Missionaries and volunteers who have worked with CHARIS share their experiences as the Church marks World Mission Sunday (Oct 23)

Educating the poor in Myanmar


Sr Angela Ng reading stories in English to educators and children from the Canossa Home in Thanlyin, Myanmar.

Sr Angela Ng, Canossian Daughters of Charity (CHARIS affiliate):

I first went to Myanmar in 2002. In 2008, the Canossian Daughters of Charity started a training programme for young girls to prepare them to take charge of the children living in the boarding houses run by the Catholic Church in Myanmar.

For me, this mission was both an exciting and challenging one.

We started the Formation of Educators’ Training in July 2008. CHARIS helped to co-fund the training centre for educators and boarding house in Thanlyin. The boarding house first started out with 11 children and soon there were 22.

By God’s grace, we have now trained more than 185 young ladies to be educators to serve in 38 boarding houses spread over 11 dioceses and we have cared for over 1,460 children and teenagers.

Our main area of mission work focuses mainly on providing education for the poorest of the poor. This is so that they would be empowered to be lifted from their current state of life. Our boarding houses also care mainly for young children from poor remote areas.

Our style of education is both promotional and preventive. It helps our trainees understand that they have an important role to play, especially in the boarding houses up north where children and youth are exposed to human trafficking and consumption of drugs.

The work that we do in Myanmar reminds me of the time when the Italian Sisters first came to Singapore. They had limited facilities and amenities. The food and culture of the place was different from theirs and the people were very poor.

Similarly, when we went to Myanmar, the food, culture of the place was vastly different but it was the love of Jesus that motivates us to do what we do, and also to spread His love to others. 

 
Working with Sri Lankans on filtration system, toilets

 

Mr Kok Xuan Er helping to build a toilet.

Mr Kok Xuan Er (CHARIS volunteer):

I had the privilege to serve with CHARIS in Sri Lanka in June. Our goal was simple: to journey with the locals.

During our time there, we worked alongside locals to set up a bio-sand water filtration system and helped with t
he ongoing construction of some of their toilets.

I am currently a catechumen. Doing mission work to me means to live the Word of God by putting Catholic social teachings into practice. It means becoming a vessel for God, to bring His Glory and Mercy to the poor and the marginalised communities.

I remember once when we were working alongside the locals, we were wearing our gloves. Unknowingly, I felt this created a boundary between us and them, for it made us seem more privileged and distant. Thus, I felt a great need to take off my gloves.

Interestingly, that allowed me to build rapport with the locals. This was particularly memorable because it is a testimony to God’s grace at work, which transcends language, culture and socio-economic differences.

Doing mission work has helped me to see God in everybody. The locals had so much capacity to love and to give. I am thankful to witness and experience God’s grace through the locals, and for the opportunity to serve and to live the Word. 


Serving indigenous communities in Sabah


Ms Mary Claire Fan (in pink) in Papar, Sabah.

Mary Claire Fan, Clare’s Missionary (CHARIS affiliate): 

I am a member of the Secular Franciscan Order.

As part of a Catholic group called Clare’s Missionary, our overseas outreach is collaborating with the Franciscan Sisters in Sabah where we organise maintenance and education missions to indigenous communities there.

Serving the locals in Sabah has allowed me to see things in a new way; to see with the eyes of the poor and to feel with the heart of the poor. My mission trips have become more meaningful because of the conversion that has taken place in my heart.

While on mission, I’m often faced with questions: “Why are you here?” And also, “I love you” and “come again”.

Sometimes I am surprised with a kiss on the cheek.

Some share their sorrows, fears and hurts and how they have come to a point of forgiveness and even pray for their enemies. Indeed, I have learnt many lessons from them, especially how to love more and to live simply.

Our Christian life is a mission in itself and wherever there are people who have hardly been touched by Christ, I am reminded that we are called to mission and to administer just as Christ did. So everyone indeed is worthy of our missionary care.

Christian mission is to all people; the whole world is our oyster. 


Sharing people’s joys and sufferings


Mr Gabriel Lee with artwork made by a Sri Lankan.

Mr Gabriel Lee (CHARIS staff):

As a staff of CHARIS, I’m grateful to have participated in three CHARIS mission trips.

These mission trips have helped me to grow spiritually and it has made me more aware that God is ever present all over the world.

I have gone on missions to Sri Lanka twice, from Jan 26-Feb 1, 2015 and June 12-18, 2016, to assist in toilet building and bio-sand water filtration system, and once to Bogo City in the Philippines from Nov 29-Dec 5, 2015, to assist in the building of houses and the bio-sand water filtration system.

I find that the most memorable experiences on mission is meeting the local people and sharing in their joys and sufferings.

The various emotions and experiences remind me of what it means to be human, to sit back and be
still to know that God is present.

I remind myself that God is in nature, God is around and even more so in the people we meet. Hence I feel a calling from God to share my gifts and talents with the locals, and in return, they share with me what it is to be truly happy.

There were definitely instances of difficulties, frustrations and challenges while on mission. From these experiences, I have become more patient with such situations and learnt to react to such situations with calmness and composure.


About CHARIS

Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS) was set up in 2010. It coordinates the archdiocesan response to disaster and humanitarian needs. Some of the biggest disasters CHARIS has responded to were Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and the Nepal earthquake in 2015. CHARIS has a network of 23 affiliates all involved in overseas humanitarian work. 

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