I would have liked to have written all of you a chronical before the year 2022 ended, but this was impossible because of the number of activities we had with the children. My intention was to send you a greeting before the end of the year in order to thank you for all that you have done to help us with the children’s Christmas activities, the camps, and the Christmas gifts.
On the 31st of December, we finished the fourth camp. We had two camps for boys before Christmas, and two other camps after Christmas before the New Year for girls. Between all the camps together we had 1,140 children with us for five days. This type of activity is always exhausting, since the children are numerous and we are so few who are able to help them. It demands much sacrifice and total commitment. This is true in a particular way for the sisters, since the girls are always much more numerous than the boys. This year there was 830 girls in total. The camp of Kangeme had the most participants, 473 children.
Something new to the camps from last year, is that we held two camps in the parish of Kangeme. In 2021 we had transported the girls from Kangeme to Ushetu. This required a great amount of effort to transport them all. Because we were able to carry on the camps in two locations, this greatly increased the number of participants and made the problem of transportation much easier. As I mentioned in the last chronical, thanks to the construction of a multi-purpose building, we were able to accommodate the children perfectly. The only minor difficulty was the bathroom situation, since there are only four latrines…in the girls camp this had to be sufficient for more than 480 people. This year we campaign in order to construct new bathrooms for the camps that will happen at the end of the year.
However, we can say that even with these small difficulties, the camps were an immense grace. We have seen smiles on the faces of all of the children, especially on the final day of each camp when the awards were announced. They were so sincere and spontaneous in how they expressed their joy! Thanks to the food we were able to save from the donations we received during the months before the camps we were able to provide good food for the children, including two feast meals. Also, there were gifts for everyone: t-shirts, rosaries, candy, and school supplies. In addition, there were special prizes for the teams that had won the competitions. The prize for the regions that had the most participants was sports equipment. Furthermore, there were awards for the children who had demonstrated outstanding examples of the virtues. Finally, as if all of this wasn’t enough, we sent candies and lollipops to all of the regions of the mission, so that all the children were able to receive something after the Masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Thank you all very much for all of your help!!!
I would like to share with you all a little story that brought me much joy. It was as if God sent an angel in the middle of the camps. In the midst of everything, with much work to do including shopping for supplies, bringing food, coordinating with the cooks, celebrating the Mass and hearing confessions, organizing the games and the prizes…and a thousand other surprises that appeared, God had a treat in store. It was during the Kangeme girl’s camp. On the second night since it was the feast of the Holy Innocents, we were celebrating with a special dinner. I collected my plate and soda (there was soda for everyone!), and I sat at the side of the church building where there was light. Some of the girls came to sit close by. In the culture here, the girls are timid to speak with adults, especially men. However, being that I have known them for some time now the barrier was less strong for them. So one of the little girls, about eight years old and whose name I cannot remember at the moment, spontaneously began to speak with me. She commented to me and those other children present, “In this camp you do not have to be homesick…here we play, pray, climb mountains, and eat special food…I wait all week long in order to be able to come to the church on Sunday, so that I can pray and play in the oratory.” And in this way, she continued as her companions chimed in to with their similar comments. The short conversation was interrupted by the sound of the bell that called them all to assemble into their teams. They instantly began to shout out the names of their patrons. I lost this angel in the midst of the sea of 473 children.
But as for me…how can one not stop and think and think again about these words so simple and so sincere from this girl of eight years of age while barely having finished greeting her? God has sent us her so that the fathers and the sisters see the value of all this work. Some of these same girls we saw again the last day before they left. They had returned in order to give thanks again, even though they had already thanked us a thousand times every time we had given them a gift.
Hopefully the wonderful memory of these days will stay with them in their souls. Many of these children come from pagan families, and for this reason, they spend Christmas time with us in the camps. During these days they have had the opportunity to go to confession since the priests were available for many hours each day in the confessionals. The great majority of them received communion in each Holy Mass during the camp (we have calculated more than 4,000 communions in these days). And they have celebrated Christmas.
When the days of the camps were finished, we added to this a large number of Masses celebrated in the diverse points of the parish, and the novena to the Child Jesus, along with two living Nativity scenes…we cannot do anything else but give thanks to God, and to rest a couple of days in order to return to this gratifying missionary work.
Thank you for your prayers for us to not loose the ability to see the value of souls, that justifies all our efforts, work, and tiredness.
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Father Diego Cano, IVE