At 9am the on the 22NDand 23RDAugust the Ndei Liwa participants set off in three teams for their two days of Immersion in institutions in Bo, Sierra Leone.
One group went to the nearby Police Barracks Clinic. This is their experience …“Our time with both the patients and nurses was a landmark to remember. Though we were expecting to be counsellors with the patients in reality we were more present with the staff in their stories. At first the nurses were very hesitant to share their painful experiences. Only when we assured them of confidentiality did they feel prepared to share their stories, some very personal and emotional. We realised the need to always treat people with care, especially when meeting them for the first time.
We noticed that the same people who warmly welcomed us with smiles turned out to have some negative emotions to share when in a one to one situation. It left us with the feeling that there is so much pain rotating within human persons but we make a choice to suppress the pain and put smiles on our faces, so others do not know. We think it necessary to continuously engage people in our ministry places in one to one situations so as to allow them speak out their hurts. The more they speak about them, the more they will release the tensions within. Overall, it was a really worthwhile experience.”
Another group went to the Correctional Centre. “The immersion experience was a great privilege. Talking to the inmates helped me clarify some of my doubts about life in a prison. The inmates saw the officers as their guardian/parents and had generally good relations with them. I saw how conditions have improved over the years with better sanitation and canteen facilities, though still with serious overcrowding.I had very moving and transformative experiences among the twelve inmates I conversed with. One thing that stands out for me was the positive attitude the men had in their God quest, despite their present circumstances that put them into prison. The men were full of hope for the future about once they had finished serving their prison term and how they could be change agents for good. A lesson learned for me would be that the contemporary obstacles that make me feel confined or imprisoned do not have to limit me seeing the brightness of my future.”
The third group went to join the Don Bosco Summer School. “We noticed that each day there was a different quotation written on the board in each classroom. The daily quotations were written by the Summer School facilitator, a Salesian Priest. The children, being touched by the fantastic quotations such as “What you do and say each day affects the world” and “Laugh, play, listen and be compassionate”, asked the priest why he writes the daily quotations on the board. He replied that it is not enough to feed the mind and body, but there is a need to feed the inner souls and nurture the seed of hope planted in each of us. It was key for us that the Camp activities did embrace the desire for the future good of the pupils. We enjoyed being among young people who had so much energy … the children and the team of young adult Animators. The animators showed a most inspiring commitment to the welfare of the children. I hope to find ways of mixing with youth in future.”
In the context of Ndei Liwa (“Deepening Brotherhood”) these immersion experiences served the Brothers well in giving them a greater awareness of the brotherly values of presence, listening, compassion and collaboration, even with such brief encounters as time permitted.