Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sister Pat's report on orphanage destruction

Sr. Patricia ran the HIV clinic/orphanage destroyed in Hatfield. Here is a report, from a church newsletter, typed out on a right wing American website that has a religion forum..


In 1992 many thousands of people were put into a Holding Camp at a place called Hatcliffe Extension, they were not allowed to build permanent structures because this was going to be temporary. We have worked with the people there for the past 10 years, peoples of all religions and none, people of all political persuasions and none.

Over the years through the generosity of you all we were able to sink 8 boreholes, help to feed thousands of people, build and run a crèche for AIDS orphans (180) of them. We visited once a week and two of our nursing Sisters, Gaudiosa and Carina treated people, helped to get about 100 people on to an Anti-Retroviral medicine programmers etc do home based care, took people to hospitals etc.

The people of Hatchliffe have become friends and family of us the Dominican Sisters. On Friday morning last week I got a call that the riot police had come into a section of the area and demolished everything - most of the wooden shacks are just broken to pieces. I went out on Friday and Saturday - people were sleeping out in the open, many of them sick, cold and hungry. On Saturday I visited again some had managed to leave (those who have Z$500 000 - and have some relatives in "legal" places".

On Sunday morning I got a call that the police had given instructions that all structures in the original section have to be demolished within 24 hours, including the crèche, clinic and other structures which we had built with and for the people. Where do I get people on Sunday to come and dismantle all the buildings. I decided to wait until Monday. On Sunday evening I received one phone call after another saying "come quick they are going to kill us" - others would say "don't come you might be killed". Early on Monday morning I drove out to Hatcliffe, already in the distance I could only see smoke rising up - nothing else.I arrived, I wept, Sister Carina was with me, she wept, the people tried to console us - they were ALL outside in the midst of their broken houses, furniture and goods all over the place, children screaming, sick people in agony. Some of the people who are on ARV drugs came to us and said we are phoning Sister Gaudiosa (Sister is doing the ARV programme) but she is not answering us, we are going to die". We explained that Sister was on home leave but that we would help in whatever way we could. It was a heartbreaking situation.

The structures "mentioned above" that we the Dominican Sisters were working from were left untouched but had to be dismantled immediately otherwise they too would be destroyed. Sister Balbina from the House of Adoration came with carpenters and other staff members and started dismantling the structures. Just now we are going back there with food, clothing, medicine and cash, we can only try. I am NOT cold, I am NOT hungry but I am very ANGRY. I pray that this will pass. We stand in shock and cry with the people but we also have to try and keep them alive. When will sanity prevail. Where is the outside world? busy talking about a "NO vote by France" How can the "little ones of this world be brutalized in this way" - their only crime - they are poor, they are helpless and they happen to live in the wrong part of town and in a country that does not have oil and is not very important to the West.

One bystander told me that he had phoned the Red Cross asking for help but was informed "it is not a war situation" so there is nothing we can do!

Patricia Walsh OP

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