The care of the Guanellian missionaries towards the disabled in Africa
School and work: along these lines the Fathers of the Opera Don Guanella have been carrying out a project of evangelization and charity for young people with disabilities in Adidome for eight years, in the diocese of Keta-Akatsi, in eastern Ghana, on the border with Togo. Disability is a serious problem for Africa.
According to data from the World Health Organization, there are between 60 and 80 million people with different types of handicap, caused by malnutrition, diseases, natural disasters, road and industrial accidents, conflicts. It is estimated that about 10% of the African population are disabled, but probably up to 20% in the poorest regions. Only 10% of them go to school. The majority of the disabled people are therefore excluded from work and are forced to beg.
In this context, the Guanellian religious are one of the few organizations that take care of the handicapped by offering them care, rehabilitation and accompaniment with courses and small work activities. In Ghana, the project started in 1996. In that year the Guanellians followed the management of a professional school in Abor. Here they teach a profession to disabled children. Therefore – explain the religious to Fides – “we were dealing mainly with victims of road accidents and people with polio. Today, thanks to the spread of vaccines, polio is disappearing but, unfortunately, accidents are still numerous and they cause many victims”.
In 2010, an elderly lady turns to Fr. Giancarlo Frigerio, one of the Guanellian missionaries active in the school, and asks him to take care of two of her seven children, both disabled. Thus a community is born in which the two children are welcomed.
Shortly after, the Friends of Ghana Association, a small organization in the province of Como (Italy), donated a land with a house and a carpentry shop in Adidome to the Opera Don Guanella. The religious decide to transfer the disabled community on the spot, which in the meantime has six guests. The number of guests gradually began to increase and today there are about 20 people with medium to severe disabilities at a cognitive and physical level. There are three Guanellian priests, some are young and six employees, as well as volunteers who arrive periodically to assist them.
The main activity of disabled children is to attend the special school: they follow courses that help them to maintain and enhance their skills. “The first objective – the Guanellians explain – is to make them autonomous. We teach them how to take care of themselves, wash themselves, get dressed without help, and how to make their bed”.
Those who can, also start work: they work in the vegetable garden, next to the staff, take care of the farm animals. They are then periodically sent to their families to keep a bond of affection alive.
After an initial period of distrust, the local people of the village, the missionaries report, today “understood the importance of our work and began to help us. The local families come to celebrate the main feasts with us, creating a climate of love and solidarity towards the patients. It is a precious result that allows us to continue our work of evangelical charity with greater impetus”.