One of 13-year-old Isiadinso’s favorite activities is playing “football” or soccer, which on the surface is not out of the ordinary. But when she also lists “fetching water,” it’s clear her life is different.
She is just one of the more than 50 orphans at the Daughters of Divine Love Charity Home in Enugu, Nigeria, but the GLOW (Giving Love to Orphanages Worldwide) Mission in Subiaco will exist to make their life better.
Sister Mary Francis Amanfo, DDL, has been in Arkansas for seven years as a chaplain at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock. She came to the United States 20 years ago, but has had a connection to the charity home since she became a nun 41 years ago. Sister Theodora Ajagu, DDL, also lives in Little Rock and assists with the charity home donations.
The home was established in 1989, starting out as just a soup kitchen but growing to a place that houses the most neglected in society — orphans, children with illnesses and disease, widows, the elderly and rape victims who choose not to abort their child, Sister Mary Francis said.
“(There) was a 2-year-old girl abandoned by her family because of a cleft lip. It’s so small, it takes about $200 to $300 to fix … once they see the condition of the teeth sticking straight out, they feel it’s an abomination,” Sister Mary Francis said.
Though many are told there is no room, families wait until the sisters are in prayer and “they come and leave a baby for the sisters like trash. And once you see a baby that way, you can’t say no to God … We took her in, we clothed her, gave her medications, gave her malaria medications, gave her what she needed — she needed love and comfort. After many years she grew up and became somebody. This is just one of the people who come to our charity home.”
To aid sister in her work, Barbara Strobel of Subiaco has founded the GLOW Mission.
“A child in need no matter where they live is a child in need,” said Strobel, a mother of two and grandmother of two.
Strobel, who is not Catholic but has been active at St. Benedict Church with her husband Walter for more than 40 years, met Sister Mary Francis at St. Vincent more than six years ago, saying “there’s probably not a person who’s ever been at St. Vincent who hasn’t met sister.”
“She felt that urge, she had the zeal in her … God sent Barbara,” Sister Mary Francis said. “I thought she was going to do a little bit, but by the grace of God she’s beginning to do a lot.”
After learning about Sister Mary Francis’ “children,” Strobel helped with a clothing drive in the summer. With each donation, Sister Mary Francis makes sure they receive a personalized, typed thank you note from charity home director Sister Kate Nnamuonu.
But when Strobel asked about what donations were needed for Christmas, she learned that the children didn’t receive gifts — they were lucky to get a meal.
“I said, ‘Oh no. We can’t have that,’ ” Strobel said, breaking down in tears recalling her shock. “I couldn’t imagine these little girls never knowing what a little baby doll is; never being able to open a package.”
In a workshop previously used by Strobel for her business making cheerleading uniforms, 11 black dolls were purchased and she, along with another seamstress, made matching outfits for the girls to wear. Other clothes and toys were bought and donated for the boys and older children. Because they have to be hand-delivered by a friend of Sister Mary Francis’ at a discounted rate, the 48 “Santa Sacks” will arrive this month.
But one shipment is not enough. Strobel said starting the nonprofit will allow for bigger donations. Even though they’re still finalizing the nonprofit status, they have hit the ground running, hosting their first fundraiser Saturday Feb. 18. It will be a Valentine’s dance and silent auction at Subiaco Roundhouse with music, appetizers and desserts. It will cost $30 for couples and $15 for a single ticket.
No expenses for fundraisers or events will ever be taken from donations — 100 percent of items or funds donated will go to Nigeria, Strobel said. For this fundraiser, the goal is to raise enough money to buy 15 beds and mattresses, which cost about $50 apiece. The next goal is a refrigerator, which will cost $1,350.
“They stay on the ground. They put a little box, flat box on the ground as their bed,” Sister Mary Francis said of some of the orphans.
Sister Mary Francis said no matter where she lives, her congregation’s motto, “The Love of Christ impels us” (2 Corinthians 5:15), guides her work.
“I can’t just close my eyes and go to St. Vincent and do my work as a chaplain when I know that 65 percent of the people in the world have no shoes. People have 15, 20 pairs of shoes in their closets … I told them God has played tricks on us and only gave us two legs, so you must wear one pair at a time. Even if you buy 60 you can’t wear more than two. So save five pairs of shoes for yourself, the rest belongs to me and my mission.”
To donate new clothes, shoes, paperback books, school supplies and silent auction items or make a financial donation to GLOW Mission, call Strobel at (479) 970-3866, e-mail or mail to 6778 Old Military Road, Subiaco, 72865. Sister Mary Francis can also be reached at (240) 704-5517.
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