• July 15, 2010

Leeanne, volunteer in Philippines - “This is my body”

Leeanne, Marianne, Gregoire, Claire and karen. Manila 2010

Every Tuesday, two or three of us go to the Home of Joy run by Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. It is the home of about eighty chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties or chronic ill­ness, usu­ally from impov­er­ished fam­i­lies, some aban­doned by their fam­i­lies will­ingly, others left most reluc­tantly. Other chil­dren come for a tem­po­rary stay, while the sis­ters provide them with the extended term of med­i­ca­tion needed for ill­nesses like tuber­cu­losis.

The home in Tayuman goes by the name of ‘Home of Joy’. I had all the good inten­tions of bringing joy to the chil­dren, to what I imag­ined must be quiet, unstim­u­latd lives.
When I first went to Tayuman, those first few timid times at the start of my mis­sion, I went with good inten­tions, but all I could really see was this: broken bodies. The chil­dren’s limbs flailing uncon­trolled, their eyes strug­gling to focus. Some of the chil­dren’s faces were in a per­ma­nent gri­mace, as though in pain. I won­dered at what was hap­pening inside. Could the chil­dren recog­nise us as we came week after week? Why were they made like this?
I had never spent time with people with dis­ability before. I was afraid of hurting the chil­dren as I tried to feed them or hold them. I felt uncom­fort­able to speak without the assur­ance that I was being heard, let alone under­stood. It was hard to see these con­torted bodies.

Every friend­ship in Heart’s Home takes time. Slowly, I learnt the chil­dren’s names, and slowly the dis­tinc­tive­ness of each child made a gentle impres­sion in my heart. One time, Mary Jo, a young woman encased in a wheelchair, painstak­ingly with her foot pulled up for me a little stool that I might sit near her. One evening, Eron, a quiet boy of about 12 who likes to closely examine my watch, or the wooden heart I wear around my neck, took my left hand, swung me around to his right of his wheelchair, back and forth. We did this for a long time, a kind of dance. Another time, Eyron, a bright child of 8 who moves freely but has lim­ited vision, counted down with me the min­utes until dinner time. Another time we laughed as Patrick, def­i­nitely not tired enough for bed by leaving time, climbed into the other chil­dren’s cots with a grin. And another time, when I got over my fear of entering the room where the babies and bed-bound chil­dren lay, I met Nina, a child of ten in the body of a much smaller child. Nina has a breathing problem and it is not pos­sible for her to be any­where but this bed. For anyone who takes a moment to be with Nina, there is a gift. The brightest smile you can imagine from this long-eye­lashed child who has no words.

Slowly, this par­tic­ular apos­to­late changed for me. Instead of bringing joy to chil­dren who I imag­ined must live dull lives, it felt like I was the one min­is­tered to, week after week, with their smiles, with their pres­ence, with the grace they are filled with because they are so loved by the Missionaries of Charity. After a hard week, or a week of doubts about the mis­sion, the chil­dren would wel­come us, expecting nothing but good­ness from us.
Christopher, Ahllen, Eron, Eyron, Patrick, Nina … a litany of names some­thing like saints. Uniqueness, char­acter, and per­son­ality shine from these broken bodies. But more than this, there is a glimpse of some­thing so pure: hearts accepting love freely, and loving gra­tu­itously. The glory of God is revealed in them.

Leeanne G.

Back to top