It is Sunday and the Service on the Feast of Blessed Gérard. We are in the small church, which is part of the Care Centre and Hospice. I am sitting close to the Blessed Sacrament and I follow the service as concentrated as possible, but sometimes my thoughts wander away. The grave of Mrs. Clare Kalkwarf is not far behind the Blessed Sacrament, just outside the wall. She was a co-founder of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard and she had significantly contributed to the development of what is done here and today. She was murdered in a senseless crime on 6 April 2006 in her own small house and she was buried here on the premises of the Brotherhood according to her wish in her last will and testament. Meanwhile a new generation of helpers is growing up, who have not known her. It was a great honour for us having privilege to have known her. We will not forget her and I actually want to believe that she acts as a guardian angel for the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard. Clare would be very happy to see how the Care Centre has grown, also spatially. All that we do in our support we do a bit also in memory of her. My eyes swerve to the helpers as they follow the service wearing their white uniform shirts, to the children of the children's home, who became really happy children, but who might not have survived without this help. I look into the eyes of these people and I actually would like to pass on the gratitude, which is rendered to me today as a newly invested Honorary Dedicated Member today, to these people. It is you who help the people here every day in a self-sacrificing way maintaining highest professional standards. We, who cannot help every day at Mandeni can only try modestly to organise help so that the financial means for the relief work is provided. I do not want to say "from outside" because I consider myself a part of the Brotherhood, an element of the whole thing. Not as an outsider, but as a member of the community and that is a very nice thought. Everybody tries to do something at his place so that the projects will continue and the steamboat will not sink.
A musician may compare the various relief projects with a symphony, where many various instruments integratively play together. In this case there are the various relief projects which jointly and interdependently are able to break the vicious cycle of poverty, malnutrition and sickness. I would like to try to explain this about several of the relief projects developed by the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard. Basically and finally it is all about the help for the single sick, lonely and poor person.
Approximately two Thirds of the population in this very poor area are HIV- positive or suffer already from AIDS. There people often die without being cared for in their huts. Thus small children remain as orphans and a lot of abuse and rape happens. The men in many families work far away in the gold mines of Johannesburg or at Durban Harbour and return only once a year to their wives. These women are alone with their children and are often unable to look after them adequately.
AIDS is still an incurable disease but the so-called antiretroviral therapy can reduce the viral load to a degree that the immune system is reconstituted and the patient can live for years or even decades actively and without symptoms of sickness. Then they can raise their children, go back to work and look after their fields and gardens. Apart from the personal joy of continued life this is also an important socio economical aspect.
The various relief projects of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard address these many needs and they are a real help.
Terminally sick people need not die miserably and alone in their huts but they can complete their lives in human dignity and in closeness to God. Patients who qualify for AIDS Therapy get this treatment free of charge. There is hardly a patient who could afford to pay for the treatment anyway. Children who have been abandoned or abused by their parent/s or whose parents died from AIDS and other vulnerable children get a wonderful new home in the Children's Home and the children who are HIV-positive are integrated in the AIDS-Treatment programme. Children whose mother is alone may be looked after by the Pre-Primary School & Crèche. Gifted children and youth who have no other means to get a bursary for their education may be helped by the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard. Blessed Gérard's First Aid and Emergency Service provides rescue and care of persons in distress by offering First Aid and assisting people in emergencies. They provide First Aid Service e.g. at major church events. Blessed Gérard's Disaster Control & Civil Protection provides disaster relief being ready to give medical assistance and care in case of a disaster. This happened in the year 2000 at the flood disaster in Mozambique where they supported international relief efforts from the neighbouring South African soil.
The Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard not only affirms allegiance to the Order of Malta verbally but it stands in the best and true sense in the tradition of the Order of Malta. This is how it started 900 years ago. Blessed Gérard saw the need of the people in Jerusalem and founded a hospital and a hospice. Poor people were helped at every place where the Order of Malta resided when help was needed. Thus loving our neighbour - as commanded by Christ to do so - was put into action..
The Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard also stands in the very best and centenaries old tradition of the Order of Malta through its impressive professionalism (well trained helpers and organisers, qualified nursing personnel, doctors, social workers and pastors). The most modern hospital in Europe in the 16th century at La Valletta in Malta was founded and run by the Order of Malta.
Help is most urgently needed further on in South Africa and can only be financed through the support and donations of all of us. Therefore it is so necessary to do everything to help with the continuation of the work at Mandeni.
Dr.med. Andreas Heinze
This page is part of the Newsletter No. 30 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard
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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:50:10