Madagascar - Community of Sahalava

’Tsy misy manana ny ampy, fa sambatra izay mifanampy.’ ’Nobody is self-sufficient but happy the person who is in solidarity.’

After I had made my first vows on the 22 September 2012, I was sent to the community of Sahalava where my mission is to help Louisette in the nutrition follow-up service so as to be able later on to take over that task. 
 
This nutritional follow-up centre in Sahalava exists since 1998. Its aim is to offer to families, and to carry out with them, activities or services that are in line with the needs or their wishes. At the beginning, some twenty children, aged from six months to four years, were received regularly at the centre. We organised intensive follow-up for these groups of twenty small undernourished children: first of a daily service with distribution of milk and vitamins from ananambo plants that are rich in protein, and two full meals per week. This took place at the centre. We worked with two local women and a doctor who monitors the children’s health. 
 
Now, I am going to share with you what we have done since last year. My contribution is based on three words: service, listening, sharing. 
 
Since May 2013, the Congregation has confided the nutritional follow-up programme to me. Before I received this mission, my desire was to help to ’give weight to life’, not necessarily to ’give weight to the child’ but, at the same time to help the life of the family to flourish. As Father Pernet said to us: ’That the father be a father, the mother a mother and the child a child’. That everybody be happy in what they are.
 
Service: For me, the first thing is to be at the service of others. Most of the mothers who come to the centre have family difficulties: a father who was absent, dead or unworthy; sometimes also they have had very little schooling. For me, every person is in the image of GOD, whether it be a poor, feeble or abandoned person, or one who is sick or in good health. Since I have been in the Community I wish to be at the service of these families who often have a very difficult life, more difficult than what I experienced in my own family. My desire is to go down with them and come up with them. I would like to express my love to them through my relations with them. For that, I try to do what is within my possibilities. A very simple service, nothing spectacular because, for me, good is done in secret. 
 
Listening: I give a lot of time to listening to each one, whether it be during the many encounters at the centre, during the regular home visit, or on the occasion of the training meetings, once a month, when all the mothers are present. Listening in this way I discover the different values and riches of each of them. Some of the work: selling vegetables, fritters or other things; others are able to sew or rear a few animals. 
 
It is from this listening that the third word appears.
 
Sharing: I can see that the women know and wish to give meaning to their life. They are beginning to reflect on the children’s future. Some wish to help their husband in providing the meals for each day, but some are alone in carrying these responsibilities. As a response to this situation I have organised the ’exchange of knowledge’. They come to the centre either to learn or to share what they know. Sometimes it is I who have a recipe or who suggest ways of handling their budget. After, they leave with a small sum of money to set up their activity. I follow them up individually in different ways: home visit, a conversation at the centre or the market to see if the sales, the sewing, or the work with the animals are going well. At the end of the week they come with half of their profit to pay back, little by little, the money they borrowed; they keep the other half for their food.
 
One of the things I have also begun is the storing of rice. You know that our country is one of the least advanced countries and political life has not been good since 2002, something that has had many consequences at the social and economic levels. Also, there was the invasion of locusts that destroyed the crops in several regions of the country. With the financial support of the pupils of the Lycée in Dijon, the encouragement of the community and the help given by my family for gathering the rice, we are managing to organise this storing. Since the month of November we have been sharing a kilo of rice per week with the families who come to the nutritional follow-up; in exchange the family give a small sum of money.
 
In ending my contribution, I would like to thank all the benefactors who support us in one way or another for their collaboration and their friendship. 
 
A sincere ’Thank you’ also to all our readers. 
Sr Odile, temporary-professed sister 
 
02/04/2014
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