An Italian girl narrates as a firsthand observer, the launch of the project of sharing with the African continent, which involves the youth of the Focolare Movement, as part of the larger United World Project. A "one way" trip. From the site www.focolare.org
“We reached Mariapolis Piero (Nairobi, Kenya) on the 10 May morning, and were welcomed as only the Africans know how: with smiles and hugs without reserve for all! This is because they place the person at the centre of their days, and we discovered this through their lives, and the stories of their tribes that were presented during the School of Inculturation.
It was enriching to enter into all these cultures and to discover commonalities and things which distinguish them. Besides those who had come from the sub-Saharan Africa countries, there were around fifteen young people from countries neighbouring Kenya: Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, as well as Madagascar, Zambia, Angola, Malawi … two from South America who are living for a period of time at the small town, and 5 of us: me, Chiara, Giulia, Aurelio and Paula.
They explained to us how the project was conceived and two activities were proposed: to reach the Samburu people in the Savannah and to live with them for 4 days, interviewing them and learning about their roots and understanding their cultural heritage; to help out at the various nutritional centres in Madare, in the slums of Nairobi, and at Njabini, a village 2600 meters above sea level. A group comprising 8 of us decided to take up the second activity.
One the first day we were welcomed in a chapel made of tin sheet, which functioned as a Nutritional Centre by day and as a Temple of God in the evening. The reality of the slums was quite overwhelming. There’s a situation of absolute poverty, of a social degradation that’s quite inhuman, and yet the dignity of the person is elevated, it does not give up and clings to that one certainty: God is Love.
Some Italian sisters, who have been missionaries to Madare since the seventies, affirmed the strong faith that was present, and how this leads to mutual help. The person responsible for the nutrition centre herself was born and grew up in the slums. Now, having embraced the spirituality of unity, she started this activity wherein, besides ensuring a minimum education and two square meals a day, she teaches children the art of loving through the dice of love. On reaching home these children lightened up the entire family, challenging one other to a competition of love, which even made life spiritually fuller.
The following day we went to Njabini. After 3 hours of travel, we were greeted by a family composed of mama Julia, papa Joseph, Mary, Absunta and Anthony. They belong to the Kikuyu tribe. We stayed with them for 3 days, helping out in the household chores, in the fields, and with the cattle. On the last evening, during a moment of sharing, I felt that this had now become my family, and I have no longer felt a “mzungu” (white) in their midst! And mama Julia confided in us: “Before you arrived I thought I have four children. Now I feel I have 8 more! “.
It doesn’t feel like I’ve returned home because I believe that the trips are one-way. Something in me has changed forever: I’m enriched with a culture diametrically opposite to mine, and more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of my way of living. One thing’s for sure, I’ve made the ”Ubuntu” philosophy my life philosophy: I can realize myself as a person only in the moment I enter into a relationship with the Other and I place him or her at the centre of my life. Which, after all, refers to that love of brother preached by Someone more than two thousand years ago and which our Chiara has always reminded us of.
(Elena D. Italy)