CAFOD’s Step into the Gap volunteers in Nicaragua – Kate, Chris, Bernie, and Step – have come to the end of their time with the Sisters of the Guardian Angels. They’ve each picked a photograph to reflect on the experiences that have stayed with them the most from their week:
We have been lucky enough this week to work with one of CAFOD’s partners the Sisters of the Guardian Angels here in Managua. We have heard about the Sisters’ work on ENVIO which is a programme of analysis and current affairs in Nicaragua and Central America. This is part of their wider social outreach and mission in and around Nicaragua with children and young people.
This is a picture of three of the four Sisters of the Guardian Angels, we were lucky enough to have tea and chat with these women at their home. Between them they have 73 years of experience between them. This picture really speaks to me as it represents three different generations, we have Anna who is just about to start her Novitiate and her journey with her new mission, Sister Elizabeth who has a few years behind her as a sister, is extremely well educated and a real thinker and dreamer, and last but not least Sister Marie who has dedicated over 60 years of her life to love and serve those around her. They say a picture can speak a thousand words and I think this picture alone truly captures that.
Never before have I had someone stop dead in their tracks and actually gawp at me for a couple of seconds before carrying on with what they were doing. But at the Sisters of the Guardian Angels’ children’s canteen we really were quite out of place. At first we were finding it hard to relate to these children, especially since we could speak very few words of their language. However as soon as we all began to play a few games together with the other young leaders – supported by the Sisters of the Guardian Angels – they realised we really weren’t different at all. Just like them, we also wanted to have a bit of fun and then the once gawping faces changed into ones delighted and laughing.
By the end of our couple of days with the Sisters of the Guardian Angels canteen we were saying our goodbyes and as the children quite literally jumped at us with flying hugs for farewell, I realised how much I didn’t want to leave. What an experience. In an area the sisters themselves said was “very hard to create sense of community”, the Sisters have created a safe place for these children to feel at home. And not only with the young leaders that the sisters gave the opportunity to take responsibility in the community but also with complete strangers who could hardly speak a word of their language.
This is a picture of the Sisters of the Guardian Angels’ young leadership programme members. This is a three year course for young adults who apsire to lead others to implement a change in their comunities through working with young people. The leaders meet together to study, share and have fun. They all work as leaders within their own communities to encourage opportunities and open doors for others. Each strives to bring about change for the country and people they love so much.
I chose this picture beacause it feels like home. Everything about these young adults is the embodiment of what I myself believe in. As a young adult who has worked within youth work for around 12 years, and a student studying youth ministry, I have found a new part of my youth ministry family. In every job I have worked within ministry the term “One Team” has been used in relation to each outreach team, residential team and everyone within the youth ministry field sharing a comon mission together. These young adults for me are part of my “one team”; even from thousands of miles away we have found a common mission to inspire young people in faith and to bring about change to benefit others. These amazing young adults are so inspiring and are planting seeds and nurturing in many ways in their own communities. It has been a true privilege to see this in fruition within their families and communities.
For me, this photo summed up many things from our three days. Here we had the opportunity to meet The Sisters of the Guardian Angel and to see their work. CAFOD has been involved with the sisters for a number of years and helped to fund the establishment of this canteen after the damage of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
What we saw in the canteen was the closeness of brothers and sisters and even extended family. This one particular family really struck me. The two older brothers showed a real care for their younger sister. The way they held her hand as they led her in each day, then helped feed her with a spoon, made her giggle and did not leave her side to join in with the other boys their age who were running around outside, really touched me. I sensed that they were used to doing this within their home and that this was more than just older brothers being protective.