Building God's Kingdom

“Holy Child” Clinic offers services to disabled children of Anapra, in Mexico.

For the past 20 years, Isidra Sánchez has been a hero. Every day she takes care of her duties as a homemaker, wife, mother and factory worker. On top of all this, she also has the roles of nurse, special education teacher, and even physical therapist.

Her son Ángel was born with cerebral palsy and since then she has had to come up with the time, patience and love to deal with all those roles.

For several years, Isidra used to take Ángel to a government hospital to receive specialized care until the day they refused to continue treating him.

With the 450 pesos (about AUD$37) that she earns every week, she cannot afford to send her son to a special school or to a therapist.

Thanks to a neighbor, Isidra got some of the help she badly needs. She learned of the services offered by the “Santo Niño” (Holy Child) Clinic, founded by the Columban Missionaries and the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

The clinic provides care to children with special needs in Isidra’s neighborhood. She and her family live in Anapra, a poor community of Juárez, Mexico, where most of the families do not have the necessary material resources or information to care properly for their children.

Marginalized Zone

Anapra is located right at the Mexican border with the United States of America, in the City of Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

This zone does not have basic services like public sewage or paved streets. Although tap water was just recently brought in, it is believed to be contaminated with lead.

Most of its residents are people who originally came from central and southern Mexico looking for a job. They usually work as factory employees earning US$40 (AUD$37) dollars a week and don’t have access to specialized medical services.

Seeing these conditions Columban

Fr William Morton fostered the creation of a clinic and a specialized attention centre for children and young people with disabilities. He got in touch with the Sisters of Charity who had been working in El Paso, Texas over 13 years.

“We came to Anapra because Fr William brought us here.” said Dr/Sr Janet Gildea. She is a family medical doctor and is one of the nuns working at Clínica Guadalupana.

“At the beginning, the clinic was in Fr William’s kitchen, but thanks to the donations of benefactors we were able to increase the space and now it is better. Initially, we focused on pre-natal care and thereafter we started caring for many special children,” Dr/Sr Gildea added.

Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati

Working at the clinic are Peggy Deneweth, a nurse; Carol Wirtz, massage therapist; and Ana Dorenbusch, teacher and specialist in pastoral work, all of whom are nuns too and who use their skills and gifts to help the poor.

“We work in education, health care and social service. We look for places with great need,” Dr/Sr Gildea said.

Great Need

In Anapra they found a serious situation: there were many children and young people with disabilities that were not getting the care they required.

“What we want is to give hope to families who are told that their children cannot have a normal life,” Sr Janet said.

Sr Ana visits her patients’ home to administer therapy. “I love this work. What amazes me most is the mothers, the way they fight for their children, she said.

“Coming here has been a spiritual experience because I see that miracles happen. Many times I don’t know what to do with the children, but things happen on their own and all of a sudden the miracle materializes,” Sr Carol said. She is in charge of the patients’ massage therapy.

“We see a big difference in the children and at the same time in us and in the parents. They seem more at ease and happy to see their children getting everyone’s love” she said.

Both Clínica Guadalupana and Clínica “Santo Niño” support themselves through donations collected by Columban priests or by the Sisters of Charity.

Medical and therapy services are given free of charge, but parents are encouraged to contribute 15 pesos (AUD$.10) per appointment that also includes medication, if they can afford to do so.

Manny Vargas is the Editor of the Spanish language Columban magazine.

Read more from The Far East, June 2011