Part of our History: Goma, Living with War

From Goma, on the Congo/Rwandan border:

I have worked for 18 years as a physical therapist in a center for handicapped people, specifically paraplegic and hemiplegic patients. Most are victims of war or accidents. Most come from rural areas, and most find themselves completely abandoned. There is simply no access to the type of treatment they need. This makes it hard for everyone involved— the patient but also the aides and nurses.

Jane is a quadriplegic, around 20 years old, who has been suffering from bedsores for 3 years. Fortunately he has found the spiritual strength to accept his handicap; he was confirmed in June. His faith and trust in God help him go beyond his suffering.

For Teresa it is otherwise. A 30-year-old mother of four, she has been a paraplegic after being shot in the back. She cannot bear to see herself paralyzed, and she is filled with anger. With people like this, I try to offer not only physical therapy but also friendship and a listening ear, to help them any way I can, because what they need most is to be loved and respected.

The Center used to receive aid from overseas, which enabled it to take in nearly all who came. But this is no longer the case.

As the number of sick people grows (from 40 to about 80 new patients per day), the general lack of security in the area and the migration of people which results has caused poverty to soar. The sure sign is the increase in tuberculosis caused by malnutrition. We have several cases like this, and caring for them is much more demanding—they need special food and more medicine.

There is no government assistance whatsoever, so the sick are forced to go home without treatment because they have no money to pay for it. Once again, being poor means having no right to life!

Every year on the feast of St. Martin of Tours, the Center's patron saint, a feast is prepared for the sick, like at Christmas and Easter. The Christians donate generously toward this occasion, bringing whatever they can, according to their means.