I just received some news, not entirely unexpected, but news that is hard to comprehend just the same. The following story is one of tragic sadness but one that embodies the love of Nazareth House and the compassion of those who make up this apostolate. It demonstrates the depth in which we go to reach into the cracks and care for our brothers and sisters in need and help them overcome.
When Fr. Seraphim and I were last in Sierra Leone a few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of meeting a young teenager, Aminata known as Amie (pronounced "Ah mee"). Born on Valentines Day, February 14, 1994; she is 14 years old. She seemed shy, a bit withdrawn and awkward around people. She helped Kadijah prepare meals and tend to the children.
She had arrived in Freetown to receive schooling, but this didn't happen. She is one of those who wandered into Kadijah's "Back Yard" and found a few meals and a caring friend. Lucy and Ann Marie gave her some clothes, as she had very very little. They quickly welcomed her into the fold. The pictures above and below this paragraph are of the first outing Amie had with her new found friends. Jodie, James sister is also with them.
The more I watched Amie, I could see there was more to her. I saw a quite reserve, a dignity. As is the case for most Sierra Leone children, I thought she may have some dark memories hidden away, but she was struggling well to cope. She has a gentle and caring manner and I wanted to give her a brighter future. I knew that without NHA, her chances of making it will be slim.
I talked with James about the possibility of Amie getting education and allowing her refuge at St. Laurence House. There are so many kids out on the streets, if we can help one it makes a difference.
James and Kadijah registered Amie in school. She was of age for Primary Class 5 but was unable to meet the requirements. They tried Class 4 but still she was not prepared so she had to start in Class 3. James and Kadijah and the girls agreed to work with her to get her up to her age class. They bought her uniforms and paid her school fees, thanks to aid through NHA.
On Amie's first day of school, having no real schooling or advantage, she struggled to write. So the St. Laurence House team increased their tutoring efforts. Things looked brighter for Amie.
While I was at St. Laurence House, I noticed Amie's belly was enlarged. When asked about it she said she had worms. She was treated.
When James sent me the following photo of Amie in her new school uniform, I noticed that her belly had not receded after the parasite treatment. I suggested that she be taken to a doctor.
The following email, I received this morning from James. To some it will be shocking, but to an African child, though it should not be, it IS life. T.I.A.
Written by James Mansaray: Freetown, Sierra Leone
There is this issue of knowing people either positively or negatively, whatever way you look at it, you meet people and make new friends someway, somehow. It could be in or out of the house , in a religious place or on the streets.
Sierra Leone, as a Country became famous years back for its sparkling minerals, mainly diamonds and its hospitality to strangers. People who had visited or worked here can attest to the fact that we (Sierra Leoneans) are way ahead in terms of love for strangers compared to any other African Country.
Down the road, this big achievement got melted away with our notorious act of killing babies, rape, amputation, looting and the like. In the midst of this turmoil and sad story, Nazareth House Apostolate was born through the direction of God and the dream of one man. Today we have the prayer and a helping house here with little support, yet still we are keeping on to help preserve the peace and tranquillity through prayer and our little humanitarian aids.
It is said that we are beginning to turn over a new page, embracing peace and development in Sierra Leone, but is it all over? Are our kids still safe to live freely? Have all the stories been told about what happened here? Is it still happening or not? Are our parents treating us right?
A sad story gave me the guts to write this down and this time it's right under our (NHA) feet. Several questions came into my mind whether to talk about it or not but I finally came to a conclusion that it would be unfair to my conscience if I kept quiet about it. Some will pretend it has never happened whilst others don't believe this is happening. Yes, it happened here in Sierra Leone and it is still happening.
This draws me back to the first paragraph about meeting people and making new friends. It has become a custom that as we do our work here, we always meet and help more people. The, just ended, visit of Mama Vicki & Fr. Seraphim to Sierra Leone created room for us to do so much, starting with the opening of our newly built school in Kabala, meeting and helping the poor people of Kroo Bay and also a needy girl by the name of Aminata or Amie for short.
Her story is such a pathetic one for she was brought here in Freetown by her adopted aunt under the guise of education etc. Sorry to say that this never happened. She happened to bump into Kadijah, who started helping her with food aid, medication and clothing. The presence of Mama Vicki and Fr. Seraphim makes it much easier for Amie as Mama fell in love with her and asked that we can keep her if we so desired. The fact was we have little room for ourselves and the possibilities of adding another member to this family was a big question. You can tell from Amie's face that she has nowhere to go. We finally agreed to keep her and that she is now sleeping on the floor of our living room at St. Laurence House................
Happily she started fitting in to the norms and caprices of St. Laurence House and our goal was to give her the best. Funds were provided for her schooling by Mama Vicki etc. Things started changing few weeks ago when we noticed that she is not keeping well. She was treated for malaria, Typhoid and worms but still no good. With instructions from Mama Vicki, Kadijah finally took her to the hospital yesterday and to our surprise she was tested pregnant. Then came the question who, where, how and why a fourteen year old kid. I had dealt with many difficult issues but this was very troubling. Because of fear, Amie could not accept the fact that she is pregnant nor tell us who was responsible for it. She denied it, said it wasn't true. This gave us the cause to try another hospital to make sure the test was done right (T.I.A). Again she was proved pregnant. The issue got more frustrating for us as we were waiting for answers from her in order to know how to help her. Not knowing truths we we didn't know how to reach a decision on her case. As we pondered what to do, finally she quietly confessed with tears to Kadijah, late last night, that her step father in the presence of her mother messed with her virginity for rituals and I guess it was in this event that she got pregnant. All this happened in her village some months ago. Can you believe or imagine this?
Her fear was, they told her that she will die if she ever confessed it to any body and she was worried that we will ask her out of St.Laurence House.
Our concerns are, are we going to send her away in the wilderness? NO. It is with this notion that I am calling you all to help save Amie's future. Please dedicate yourselves in providing a compound for Nazareth House Apostolate come March 2009 to help save not only Amie but many out there dying for no just cause. Take this sad story of Amie into your heart and help us today. I had heard of cruelty but this is ONE CRUEL ACT done on a kid by her parents. Can you imagine this? Let's say she is your daughter what could you do? This is unreal and unfair to a poor girl like Amie. For the sake of this, please help us and act now.
On the radios and news papers here the past few days, there is this scary issue of a cult group called ORGBONI from Nigeria about to launch their evil activities here, thank God this was halted by the right authorities. Prayer houses like St. Laurence House, Lazarus house are what we are yearning for and we need you all to make this possible. We need enough rooms to house people, keeping our medication, house that we can operate from to reach the needy spiritually and physically. Help today and contribute to make this happen. Now, if we all got this right, she will be having a baby in few months time and this is our responsibility as the unborn baby will be added to our family. Will she continue to use the living room floor with a new born baby?
Amie is in a desperate condition and she has said that she sees no need to live and that she has lost all her values as a girl. This is true but we can all join hands and save her future so that she be like any of our daughters. I want to see Amie read and write well like Lucy and Ann Marie.
HELP US SAVE AMIE.......................and many others that have fell into the cracks of society?
James B. Mansaray
St. Laurence House, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
--Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God Have Mercy upon me a Sinner.
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