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Saturday, September 6, 2014

I am, still alive

Here I am, still alive

I must thank Baby Jesus, Father Enrico for insisting that I'd leave Bozoum, Father Federico who miraculously found me an helicopter ride and the French military corps who brought me to bangui and took great care of me in their hospital, at the emergency room
Since last Monday, the 25th I fell ill with malaria. So I began treatment and it seemed not too bad, then it got worse, presenting vomit and blood traces in urine. By wednesday it was really bad so the doctor came by the following day, gave me an I.V. but things didn't improve at all.
Father Enrico looked for a plane but there were none. So Father Federico who is in Bouar contacted the French militaries who were ok to bring me to the capital with their helicopter. They left from Bossangoa at 4.30 pm, landed 45 minutes later in Bozoum and picked me up. The flight was really something, it feels like being on a truck on a dirt patch. Lots of noise and vibrations, however the nurses managed to give me more I.V.s 
In one hour and a half we were in Bangui, the military hospital is basically on the army base's runway. A French Colonel responsible for the Medical Team came by and spoke italian to me. His name was Lanteri, born in Briga, a border village. In the following day he kept an eye on me and we eventually ended up conversing in Piemontese.
The French have a great hospital camp, really well organised, with emergency room, O.R and stuff. They immediately took care of me, under observation. The first days I was really sick, low blood pressure and loss of blood. They attended me well, very professionally and with humanity. I couldn't eat (first time I managed to was on Tuesday) and only the following Monday I managed to stand up for few moments. I left the hospital on Wednesday and now I'm here at the Centre d'Accueil resting. I read, pray and get things in order.
Big thanks to everybodu for they good feelings, and for the prayers! The first days, when I was really sick and I was conked out (worse than usual!) I often saw or at least I think that's what happened - several people around me. Friends, acquaintances, people praying and being there for me.
So thank you all!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In Between showers....

In Between showers....

On Friday the 15th we celebrated the Assumption Day, and we went for the traditional march to Doussa, 5 km from here and did Mass. Loads of people came on foot, time got better even if it had rained all night. We prayed for our parish and for our country, always on the ragged edge. We also prayed for the whole world, nowadays so threatened by wars folly. The following day a bad accident happened. In Bombalou, 45 km from Bangui, they stopped a car of a Ong working here for reconstruction. Thugs were Antibalakas, threatened to kill the Muslim driver, thankfully they were satisfied by just taking their money (150 euros) I wasn't sure what to do, nevertheless I went there on Sunday afternoon. It took more than an hour, even for 45 km. once I got there I met some head-villages and some people. Then I was determined to send my message across, make them understand there must be consequences, such an attack could put a stop to all attempt of reconstruction and send all ONGs away. Their reaction was good, they thanked me and told me they would have a meeting with those men the next a day. Some were actually present and told me they felt the right to assault the car as the Muslim driver helped on the defense for Muslim community. So I took that opportunity to think things over, to try and start fresh and build for a new life of peace and coexisting based on respect and forgiveness. As I was leaving I invited them to show their repentance with a  tangible gesture. Either surrender their weapons or give back the money. Few days later three men came in Bozoum and brought me some letters and half the stolen money. It was a good gesture. Hopefully this will show and help people to stop with violence and threats.  These days boring works for wells continue. So far they did 5 wells in Bozoum, 3 in Baoro and one in Bangui. Thanks to SIRIRI for the Bozoum school and thanks to mrs Angela for the others!!! Here is the link to a small video with people dancing in Marsaka for they were so happy about their new well.
Also we have novices here visiting with their teacher Father Voytech. Three are from Cameroon, one from Car. In few weeks they will go back to their first Profession, consecrating themselves to The Lord in the Carmel community.
Thanks to the help of some volunteers here  (Eleonora from San Possidonio, Marta and Alessandra form Savona) some kids are learning some skills. Shoemaking, leather tanning, and other crafts.

These are also steps towards the future.....

Pestando le corteccie per conciare le pelli
en écrasant l'éorce de certains arbres pour traiter des peaux, pour faire les chaussures

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Travels and National Holiday

Travels and National Holiday

These past ten days here in Bozoum life has been fairly serene, nevertheless there's a frail situation and much poverty.  I went to Bangui last week, had some meetings and picked up Alessandra and Marta, two volunteers who will be in Bozoum for few weeks with us. They are part of the group of friends which hosted Hypolite last February after his surgery in Bologna.
It was a big surprise for him as we didn't tell him they were coming here!
On Monday the 11th I went North, to visit Bocaranga and Ndim communities and to meet with the missionaries of Ngaundaye.
Roads are bad, but I managed to get there in four and a half hours, despite rain, mud and holes.
Thanks to Siriri, the Czech association, we received funding to support pregnant women, malnourished people and those who knock on our mission's door. On my way back i stopped in Tolle, there are about thirty Peuls left here and they are in need of assistance, so we'll see what can we do for them. As soon as I got home I went downtown where they're escalating for a new school dwell. They were drilling and in a few hours it was done, so children and neighbors will be able to access drinking water. Siriri is helping a lot. In the next few days more dwells will be made, thanks to a lady who supported for them.
Today the 13th of August is National Holiday. It's the CAR's Indipendence day. Despite everything we managed with other ongs to prepare a little event. Some running matches, a concert, a beauty contest (Miss Bozoum) and a soccer match. Just to give people a chance to breathe and enjoy themselves a little.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Off we go!

Off we go!
On Sunday the 27th of July, downtown was floded after the intense rains of the night. Little damages but few neighborhoods remained isolated for few hours.
We are in full rainy season and whilst the work in the fields intensifies some other realities are slowed down. Schools are closed, few examinations left to be done, such as the BC Brevet des Collèges, at the end of secondary school and  BAC, degrees.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I met with the Education functionaries. Thanks to The Lord and with so many people's help, especially Siriri association from Czech Republic, all the schools here in Bozoum have been able to work as usual during last year, which had very little normality. Together with the head departments we've been preparing for next year, reopening will be mid September.

Thanks to the help of a brotherhood in Cuneo this year we'll also be able to help out the kids of primary school, as we'll be able to grant their teacher a small fee.
It's only a small drop, but the rebirth of out country starts from training and education!
The situation here is extremely fragile. These days clashes have been reported about 300 km far from here in Batangafo, with at least 20 people killed. Roads are still very bad, there are many illegal barriers, and cars full of cows to be sold in the capital, leaving the countryside empty and destroying the cattle breeding of this country.

 Off we go. Slowly, but we go

Monday, July 28, 2014

Weddings, events, arrivals and finals

Weddings, events, arrivals and finals
On Sunday the 20 th we celebrated three weddings. Here in CAR seldom a couple get married before being together, first they meet, then they have a family, house, children and afterwards, if things go well, they eventually get married. So on Sunday we had three couples at the altar. We also christened their kids. Rolande, one of the brides also decided to give birth the night before and Benedicta was born, just in time for the occasion!
Tuesday was a special day. After all the tensions of the last weeks (one guy killed by Cameroonian soldier and a military killed by the locals) we decided to have a full day of prayers and reflection, so we gathered in the Baptist Church in the morning for an ensemble pray. All of us together: Catholics, Protestants and few Muslims. Then we had a peace procession throughout the city. There were 400 people, not many by our numbers but as Jesus said in his parable it takes little yeast to raise three measures of flours....Tuesday was also special because Father Enrico Redaelli arrived. After spending few years with the kids at the Seminary of Yolè, Bouar, , he'll be staying here in Bozoum! Welcome Enrico and good luck for your future position!
On Friday morning at 5 am I wanted to go to Bouar but the heavy rain made me postpone till the following day. Therefore Saturday just before 6 am we brought our third year students to their finals. It's the first time that kids from our school get to this level, hopefully they will make it!
Between Saturday and Sunday we also ended all activities at the Refugees' school. Initially 750 kids were there, now only half is left because eventually many families managed to go back home to their villages. Therefore they ended school locally, thanks to the effort of a dozen teachers and the support provided by the Siriri association from Prague.

I nostri alunni di 3a liceo in viaggio verso l'esame di maturità
Nos élèves de Terminale en route vers l'examen du BAC

Padre Enrico (camicia a quadretti)
Père Enrico (avec la chemise à carreaux)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Another intense week!

Another intense week!
On Sunday the 13th we celebrated Confirmation sacrament for over 120 people, here in Bozoum. UnfortunAtely, due to his age and sickness the Archibishop didn't make it so he delegated to me to Oder them.
We had a grand Mass, with dances and songs alternating intense praying moments for these kids and adults who received the Holy Ghost's gift.
These days we're also organizing year end for public schools, which have been able to function and host 15000 kids thanks to the help of Czeck republic and Unicef. This morning I red Pope Francis speech "often we ask ourselves which kind of world will we leave to our children?" Perhaps it could be best to ask "which kinda children will we leave in this world?"
On Tuesday we celebrated the Madonna of Carmel day in all our communities, so I travelled around in Bouar, then Bangui, for over 1140 km
In Bangui I had the chance to meet over 10000 refugees hosted in our convent since December 2013 they have been living for almost 8 months of unstable lifestyle, under tents, in very difficult condition. We tried to understand together the possibility for them to go back home in the foreseeable future. It's their big dream, however it clashes with the harsh reality made of violence and high risk of getting killed.... Hopefully there will be more military actions to make the capital safer 
Our long journey home was full of events. We came across several Antibalaka's barriers, a hundred trucks convoy going back to Cameroon escorted by French and Rwandese soldiers.
We also had to stop 200 km from destination because the heavy rain of the morning literally took over a bridge: the iron tube for water waste had been dragged down for over 30 meters, so only a tiny eart made bridge had left.... Few small cars with much difficulty can cross  over a small passage that kids built nearby the road, however it takes at least 40 minutes and there's high risk of getting swamped.
After 4 hours I decided to give it a shot. A quick sign of the cross, holding my breath we managed to cross it 
Thanks to The Lord we made it!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

War and Peace, Peace and War....

War and Peace, Peace and War....

In Bozoum life goes on, and hope alternates worrying. As in the rest of the country,
In these days the country's bishops gathered together and delivered their message, condemning these continue violences, wherever they might come: Selekas, Antibalakas or elsewhere. Problems are huge, it's very important to do something! And never lose hope and trust and to testify the Lord's love (for those interested here is the link of the original message in French 
Here in Bozoum schools are almost over. A dangerous year, but overall, thousands of kids managed to remain in school. Our schools, in our city and in our region, 60 schools, 15000 kids. Thanks to Siriri, Czech Rep. project and Unicef project.
On Sunday the 6th, the young women and ladies of the Women's Centre "CANA" organised a stall with their clothes and baby gears and sweets.
On Tuesday the 8th we had the teachers meeting for middle and secondary school and on Thursday we handed out scorecards. On Friday the 12th we had the year end party for creche and primary school: all in all over 780 kids, with their families and friends. The teachers gave them their scorecards, and small rewards for the most hard-working students. This year also, thanks to a prayer's group from Cuneo, Italy, we have been able to give 300 pants. Hopefully they will start producing fruits soon.
however, we haven't been without issues. In Bambari (far from here) Selekas attacked the Cathedral, hosting thousands refugees (with 20-30 killed) here in Bozoum the situation was also tense. On Tuesday, during their patrol, the Cameroonian Soldiers of MISCA killed a young man who was playing cards. People reacted and left with the body toward the militaries' camp. Soldiers fired in the air to scatter civillians. On their way back I tried to calm everyone down, but in the meanwhile a soldier had been found alone in town and he was lynched and killed.
That evening at 10 pm shooting began once again, it was the soldiers, trying to get back the body of their comrad, which had been thrown in a water pit covered in stones and bricks... I gathered an emergncy meeting the following morning, trying to find out what happened and we went to visit the guy's family, we prayed together and also for the soldier and we invited everyone to be calm.
Slowly the tension decreased but last night a family has been threatened by Antibalakas and they left thier home and spent the night over here at the Mission...
May the Virgin of the Carmel protect us all!