Sara Suchowiak
Volunteer of the Redemptoris Missio Humanitarian Aid Foundation – Poland

-Originally published in the OMI Madagascar Newsletter – December 2019

As a volunteer of the Redemptoris Missio Humanitarian Aid Foundation, from August to October, 2019, I worked in a dispensary located in the Oblate mission in Befasy. The dream of volunteering in Madagascar was born in me when I was a little girl. At my parish of St. Augustin in Czapury (Poland), an Oblate arrived who gave witness to his work on the “Big Red Island”, and thus sowed the seed of missionary work in my heart. I never thought that, after many years, I would be able to cooperate with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Madagascar.

The idea of building a dispensary in the poor town of Mandabe was born many years ago in the mind of the volunteer Jacek Jarosz (now vice-president of the Redemptoris Missio Humanitarian Aid Foundation). He understood even then that there was still much to be done in the field of medicine in Madagascar, particularly in the bush villages. The people here are deprived of all medical care, often for several months of the year. When the water level in the rivers rises, it is impossible to evacuate even the most seriously ill. The children and the elderly suffer the most. We knew we could not help everyone, but we couldn’t just sit back and do nothing either.

It was then, that in collaboration with the Oblate missionaries, the Redemptoris Missio Humanitarian Aid Foundation decided to set up a clinic in Befasy, a small village less than one hundred kilometres from Mandabe. Many people of goodwill helped us as well. The Polish Caritas and the Polish Africa Foundation also joined the project.

When we reached the village for the first time, a huge crowd of people welcomed us! At the border of the village, we got out of the cars and joined the singing procession. There was real joy among those gathered. I was extremely moved by their joy. Certainly, that was one of the best days in my life.

It was impossible not to notice the good relationship between Fr. Marek OCHLAK and his parishioners. The effects of his work in such a short period are huge. For two years, the church, the school, the dispensary, among others… and construction of the gym has begun.

Today, patients from all over the region come to the dispensary. Although it is not a long period of time since the official opening, we have already helped a lot of people. During the first few months of work, we have had nearly 400 patients! Fisaora Clement Serge, a nurse that we employ at the centre, treats the children and adults with dangerous malaria, gastrointestinal parasites, and many other troublesome diseases. She also treats wounds after injuries or burns, which are not lacking here. Unfortunately, we come across many other situations that are still beyond our capacity at the dispensary. Therefore, our plan for the futuree is to expand the dispensary and welcome the types of patients that we are not able to help at present. Soon, another nurse will join the team to take care of the sick.

I would like to thank the Oblates of Mary Immaculate for guiding me, helping me and allowing me to be a part of their missionary activity. I am particularly grateful to Fr. Marek and his parishioners whom I had the pleasure to get to know in this beautiful country.