I have been a missionary in Africa for the past twenty-seven years. What I like most about my work as a missionary is that I get to live and work with the people that I am trying to help.
There are so many things that one can do as a missionary. It is possible, with the financial help from kind and generous donors, to help people to build their homes, to assist those who are elderly or disabled, to build churches, and especially to build schools. In fact, I oversee a large school that teaches young people skills in many trades – carpentry, welding, plumbing, construction, electricity, tailoring and computer science.
As I was driving to the school each morning, I noticed the children at a local kindergarten. They were always outside. They did not seem to have a teaching program. Just two women, who sat on stools while the children were only outside playing and sitting around. And, 20 of those children were being supported by the Franciscans! So, I got an idea – why not start a kindergarten?
So, it began. We started with just a few children, and then word traveled quickly and within days we had as many as 93 children in our kindergarten. With the help of our construction students, we renovated an old building, put up colorful posters in the classroom and hired teachers who developed a teaching program.
It is wonderful to see the little children all lined up each morning, smiling faces scrubbed clean, eager to begin their school day. As I drive up to Padri Vjeko School where I work, all the children are waiting to wave and to shout out “Good Morning!” Kindergarten lasts from 7:30 to 12:00 noon. And because we want our children to be healthy, we give them a mid-morning cup of hot porridge each day.
Just the other day, some volunteers arrived from Bosnia to help us here at the project and they brought with them some children’s shoes. We also had some shoes from a recent container shipment, so we thought, let’s give them to our kindergarten children.
It was a joy to see all the little children gathering to get a new pair of shoes! We also had some fabric bags with drawstrings that had arrived in the sea container…so each child got a pair of shoes and a ‘school-bag.’ They were so excited and so happy to be going home with their gifts.
This is what missionary work is all about…to create circumstances in life that help to bring joy and opportunity to others and, in doing so, it also brings much joy to the one who is serving the poor and disadvantaged.
Pax et bonum,
Fr. Ivica Peric, OFM