Frt. Frt Emmanuel Kimario Beda SVD is A Tanzania SVD student, currently studying Theology in Argentina. A few weeks ago, I asked him to tell me how the mission in Argentina is and what he was involved in as his apostolate. This is what he narrated to me:
“My apostolate is based on accompanying the children and families who are living in one of the slums, called Ines Slum ́ ́Villa Ines ́ ́ located some a few kilometers from the main city of Cordoba. The situation is very difficult for most of the slum dwellers. The families consist of single mothers with six to eight children; in some cases, each child has a different father.
The girls aged about 15 years of age have lived the experience of women of 40 years of age. For example, there is a family with four girls and all of them have babies; with the youngest of them being only 15 years of age and have just delivered. Despite the fact that life is very difficult, the number of children continues to increase day after day.
Access to education formal education for them is just but a dream due to lack of income. At the beginning of my apostolate, I was surprised that boys and girls between 12 and 15 years were not attending school. At first, I couldn’t believe and I thought they were joking with me so I had to talk to their mothers who gave me even a more detailed picture of the situation. They explained that the children could not go to school, because going to school needed one to have a stable income, so it is better that they remain and take care of the house while I go to work in town. The work in town here means either prostitution or drug trafficking.
For that reason, there is a high crime rate such as child abuse, robbery, many rape cases, etc. The young ones are also growing up in this context and picking up these behaviours. This is evident even in their language, gestures and actions towards their peers, such as throwing of stones at each other, and sometimes even towards me. One time when I was serving tea, one of the boys intentionally poured it on my hand and asked me how I felt, this made me be always careful in my apostolate.
Well in this context what I do is, my task is dedicating my time, with the help of some Ursuline Sisters, to accompany the families, the single mothers by mostly to listen to them, educating them and sometimes helping them to get some legal knowledge so that they can acquire relevant documents. Also, we try to monitor and detect their children behaviours and report them to their parents. For example, one day I noted one 5-year-old boy behaving strangely and when I tried to approach him he run away, then I noticed that he had a big wound on his hand, and he had been having it for a couple of days without the knowledge of the mother. Therefore, we called emergency services and after treatment, we informed the mother.
Normally before breakfast, we try to teach to share bread with others, because the issue of sharing is a problem. Thanks be to God the seeds have been growing and slowly the sharing attitude has developed in many of them. After breakfast, we have catechism classes. Our preferred teaching method is through videos and games, showing the fundamental values of the kingdom of God. This is in the effort of trying to make them understand the Love of God, even in their difficult life situations. The apostolate is very challenging because most of them have never experienced love.
For those who have an opportunity to go to school, I help them in some subjects such Mathematics and English because they do they cannot afford tuition after school. I am sure this is where God wants me to be for now as a religious person, to make Him palpable through my actions more than words more closely and friendly by others.
What makes me happy now is the happy faces of the young stars I see every time I arrive in the slum, which was not the case during the first few days. The same applies to mothers because I have become a friend to their children. Like in any other apostolate there are many challenges in mine too and the big one is the fear of being accused of child abuse because there are so many cases here of religious people who have abused children. Some also use it as a way to extort money and if a religious is accused, the case is taken seriously and it is difficult to clear one’s name.
All said and done, I must say that I appreciate this apostolate because it has exposed me to new realities that has helped me and is still helping me to grow as a missionary. I have also realized that sometimes silence is the best way of expressing oneself and people will even understand better. I always pray that our Good Lord may help me to be able to preach the Divine Word with my Life and not with my mouth. May my presence be the opened Bible for people to read”.