When love speaks louder than the pandemic, the heart hears the cries of the needy and the hands move. Tears wash over the faces of those in solidarity and those who have prayed are filled with joy at seing their prayers being answered.
Nadine e Irmã Marizete Garbin quando receberam as doações
BY ROSINHA MARTINS
SANTO ANDRÉ – SP - BRAZIL
When love speaks louder than the pandemic, the heart hears the cries of the needy and the hands move. Tears wash over the faces of those in solidarity and those who have prayed are filled with joy at seeing their prayers being answered.
This is what happened with the Scalabrinians Missionary Sisters in Johannesburg, South Africa, who work with Refugees and Migrants.
Sister Marizete Garbin is the Coordinator of Pastoral Care for Refugees and Migrants Department of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, Sister Marivane Chiesa is the Director of Bienvenu Shelter, a place of welcoming for Migrant and Refugee women and their children and Sr. Maria de Lurdes Rissini is the Coordinator of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees & Caritas of the Bishop’s Conference - SACBC.
The Scalabrinians Sisters were inundated with calls during this time of lock down from the most vulnerable women so desperate in these times and how they are going to survive. They are so desperate that they told the sisters that they have been kneeling on the floor praying for the intercession from above to help them and their children to survive this contagious outbreak. All they are praying for is the basic necessities of being able to put food on the table.
“To our surprise, soon after our incessant prayers, we received news from a lady named Mrs. Sandra de Pontes that wished to assist and make a donation. Two days later, Mr. Helder de Andrade, Angelino and Damaceno surprised us with a huge truck full of essential supplies”, Sister Marizete said.
The Sister stated that Mr. Helder, the donor shed tears of emotion and said: "Sister unfortunately I cannot give you a hug, but believe me, I will continue to donate my harvest at least twice a month".
With this huge donation, the Sisters and Volunteers were able to help 521 families. They worked three days in a row distributing the food, ensuring that desperate families were no longer hungry. The beneficiaries were truly grateful. Many of these families who benefited from this gesture of solidarity were the neediest refugee women who regularly passed through Bienvenu Shelter, Parishes and Pastoral Care for Refugees and Migrants.
During the period of April and May, 2.083 migrant’s families were assisted, totalling 9.306 people.
The government position
The Government's position in the face of the pandemic is that in South Africa the number of positive cases and deaths has drawn the attention of Professional medical authorities and Organizations. This has attributed to the strict measures taken by the Government from the outset and the positive response of the population to the confinement.
According to Sister Marivane the lockdown has been respected and people are aware that if this is broken the consequence of this is that of imprisonment for a six month period, or having to pay a heavy fine. “Bienvenu Shelter applied and received a permit from the Government to allow us to continue certain work as an essential service. This enabled us to continue with the Scalabrinians Sisters’ mission of assisting women and their children to better their lives”, she added.
There is also the possibility of believing that those who have been vaccined from birth are not as prone to the virus and that their immunity is stronger. Many migrants and refugees have not had access to clinics and could be more susceptible due to the lack of vaccines and also living in poorer rural areas. Such ideas already exist with regards to who is immune and who is not. “There is a theory about the vaccinations, but is doubtful if this is true and also many others have differences of opinion”, mentioned Dr. Tom Boyles, a South African infectologist.
Sr. Marivane informed that as one of the most developed countries in the South of the continent, South Africa has attracted citizens from many African countries, including Zimbabwe, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Burundi, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique. Besides being seen as the ‘City of Gold’, Johannesburg is a passage to enter Europe, the United States, Australia, etc..., in search of security and a better life.
Johannesburg has a large population that has somewhat remained for more than 10 years for asylum seekers and refugees, due to the irregular crossing and the process of acquiring documents which is very slow and has a demanding bureaucratic system.
The crucial efforts, in consonance with sister Marivane at this present time, is that “of focussing of attention on the neediest and vulnerable refugees, mothers living alone with their children, those with HIV receiving treatment, mothers who have spent time at Bienvenu Shelter. “We want to ensure that all these mothers and their children have the essential hygiene supplies and nutritional foods in order to remain strong to face the pandemic. Many of these mothers have lost their income due to the lock down as they are unable to sell clothes and items that they have been trained to make through the livelihood programmes.”
Over the next months, the Scalabrinians Sisters will join forces to help more families in the distribution of food parcels. This aid is coming from the Government and people of good will.
Another priority for Bienvenu Shelter is to ensure that residents, children and the neediest within the community each have a preventative mask in which the Government have stated as essential to protect oneself from the virus. “We have been busy with making these masks and also been inundated with orders from the people in the community who also want to support our Mission”, said Sr. Marivane.
It is of great concern that the Mother Assunta Training Center cannot re-open at the moment due to the restriction of movement which is resulting in less women that we can empower. We are united together with the hope that soon we can get back to some sort of reality and continue with the Mission.
Source: Scalabrinian Press with the collaboration of Sisters Marizete Garbin and Marivane Chiesa, Missionaries in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Images and information from Sisters: Marizete Garbin and Marivane Chiesa
Text and report: Rosinha Martins
Revision of the English Language: Mrs. Lisa de Sousa/Mrs. Adilia de Sousa.
Missão Scalabriniana na África do Sul em tempos de pandemia
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