Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - They are rejected by the family. Excluded from the society. Mentally disabled children are marginalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For them there is no network of public facilities. Thus they become the last of the last. For some years, however, the Guanelliani fathers have been by their side, a small religious congregation founded by don Luigi Guanella, an Italian priest.
"Support for the disabled – brother Franco Lain explains to Fides - is an important part of our charism, but the commitment in favor of mentally disabled children in Congo was born almost by chance in the early 2000s. We have been dealing with street children in Kinshasa, the capital of the country, for some time. We gathered and offered them care, assistance and we tried to reintegrate them into the family or to make them self-employed through work. Some of these children suffered from mental disorders related to trauma (accidents, beatings, etc.), epilepsy, poverty. Families rejected them and it was difficult to reintegrate them into society. We therefore decided to intervene".
The Guanellians have an estate at the Plateau de Bateke, with many small villages 100 km from Kinshasa. It is a serene place, far from the busy life of the capital.
They transferred a first group of disabled children and started a path of rehabilitation with them (currently there are 25 guests). "The living conditions of these people is dramatic" continues Brother Lain. "Local beliefs and the preaching on behalf of sects (unfortunately also those that call themselves Christians) accuse them of being linked to evil spirits and being bearers of misfortune. This is why they are marginalized from their communities. They are beaten. Sometimes, burnt alive".
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are only six psychiatric hospitals with 500 beds. There are no doctors and nurses: there are only 34 neuropsychiatrists and 33 psychiatrists. Almost all these mental health professionals work in the capital, none in the rural areas.
The Guanellian fathers welcome the children who are frightened and fragile: "It is necessary to assure them - underlines Brother Lain - an environment that transmits serenity and trust. The place where we welcome them favors us because it has no walls, there is only countryside. The people who take care of them treat them gently. In this way, guests feel at home ".
Then they are sent to work. "We try to understand the aptitude of each - specifies the Guanellian - and to get them to start the activities they prefer: agriculture, livestock, crafts. They are small jobs, but help them to regain confidence, trying to reintegrate them into society".
The Guanellians are questioning themselves on the future of the structure and how to continue their work with the children. "We are planning to cultivate the fields around the community and to build a flour mill", explains Brother Lain. However, the project is still only on paper. The nation's political and social situation does not offer the guarantees necessary to create something new. "We hope that the near future will give us more stability that will allow us to continue our ideas", he concludes. (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 16/6/2018)