Last summer Josh Egan from Co Tipperary took part in the Society’s Invitation to Mission programme and travelled to Chile to learn about Columban mission there. He writes about some stand-out moments during his time there.
I am currently a full-time student studying adapted physical activity for people who have disabilities at Munster Technological University. One day I walked past a poster in Tralee which said that Columban Fr Liam O’Callaghan, who is serving in Pakistan, was going to give a talk about his mission there. It was good to listen to his talk..
As a student, my summers are free, and I felt I could use my time to go on a mission. I made contact with Fr Liam, and he put me in contact with another Columban Fr Padraig O’Donovan who looked for a mission placement for me. We decided that Chile would be my mission project. Fr Padraig was a great support for me prior the trip. He was pivotal in terms of helping me organise my flights and accommodation in Chile and supporting me while I was there.
I stayed with Pedro who is Chilean. He was a great support to me and to Danny Sweeney from Britain when we were in Chile. It’s so important to be with someone who knows the place. When we would go to the market, Pedro helped me with my Spanish. Marketplaces in Chile are the heart of every town and city. Pedro cooked some wonderful food for us like sopaipillas and empanadas. They were delicious! To be honest Pedro was like my mother for the duration I was over there. A big thank you to Pedro for all his help. You can’t beat the power of a kind gesture.
One day we were giving out food to families that live in shanty towns in Alto Hospicio. I met an amazing kid called Aaron, who has Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy. This means he cannot move one side of his body. Aaron is unable to move his left arm and leg. The area that I am studying is focused on people with disabilities. So, I flicked through my lecture notes and tried to come up with a game and some exercises for Aaron. I designed a game called Polybat where you must score a goal using your hand. I also asked my friend in Ireland for some exercises for Aaron and she sent them on. I taught Aaron’s sister how to play the game and how to do the exercises so she could teach Aaron and continue this work when I left. Action is great, enabling is unbelievable.
Over 10 million Venezuelans have emigrated to different countries in South America in recent years. It’s frightening to hear their stories and the journeys that they had to undertake to get to Chile. One family I met has settled in Chile and their children are now in school. It’s important to welcome everyone into your country, you never know what they have gone through or what has happened to them before they arrived.
We decided to take some of the kids from Alto Hospicio on a trip to a museum in Santiago to give them an opportunity to see something new. This is not something the kids would have had an opportunity to do before. We also arranged some play time outside the centre. They really enjoyed the day and learnt a lot about their culture and their history. Do not be afraid to create an opportunity for someone, it might just make their day.
Most of the migrants living in the Columban migrant house are from Venezuela except for a guy from Morocco. He had to flee his home after coming out as gay. In Chile, he got his accommodation through the Columbans and a job in Santiago. He is now living a better life in Chile. God loves a trier and a fighter.
To learn more about the Columban Invitation to Mission programme, see: https://columbans.ie/invitation-to-mission/