[I regret that there are no photos to accompany this article, but my suitcase has been stranded for days somewhere between the Frankfurt airport and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.]
You enter through a non-descript gate off a busy road, not knowing the vastness and the goodness of God which you will be about to witness.
This Center was established years ago by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and it reflects the broad sweep of her charitable works. She visited often since this particular Center represents her charitable works from birth to death.
The Center is divided into several large sectors, and some of the 18 Sisters who labor here are visible in each sector. The Sisters accept the poorest of the poor, from pregnant mothers to the very elderly waiting to exit this life.
Early on, the Sisters would have to drive around Addis Ababa searching for people living in misery and hopelessness. Not any more. Families and friends now bring many to the Sisters. Even the local government which had been hesitant to allow this vast facility to exist now help in various ways with the Center and refer residents and patients here.
The section set aside for pregnant women and new mothers is so inspiring. Here women about to give birth are cared for, and mutual support is offered to them by other mothers and nurses and doctors.
Once a mother has been birth to her baby, there is a special residential care section for her and her baby. They are allowed to stay a few months, but in the meantime, they are given various skills in order to work after their stay. One of the small kitchens is used to teach these young mothers how to be cooks in hotels and other settings. A skilled woman chef guides them through all of the various kinds of food they will need to prepare. We were told that these women are usually hired quickly because of their skills.
Another sector deals with handicapped men and women--young and old. Again, doctors work with them to enhance their lives and to make them ready to return to society.
Every aspect of the care given here is to enhance individual talents and to prepare them to return to the world and be self-sufficient.
While encountering younger children with orthopedic disabilities, we tended to feel sorry for them. But they themselves were engaged in joyous play, their sights set firmly on a life of normalcy even with some type of hindrance physically.
The section with the old and those terminally ill was particularly difficult. On any given day, one or two people die each day. A week ago there were eight who died in one day. The bodies are prepared according to Ethiopian custom, and set in a morgue until morning. Then a vehicle comes from the government to pick up those who had died, and they are transported to a place of burial.
A special trait of Mother Teresa and her Sisters is joy in the midst of much human suffering and hopelessness. Their eyes are raised well above the ills and downfalls of a particular life, and they see souls en route to the Kingdom of God.
Catholic Relief Services [CRS] provides most of the food for this Center, as well as several others all across the country of Ethiopia. CRS is heavily involved in obtaining medical equipment as well as medicines for the Centers. Early on, the government did not appreciate the tremendous contribution the Sisters were making, but officials now realize that if the Sisters were not here offering all of these services, these people would be out on the streets where lack of human dignity was so seldom regarded.
All of the left over bread products from the Addis Ababa airport are brought each morning to this vast Center where it is cherished and valued by the residents.
While most of the doctors and nurses are Ethiopian, often other volunteers from around the world come in order to work alongside he Missionaries of Charity.
That original vision of St. Mother Teresa was to go out onto the streets, and to bring in the sick and the dying--with the primary vision being upon their dignity as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. That vision and reality are truly palpable at this incredible Center where Jesus is brother to all!