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​Natalina and the Congolese girls accused of witchcraft

“Before arriving in Bukavu I lived for 20 years at Birava, a little further north. Cholera was endemic, there was no drinking-water and in the parish I worked mainly with illiterate girls. Together we sought a way to get water and we cared for the camps. With the children of the summer colony I reforested the area, I created nursery gardens and plantations. The young people then contributed what they’d learned in the villages. When I went away in 2002, I left a local team able to carry on the activity quite peacefully. Basically this is our task”. This is what the lay Sr Natalina Isella told Ambra Notari of Redattore sociale, a daily portal on social hardship, volunteer work and the third sector. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for many years among her numerous other activities Isella took care of little girls rejected by their families because they were considered witches. “I remember one of the first little girls I picked up off the street as soon as I arrived here in Bukavu. Thrown out by her family because she was accused of being a witch, she was seven years old and on the streets she had even contracted AIDS. She died last year: she suffered terribly but with us she rediscovered serenity”. The aim of the Ek’ Bana Centre (the children’s home), which today has about 40 residents, is to return the little ones to their families by means of personalized approaches. In most cases good results are achieved; if this does not happen other channels are sought with recourse, for example, to other families. “We try to teach people: a female child is not a disgrace but the salvation of the family. She can become a dress-maker, she can cultivate plants and flowers. For our part, we set an example”. Every day Natalina arrives at the Ek’ Bana Centre, where she finds many people waiting for her. “There are always new cases too that the Christian community brings us”: an elderly man with an orphan, someone looking for work, a child mother who doesn’t know how to feed her child. “A soldier who has had an arm amputated often comes here. He has 10 children. We listen to everyone and we try to guide them. A great many families help us, in the parishes there is a parents’ committee to monitor the children. It something goes wrong, we try to find a solution together”. 




St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 17, 2020