The idea had been spoken for a long time and always postponed while trying to find a free morning. "Ekululameni" is a centre for the handicapped based at St Joseph's Parish (Mzimpofu). "Don't think of a short visit, you need to have a full morning if you want to visit it". In fact, last week Tuesday when I visited the centre with Fr George Massa IMC (who had just arrived in Swaziland), we walked from 9 am until 1 pm visiting every part of this project: the area for the handicapped, the one for the blind, the carpentry, the optical and orthopedic ones.
Knowing the bishop would be visiting we were always welcomed with hymns that I shared in the previous post (and can be seen by clicking HERE)
How it all started:
"During his missionary work in Swaziland father Angelo Ciccone OSM noticed that handicapped, both children and adults were very much neglected by the community. He knew that something had to be done for these people, but he had no knowledge whatsoever concerning the rehabilitation of the handicapped. He only knew that they were human beings and as such, deserved respect and consideration. Then one day a start was made"
"Now St Joseph's Mission is known to all Swazis as a school for the handicapped. This Mission was founded in 1914, and in the course of the years it has branched out with a very diversified programme of education to meet the needs of the Swazi people. There are four departments each having its own application form:
- a primary and high school
- a resource centre for the blind
- a centre for the mentally handicapped
- a rehabilitation centre for the adult handicapped "
My first visit to the place did not happen last week or months' ago when I celebrated the Mass remembering the centenary of the arrival of the Servite Missionaries to Mzimpofu.
The very first visit happened in 1996 when I was based in South Africa serving the Piet Retief - Pongola Mission. Just before going to Argentina for my first holidays I wondered where I could get some crafts to take as gifts to some friends. "Go to St Joseph's in Swaziland" I was told. Though in another country, it was the nearest place to Piet Retief. I could never imagine that, one day, I would be living in Swaziland or be the bishop of Manzini. Each time I go to Argentina I still see those crafts hanging from the walls.
|Fr George "testing" a mat made at Ekululameni|
So much has been done for the handicapped children and adults but, as they shared with me, the main question is: does our society accept them? do the families accept them? The answer, still, after all these years, seems to be negative. The "conversion" of the hearts of the people, the conversion of our own hearts, remain the biggest challenge ever.
Click HERE for ... more than 100 photos