When I left Bethany house, I went through a red soil path to a village written “St. Mary’s village for the old”. Having experienced the heavenly breeze of Bethany House, I expected a similar- or at least close to- experience. Turned out I was wrong, so wrong in fact.
“St. Mary’s is a home for the old, well for the old women”. That is the introduction I got. Far from that, I got a lot of women, who are both young and old but most of whom have body deformities. The oldest woman was ninety nine years old and the youngest was twenty four years old… now that redefined “old” in my case. Most are epileptic, severe mental disorders, body disabilities such as blindness, crippled body parts, amputated body parts, elephantiasis among others.
They live in small cubes, two per cube. They eat, dress and live on the mercies of well wishers. Their families renounce them once they are accepted into the home and they have grounds where they are buried within five hours of their death. They spend their day praying for people who died by names and each day it is the same people making it turn into some form of song, with its own tune of remorse and a chorus of thanks giving to their God and to Mary the mother of God. They have a farm where those who do not pray, because they were not Catholics originally and had to renounce their faith and be baptized into the catholic way, spend their day working with breaks of lunch and bathe at 0100 and 0400 pm each day every day. The prayers and the farmers both start their day at 0530 am everyday at the village church and end their day at 0600 pm at a mass congregation prayer at their dining room. These two prayers are compulsory.
The home is run by the Consolata Sisters and is administrated by four sisters at a time with the help of under sisters (or shall we call them girls being trained to become sisters?) and at least three casual employees a day but you can never, mark my word- never, get any information from them. It is guarded with utmost confidentiality and all you can do is devise your own views of the home- coz that is what it is, HOME FOR THE DISABLED AND THE UNDERPRIVILEDGED. Most of this women have more years than I am old in this home, they only have stories of the administrations they have gone through, the different priests they have had the advantage of meeting, the visitors who brought them the most stuffs, of nights spent with different dead “inmates” and of their more than thirty years of confinement because, once you become a member of the village, you cease from being a member of the rest of the world. You are allowed visitors every now and then, but you give up everything they bring you to the administration. They are treated like children and only believe that they are there to be given despite their ability at different crafts such as tailoring, livestock husbandry, basketry, weaving, knitting, pottery and farming…they, somehow, have managed to convince themselves that they are the chosen few whose cause on earth is to pray.
They despise every lady who wears a trouser or short because the bible they read teaches that women should wear long skirts and cover every part of their bodies, they loath every women whose skirt does not help the city council to sweep along their paths because that is the only honorable thing to wear in their bible and they hate everybody who is not an “inmate” and who partakes their meals and will be subjected to a series of abusive words and to some extent, like mine, be branded a not too Christian name (in my case, they referred to me as a small dog).
In all this, instead of telling them what their scriptures say, (we are all an image of God), the administration will expect you to understand and tolerate them and feel very happy and privileged to be in contact with the “inmates”. This notwithstanding, the casual workers and the visitors are not supposed, under whatever circumstances, to eat a morsel from the food cooked within the village and thus the employees have to keep eating in hiding and stealing food to sustain themselves through the day.
As I left, I knew of only one thing, NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER…some people/institutions preach water and drink beer……