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|A Dream Come True|
The blessing of the school in the Kivumu Parish in Rwanda took place on September 24th, 2016. On that occasion, among other invitees and guests, I too was invited to the event.
Fra Ivica had no idea how much I wanted to see Africa for myself; how much I’ve dreamed about visiting the continent. My knowledge about Rwanda and the neighbouring African countries was scarce and superficial, but by reading reports which fra Ivica regularly writes for the Svjetlo rijeci monthly I managed to learn a thing or two and – more importantly – to realize how much he needed help from us in this part of the world. And so I joined the Heart for Africa (Srce za Afriku) charity whose projects work miracles. That “Heart” has many hardworking and noble people among its members, who work selflessly and in all ways possible to try to help finish the construction and furnishing of the Kivumu school as soon as possible, as well as to keep the children fed and happy.
I was extremely honoured by fra Ivica’s invitation. During the preparations for my trip I would mention to sisters that I was somewhat afraid of the Istanbul airport, due to its gigantic size, worried that I would get lost in it or be late for the flight to my African destination. Thank God, there were no problems, and it turned out to be more a fear of the first time. Setting my foot on the African soil I felt so elated and cheerful. I felt that I was walking on the most sacred ground on Earth.
The day of the blessing itself was very sunny and nice. Cardinal Vinko Puljic celebrated the mass together with the local bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege and other priests. The two-hour liturgical celebration was enriched by the singing and dancing of the students and teachers choir. The school was blessed after the mass. Everyone flocked to take part in the act. I was fascinated by little African children, their eyes watching me so dearly and pleadingly, saying, “bombon,” or “money, money.” I had brought candy, thinking that I would not be able to face the children without treats, and also that it was the easiest way of communication.
The teachers had prepared a festive program along with the students. Through games and dance they told us of their burdensome life story. Initially, I did not understand what it was about, but from the tears of Sister Mirabilis I understood that it was about something very sad. Sister Mirabilis was obviously feeling it on a deep level because, having spent so much time in the missions, she understands their culture and all that they have suffered. Their life hardships are enormous: they have no running water, no electricity, and no bread either. Their plots are small, not big enough to feed their big families.
As my time in Rwanda went by, more and more I realized where I really was. I went with fra Ivica to wherever he travelled so that I could see and get to know the African landscape at least a little bit; the land that is somewhat strange, with tiny houses and little terraced fields. And so one day we headed to Rushooka, the parish and friary in Uganda where fra Ivica used to live. The landscape is very similar to Rwanda, but with a less people, and thus less hunger. It is so sad to see so many people on such a small area of land, so many people who are literally just trying to survive. In the Kivumu Parish people are fighting to survive: some manage to afford just two meals a week.
That is why the Heart for Africa project makes so much sense, because it gives children a chance for education which prepares them for life. They also receive a meal in the school every day. In their practical work experience, the students make different items like jewelry, bags etc., which are then sold by the friends of Padri Vjeko Centre with the money sent back to help the school to help educate these young people. I myself, just like many others, have become part of this.
Whoever sets foot under the African sky at least once cannot stay indifferent and say that the suffering of people, especially the children, who live there does not concern them. Something needs to be done, a way needs to be found to provide food for the beautiful, lovable and playful African children. One person can do a lot, and more people can do miracles. And so, grateful for the experience, I invite all the people with good hearts and good will to join in helping the children and youth of Kivumu, Rwanda, Africa.
Translated by Branimir Mlakić