Volunteering In Congo? It’s Possible! Sister Jacqueline’s experience testifies to this
When Sister Jacqueline Tabu returned to her community in Kavimvira, Democratic Republic of Congo, in August 2021, after several months’ experience in Italy for Spazio Spadoni’s project HIC SUM, she certainly would not have thought that in a short time the experience of volunteering and the Works of Mercy could become a reference point for her people
On 29 September 2021, with 9 volunteers and with the support of the local parish priest, who welcomed this push for volunteering that came from Italy with willingness and enthusiasm, the association of volunteers of the Misericordia Spazio Spadoni Santa Gemma was born in Kavimvira.
Since then, the volunteers (who now number more than 30, and who in March 2023 elected a real committee from among their members with the presence of a volunteer from the Misericordia di Santa Gemma who arrived from Italy) have been meeting every Sunday after the celebration of Holy Mass, to divide up the apostolate for the coming week and to listen to Sister Jacqueline’s in-depth study of the charism of mercy.
The apostolate consists mainly of caring for the needy in the neighbouring villages, taking care of their personal hygiene and that of the environments in which they live, cooking for them, building small houses to provide shelter, visiting prisoners, orphans and bringing them aid such as clothes, food, soap, but above all investing time in collective prayer.
Sister Jacqueline of the Missionary Congregation of the Sisters of St. Gemma, guides the volunteers spiritually, reminding them to put the face of the suffering Christ at the centre of every work
Almost two years later, this micro-organisation has become a true ‘community garrison’, known to all; when the volunteers pass through the streets one hears people say ‘here are those of mercy’!
Knowing where the volunteers live, many people in distress go to call them at home to seek their support, their visits and their prayers.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most tormented and war-torn lands on the planet, and in a small town, these volunteers offer their time and resources for free to restore dignity to people, as a sign of God’s closeness to those who suffer.
Of course, it is not an easy apostolate that truly requires a spirit of mercy.
There are no suitable means to reach the villages easily, especially the most distant ones that are in the mountains; volunteers travel on foot or sometimes use a small boat to reach those who live across the rivers.
As a testimony to the importance of this reality, the parish priest of Kavimvira a few days ago applied for the diocesan recognition of the Misericordia Spazio Spadoni Santa Gemma.
What is Spazio Spadoni’s HIC SUM project
Spazio Spadoni puts an Association in contact with a women’s religious missionary Congregation.
A nun from the South of the World comes to Italy to carry out a period of training and experience that varies from 3/6 to 12 months at the Association (preferably a Confraternity of Mercy); a presence that also becomes a “sign” among the volunteers and in the community.
At the end of her experience in Italy, the sister returns to the mission land and lays the foundations to establish a new Association on site, composed of volunteers who carry out at least one of the 14 Works of Mercy with a charism of gratuitousness, fraternity and love.
Right from the start, a continuous exchange of volunteers is promoted between Italy and the Mission site and vice versa.
A true twinning was born between the Italian Association and the one founded in the mission, to be nurtured and made to grow. In mission lands, it is hoped that a Social Enterprise called “The Bread of Mercy” will also be structured to generate goods that in part will have to be sold to generate income for self-sustenance and social promotion, and in part will have to be donated to the poor according to the charisma of each Congregation.
A concrete sign of the Work of Mercy “Feeding the hungry”.
The project for the first 4 years is followed and supported entirely by Spazio Spadoni, which not only takes care of the economic part, but also promotes and coordinates the operational phases; after this time, Spazio Spadoni continues to follow and assist the project, but it will be the Italian Association that will play the leading role in the support and development of the twinned mission in the South of the World.
Sister Gloriose Nshimirimana