Every year, the Sisters go out in pairs into the most remote and deprived communities to visit with families and children who are in desperate need of education. Without the Sisters, these children would have no chance of a quality education, leaving them trapped in a cycle of poverty.
This is Sister Marchery’s account of her most recent visit to the rural communities of Arusha, in northern Tanzania, and the poverty and struggle she witnessed, as well as the hope.
Some of the communities the Sisters visited in the Arusha region are located in the Ngorongoro Conservation area. This adds a level of danger for the children living there as they share their space with the wild animals that roam within the conservation area. Injury and death by an attack from any of these animals is all too common and we want to give a warning that Sister Marchery’s story contains details of such an attack that may be distressing to read.
“I am Sr. Marchery, sister in charge of our Training Center for out of school youth. I consider community visit time as the most challenging yet a grace filled experience. Being a foreigner in this country, the thought of going to other regions, places unknown often frightens me but since it is our mission, I humbly entrusted myself to God and went on looking for needed children. The thought of long journey with their very dusty and difficult roads and the thought of where can we find food to eat as people here, out of their poverty, they have nothing to eat themselves, the thought of how to survive in that one week community work is always at the back of our mind and one thing to consider as we prepare for the journey since often times in the villages though you may have money the only thing you can buy are fruits.
The most unforgettable community visit experience I had was in Arusha region. The first place to meet children was in Malambo village, Arusha. It is located near Sanjan River, east of the Serengeti, west of Lake Natron and north of Ngorongoro. It is a picturesque but remote village bordered by mountains in the west and a vast plain on the east. From the town it took as seven hours to reach their place but with great difficulty. As we started the journey my heart was filled with joy seeing some wild animals like zebras and giraffes on the road and the beautiful shape of the Mount Ol doinyo Lengai which means “the Mountain of God” in Maasai Language. And thinking that on the other side, children are waiting to be given a brighter future.”
“After passing that beautiful mountain, we started crossing the vast plain and then climbed up the mountain which they call “15 corners” because we must pass 15 corners to reach the top of the mountain. While passing that somehow dangerous road because once the driver is not careful enough, we will than fall down the cliff, I was very nervous, so I opened the window, but it made me ever frightened seeing road condition. Nobody from us had ever talked. Everybody was so serious. I think my companion Sister, Sr. Neema, had the same feeling as I had. Reaching the top seems a victory to us. We stopped for a moment to see how we have finally made it cross the plains and reaching the height of the mountain.
I thought we have finally arrived, but it was not, it was then the start of another journey crossing another plain where there are no real roads, the priest usually check on the car marks on the road and when rainy season comes no one can ever travel on that side and after the rain, they have to begin a new adventure to reach their place. I thought those kind of things exist only in the movies but it was a real life event. That place was discovered by the first Spiritan Missionaries and was now handed to the African Missionaries Fathers. Travelling two hours in that wilderness, made me reflect of how people can survive in this place, surely, they must pass through great sacrifices.”
“The next day was the schedule of the meetings, seeing the girls and their determination to take and pass the exam was so touching. One of them, must hide from her father since after standard seven, the father had told her that she will then already marry, no more schooling for her, she would be exchanged for a certain number of goats. Visiting their houses made of hardened cow dung had touched me so much. Indeed they are living in extreme poverty. Most of them live with their animals inside their houses for fear of some other wild animals devouring their flocks. Cooking is also done inside. Every time we pass by we could see in the eyes of those children great fear, as they are all running away when we were approaching them. It is uncommon to them to see cars in their houses as if we are kidnappers that they should run as fast as they can to save their lives.
The next day we went down the mountain and meet children in another school in a certain village called Monic, Arusha. After which our contact person who is the assistant priest in Malambo Fr. Julieto Casapao, a Filipino Missionary priest, managed to look for a place for us to sleep as it was almost dark when we finished the meetings and the house visits of some of the possible students. At the back of the house where we stayed, was also a little high mountain where I saw the goats and their herdsmen, the small boys with stick in their hands following the flock going down the steep hill.”
“The next day we started the journey at around 5am so as to meet our next contact person, Fr. Gaudence Moshi, for our next meeting place which was in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, still in Arusha Region where most of the Maasai tribe dwell. It is famous because of Ngorongoro Crater which is known as a home to over 25,000 animals including the big five: elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, lions and leopards. They were a lot of foreigners visiting the place. Fr. Gaudence had a little hard time processing our permit to enter the conservation Area, but with patience and hard work of Fr. Gaudence we manage to enter the place. As we were travelling Fr. Gaudence had told us to be cautious since elephants, lions and other wild animals are frequenting the place where he live. In fact a week before our arrival, Fr. Told us that there was a lion giving birth at the back of his house without him even being aware of it. He was just informed and warned by the game rangers, persons protecting and monitoring the wild animals.”
Upon our arrival, Father then showed us our individual room. Upon entering it and seeing how the windows are wide open, I was very afraid and started checking under the beds for some wild animals which must have already entered through the windows. The one I feared the most was the snake but thanks God the priest said that no snake could ever survive in their place because it was very cold. So, when Fr. Asked the two of us with my companion Sister during our dinner if we had closed already the windows, I immediately started laughing telling the priest how frightened I was which made me close the windows right away. The next day was the meeting in the primary school near the parish, some students are coming from other parishes.
“Meeting the children I came to realize the pain and the fear of the children living there. Three from those graduating class who we met died; two of whom are eaten by the lion when they were on their way going home, the other one was bitten in his leg, but he succeeded climbing on the tree. Seeing how his fellow classmates were devoured by lion caused him so much trauma. He was rushed to the hospital by his parents and survived for a day but had also died. From then on the government asked the people to kindly leave the place but because of poverty and fear of the unknown the people remain in their homes even when it is very dangerous. The children started their primary class at 10am since early morning elephants are anywhere so it’s dangerous for them to go to school and end their class at 3pm.
All of them are wearing sweater but some of them seemed wearing sleeveless already since their sweater was already worn out and parents has no means to buy a new one. The determination of the girls we met was so inspiring. They greatly believe in their hearts that the opportunity they can get to study with us can truly change their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Seeing their misery, and how we can bring hope to the families of the students whom we have helped made me ever grateful to God of my vocation and it made me ever asked God more to touch the hearts of people to help us as multitude of poor people awaits our help.”
– Sister Marchery
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