Isabelle Siwa, a Daughter of Jesus in Cameroon, tells us about her experience of the ‘fire of charity’ lit when classrooms were built for the pupils of the primary school in Togogoua, a small village in the west of Cameroon.
Togogoua is one of the villages in Pekwa where the population is very poor and left to its own devices. The Daughters of Jesus of the African Province became interested in this village and were willing to show their concern for the poor pupils of the school there. The school itself is situated on the site of one of the outposts of the parish of St Kisito de Pekwa in Baham, the principal town of the department of the ‘Hauts Plateaux’ of West Cameroon.
Attention to the needs of the community
In the Pekwa area, it is very difficult for parents to pay the salaries of teachers because of the general state of poverty. The parish therefore decided to run the school by recruiting volunteers to teach the children in return for a small allowance. Most of the children are the sons and especially the grandsons of the Christians of this outpost where the Sunday Mass collection averages 0.9 – 4 Euros.
The non-Christian population also hold Catholic education in high esteem. As Pekwa is a border town, many families fleeing the war in the Northwest of the country arrive there. This too explains the increase in the numbers of vulnerable children in the school.
The welcome given to the Sisters
We particularly want to share with you the experience we had when Chrescence, our Provincial, and I went to the ceremony of inauguration of the classrooms.
We went at the invitation of Father Honoré, the parish priest who is one of the bearers of this magnificent and glorious project for a population which has been in distress for over 40 years.
No one will forget this inauguration day. Everyone: children, young people, parents, people in authority, came from all over to celebrate this wonderful jewel in their lives. Traditional dances accompanied hymns of joy while moving speeches full of love for the Daughters of Jesus went up to the Lord.
The joy of the meeting
Chrescence and I were simply amazed, rather like the wise men before the poor baby Jesus, lying in the manger, but who is God. We also believe that this long-abandoned people have riches, and hidden surprises for humanity. Great treasures are hidden in the clay vessels that are these children.
The Daughters of Jesus are women who help to reveal these treasures buried in the earth. They help the weak to rise up and live with dignity. They honour the Sacred Humanity of the Son of God in these creatures. We were proud to be Daughters of Jesus, motivated and encouraged to share with those in real need. We are constantly called to be closer to people in our different missions where we experience the joy of encounter.
Going out to the peripheries
The experience demanded a great sacrifice from us because of the distance involved, and our multiple occupations. We do not regret it however, and would in fact like to renew it.
Several speeches expressed thanks from the whole Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus. Chrescence herself received the honour of being instituted as “Mafuo”, that is to say the “Queen”. It was a manifestation of their love and honour for our big-hearted religious family.
Sr Isabelle Siwa fj, Ngaoundéré,