange: I give them my time, my strength, my skills, my service, while they repay me with their goodness, their simplicity, their tender love. I feel called to be the brain of the ones who have been born without being able to use it; to be the legs of the ones who are condemned to a life on a wheelchair; to be the hands of the unfortunate people who are not even able to feed or to bathe on their own. That is the wonder and the beauty of our life with the “Good
Sons”: there are no benefactors or superheroes in the center; there is only one family in which the healthy walk together with the disabled on an equal path, sharing the talents they have freely received from God the Father.

Bro Beppe Gaido

Nessun commento:

Chaaria è un sogno da realizzare giorno per giorno.

Un luogo in cui vorrei che tutti i poveri e gli ammalati venissero accolti e curati.

Vorrei poter fare di più per questa gente, che non ha nulla e soffre per malattie facilmente curabili, se solo ci fossero i mezzi.

Vorrei smetterla di dire “vai altrove, perché non possiamo curarti”.

Anche perché andare altrove, qui, vuol dire aggiungere altra fatica, altro sudore, altro dolore, per uomini, donne e bambini che hanno già camminato per giorni interi.

E poi, andare dove?

Gli ospedali pubblici hanno poche medicine, quelli privati sono troppo costosi.

Ecco perché penso, ostinatamente, che il nostro ospedale sia un segno di speranza per questa gente. Non ci sarà tutto, ma facciamo il possibile. Anzi, l’impossibile.

Quello che mi muove, che ci muove, è la carità verso l’altro, verso tutti. Nessuno escluso.

Gesù ci ha detto di essere presenti nel più piccolo e nel più diseredato.

Questo è quello che facciamo, ogni giorno.

Fratel Beppe Gaido

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