AFRICA/Djibouti - Consolata missionaries alongside disabled children to "promote the dignity and integral development of the person"

Saturday, 3 July 2021 missionary institutes   missionaries   orders   children  

Ali Sabieh (Agenzia Fides) - "After several years of hard work, some disabled children have been admitted to primary and secondary school. This is a great joy for us, because before disabled children were kept hidden in huts, now they are free and more self-confident, because they can learn to write and read like other children. Their families have understood the meaning of this school and now also the Government, which wants to create new structures for this purpose".
Sister Dalmazia Colombo, a Consolata missionary, told Fides about "A school for all" project, active in Djibouti, dedicated to the inclusion and schooling of children and young people with disabilities.
The sisters have been present in Djibouti for twelve years: "We opened a mission here in November 2009 - reports Sister Dalmatia - to bring the Gospel and be at the service of the poorest. We are currently five sisters and we work in the health, local hospital, and training sectors: in this area - she continues - we are engaged in the sewing school, which offers young girls and mothers, in addition to specific programs, literacy courses, to give them the opportunity to create a future and support the family with dignity. We also collaborate with the diocese to offer training to those who, for various reasons, have not been able to access public schools".
In Djibouti, many disabled children are unable to attend school: only between 5 and 10% enroll in regular courses.
The result is that no more than 5% of disabled adults are able to read and write correctly. "To help these children and young people to have a life as peaceful as possible - explains Sister Dalmatia - in 2013, in the diocese of Ali Sabieh, we opened this educational space whose objectives are the care, education and rehabilitation of children with disabilities or special needs, in situations such as epilepsy, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism".
"Over the years - says the missionary - many disabled children have been rehabilitated in the center, some of whom have returned to their homes, to their families, reintegrating into society". In this context, the Consolata Missionary Sisters try to involve families through the creation of networks, so that families can help each other: "This is how that 'extended' family is recreated, which is one of the pillars of African society and which works as a kind of 'social safety net' - explains the religious - thanks to which the disabled person is never alone and, even if the parents or siblings cannot take care of them, they continue to find help. Our goal - she concludes - is also to convey a different image of disability, so that people understand that those who live with a disability are a resource and not a shame that must be hidden". (ES) (Agenzia Fides, 3/7/2021)