Publish date 12-02-2023
Even if the media makes it appear small, it is still a larger world, richer in variety, than we imagine. Promoting paths of human development also means the beauty of meeting people just like us, but with different lives and stories, sometimes very different. Stories that become part and richness for each other... Among the many, those that, in 25 years of journey, we have lived for and with nomads in the world, alongside the particular mission of Don Renato Rosso, fidei donum for them.
Nomads are barely visible, hidden, but still present almost everywhere, on the margins. Very traditional cultures, but also complex and articulated. Communities, groups, with different evolutions according to places and sources of life. Their very uncertain survival, now outdated the activities that allowed it: the commercial caravans from transport, sheep farming and fishing compete with modern techniques and confined spaces, the same for itinerant craftsmen. Those who leave to go to the cities generally become beggars. Their story is that of the roots of humanity's journey. The present, left to itself, is much less bright, made up of low social status, minimal opportunities. The future, in order to exist, requires careful and patient work.
Don Renato, entering on tiptoe, living with and like them, tried to make them emerge, in a new relationship with the outside world, also with the local churches that thus welcomed them; open a horizon of renewal, towards which to continue moving. After the Bhil shepherds of Rajasthan, and together with those in Bangladesh with tribals, and with the Bara in Madagascar, the largest project entrusted to us is the one with the Sama-Bajau communities of the island of Basilan, in the extreme south of the Philippines.
They have the sea as their home. Originally on boats, today they live in stilt houses along the coast; the precarious survival always linked to fishing, however very impoverished. The commitment with them of the Claretian fathers is vital, which we support in every way, and which has also responded to the challenges of years of guerrilla warfare on the island, pirates, and the pandemic. The first area for the Bajau too is school. Adapted to needs, not to homogenize, but for new awareness and capabilities. One by one, the operators, with good success, support the inclusion in public schools of the little ones - many hundreds to date, with pre-school to prepare them, after school, meals, transport. Many structures built in the settlements; in the evenings they host adult literacy, education and health care, and the community life that grows around those who are formed as leaders. Alongside, it is essential to promote income generation initiatives for families. Thanks to years of work, fishing today benefits from microcredit, a central purchasing center for fish under fair conditions, drying kilns in the villages so as not to lose anything. However, it is necessary to gradually diversify. Every outlet is sought for the beautiful handicrafts of women, fruit growing and poultry farming are added on the mainland… still open to new ideas.
Here or elsewhere, young people will be capable of new possibilities. Becoming more men, more women, true and authentic, always passes through dialogue, knowledge, care, and above all school. As the children grow up, traditional communities regain life and energy.
NP November 2022
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