Sr. Jacinta Ugonma Mahakwe MMM
The Medical Missionaries of Mary live and work in Salvador – Bahia, Brazil. Since 2000, we have been working in a lower income, peripheral area of the city. It has a predominantly Afro-Brazilian descendant population with more than 90% black/persons of colour. The neighbourhood is marked by violence and a high incidence of substance abuse. Sr. Jacinta tells the story of a meeting with a small boy.
It is not a new thing to hear our doorbell ring and come out to find some kids walking back from the beach looking at you and smiling away. With the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, individuals often come to our doorstep requesting foodstuffs to feed their families. Recently, our doorbell rang non-stop. On checking out, there was a boy of about 10 years with a brilliant smile. The conversation with him was like this; “Good afternoon, auntie, please buy some sweets.” I asked him, “Why did you ring the bell without stopping?” His response was “Auntie, did I scare you? I am sorry.” He continued, “please buy some sweets. My mum made them. If I sell any, she can buy bread for breakfast.” ‘Bread for breakfast got me’. I asked him where he lived and a bit about his family. I bought some sweets and asked him to eat them. He was excited and went to the next house.
The story of this little boy and his family is one out of many families for whom the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect, especially in our neighbourhood in the Nordeste area of Amaralina, Salvador. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed Brazil to an unprecedented health, social and economic challenge. Rising vaccination rates also contribute to the expected improvements in growth rate. However, the path to a full recovery remains steep given Brazil’s pre-existing structural and fiscal vulnerabilities and the impact of inflationary pressures on the economy. Most families face a difficult situation in which to choose between two equally deserving alternatives – working out which bills they can afford to pay. Most families go hungry, and some who could not pay their rents, go homeless.
In Northeast Amaralina, the community is still struggling with the adverse economic consequences and collateral damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Medical Missionaries of Mary respond to the global pandemic crisis here in different ways. We offer counselling sessions, listening therapy, massage therapy, online youth support programme, supply of foodstuff/nutritional supplements, payment for medical and psychological consultations, diapers for elderly, purchase of prescribed medications and dressing material.
In collaboration with the leaders in the Small Christian Communities in the Northeast Amaralina, we are able to access and find some families who lack basic necessities. Each month, we provide food baskets to at least 15 new families. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Those who are in need of psychological assistance are referred to a psychologist and we pay the bills. We observed that most of the families we work with cannot afford the drugs prescribed by their physicians and other medical supplies such as adult diapers. With their prescriptions, we procure their drugs.
With income stagnant and prices always on the rise, the equation is not adding up for millions of Brazilians. We are grateful to all our donors. Your contribution does count and make a lot of difference in the lives of the people we serve. It is because of you that we enjoy doing what we do.