I dreamt of this moment since I was a child, when I looked, curious and fascinated, at Teacher Caterina who was coming back to Italy with plenty of pictures of her new “house” in the Philippines. I saw how her comminuty was growing and I admired the happiness in the faces of the children like me: they were real smiles, in spite of their poverty!
More than one year has passed since I decided to put myself out there and do something good for those who are in need. When I talked with some girls who had a missionary experience in Papua New Guinea, my desire to know that new, different and far place grew exponentially! I wanted to change a bit my life, make myself available for others. Before my departure, few encouraged me; most of the people did not approved my choice but, paradoxically, this gave me more strength and determination for the departure. The need to break with this Country where everybody has everything is growing day by day in me.
The emotions I felt in this journey are immeasurable and therefore I will never give thanks enough to those who gave me this possibility and made this adventure unforgettable.
We left Venice and, after 30 hours travel, we arrived in Port Moresby. We left the airport and went directly to Bereina Station, the place where the mission of the “Cavanis Jesus Good Shepherd” is located. The first thing that struck my attention was the presence of children, women and men walking or sitting along the road, as if they did not have any purpose for the day. I was amazed by their kindness toward us: all greeted us when we passed by!
I woke up every morning full of joy and with the desire to live the day intensely, to talk with the sisters, embrace the children or spend some time with the boys of our community. It was like having a special strength within me, in Italy always repressed, that stuck a smile on my face from morning ‘til evening.
During the first week, I worked with the boys, those who live in the nearby villages and help at the mission with their work to repair something or build rooms, shower rooms, etc. I still remember the laughter with Danny while painting the doors and installing windows, or the chat with Andrew while painting the shower rooms. He was interested on our Italian life and I filled him with questions on their Papuan culture and traditions! I like children very much and my dream was to have them as protagonists of my experience.
Unluckily, when I arrived the school was still closed for the break. Even though I had a lot of fun working with boys, I felt as if my mission in Bereina should have been different. That is why the following Sunday I asked the sisters and Matteo if it was possible to help in one of the classrooms.
Thanks to this, starting from the first day of class, my mission took off. I also gave tutorial class to seven grade 2 children and, with Aurora, I tried to help them to improve their reading.
The children in PNG are special. Even though they have nothing, are almost abandoned by the parents and are forced to walk even one hour to come to school, they are always smiling and full of enthusiasm! This filled my heart with strong emotions!
In Papua, I have learnt to appreciate the small things and I have to say that I was not used to. In Italy, we are always in hurry, thinking many things, distracted by gadgets and material things that seems essential. Often it is our priority to wear fashionable shoes or branded clothes instead of using our energies to help others. For this reason, this experience is unique, but not everybody is fit for it. It is necessary to be able to give up on many things (like shower with hot water, going out with friends, laying on the sofa to watch the favourite tv series), but I can assure that when one is there, he understands how all of this is futile or anyway not essential. This experience changed me. I believe it made me become more mature and taught me to see things from a different perspective. For all these reasons, I will never be thankful enough for this “new life”.
A great difference I appreciated a lot is that while in Italy you have to be like people want you to be, fit into the standard in order not to miss out, in Papua each one is considered special for what he or she is and for his or her special place in the world.
The emotions I experienced are very many, some cannot be described and memories are impressed in my heart. There is not one day in which I don’t think to the Country that gave me so much, in the afternoon or while riding the bus or even during class time. I have to admit that sometimes, while my mind wanders through these thoughts, few tears fall, for I feel moved. Sometimes the sisters send me some pictures and every time I am hit by strong memories and emotions. When I need to cheer up, I watch the photo gallery in my phone and I linger on looking the children’s smiling faces… today, there is no greater joy for me.
I will never forget the curiosity of the children at Mou Village, as they saw many white people for the first time; nor will I forget the happiness in the face of children, women and men in Babeko for having us as guests during the feast of their patron Saint. I will always remember also the generosity of the people of Inaui and the joy of our children when we went together to Waima.
The interest of the children of the school (especially in my class) in discovering new things and the harmony never missing in my new family are deeply impressed in my heart. On top of all these, there is something in Papua I felt one hundred per cent: the love for the people with the desire of doing something good for those who are in need.
I also had the pleasure and the honor to have my wish granted, to celebrate my 18th birthday in a special but simple way. I reached my legal age in a special place with special persons. I am sure I will never forget that day: from the morning when the children embraced me to greet me and they sang for me happy birthday in the school, to the evening when Alphonse, Timothy, Titus, Christine, Totila and Barbara danced for me or the moment in which Alphonse brought me a candle to blow while my wish was granted.
I feel that, once back home, I did not cut the connection with Bereina, because I feel still part of that community and I am sure this bond will not be broken. This summer I sowed a seed and surely, my life will bear fruits very soon!
I would like to thank my parents for having allowed me to live this experience, Sister Caterina for having given me the possibility to know that place, the boys for letting me feel like their brother, the children for all their smiles and embraces, the teachers for trusting me and allowing me to give some English and Math class to “my” grade 2.
I would like to thank also the sisters, one by one. They let me feel part of their family and I feel they are like my real sisters. Grazie Sister Caterina, grazie Sister Giovanna, grazie Sister Anna Piccolin, grazie Sister Anna Pigozzo, grazie Sister Vera, grazie Sister Sara, cảm ơn Sister Cuc¸ cảm ơn Sister Nguyet, cảm ơn Sister Thanh, salamat Sister Sheila, salamat Sister Sheryl, salamat Sister Kimberly; salamat sister Matchai, salamat Sister Princess, tenkyu Sister Carolyn, tenkyu Sister Magarette, grazie Manuela e Matteo e grazie Giorgia.
Thank you Cavanis community Jesus Good Shepherd in Bereina. God bless you all.