RANAU: A total of 17 members of the parish Pastoral Care for the Sick, Aged and Needy Ministry made a maiden visit to the Don Bosco Children’s Home at Bundu Tuhan, here, on Oct 13.
Some of the members were there for the first time even though the centre had existed for not less than 50 years!
Before the visit, we found out from Sister-in-Charge, Sr Anne Marie, that there are 60 children living in the hostel whose ages ranged from seven to 17 years old – 13 of whom are 12 years old and below while 47 are in secondary school.
The reason the group needed the detailed age group and gender is because the sponsors wanted to fill up goodie bags with personal items like new t-shirts and shorts, among others, for each occupant of the home.
The parish convoy reached the centre at 10.15am. By then, the children had already finished their daily chores of washing and cleaning. Sr Anne Marie was most delighted to see us, and the children welcomed us with songs and dance.
Sr Anne Marie said she is looking for donations on a yearly basis.
“Especially at the beginning of the school terms when the children need to buy books and pay for school fees,” she said.
Out of sight but not out of mind. We feel love for these children, many of whom lived without the parents’ love and care for most of the time. The team also brought food items such as fresh fruits and other necessities as requested by the caretakers. Unlike before, they now have sponsors who regularly provide meat so the children have a stable diet in their menu.
One of the highlights of the visit was a motivational talk given by member Mary Ann Chew, entitled, “Don’t Be Controlled By These 5 Things”:
- Your past
- Other people’s opinions and judgements
- Limited beliefs you project on yourself
- Relationship – love and connection
- Money – Do not allow your decisions to be controlled by money
We spent a bit more time talking to the children, especially the teenagers who are hungry for guidance and knowledge, pending entry into the working force of the real world. Quite a number of them spent more than six years at the centre.
These children attend classes at the government-run school, SM Bundu Tuhan in the vicinity. Most of them come from broken families that are affected by divorce, single parenting and some are also victims of abuse.
These families are mostly located in rural kampongs (villages) around the area of Kiau District, Papar, Tamparuli, Kota Belud, Keningau, Ranau and in particular, a girl from further away. The girl’s father died when she was very young.
The mother and her relatives abandoned her. Brother Ben found her and brought her back to the centre six years ago. She is now in her teens and needs love and peace of mind.
The centre has limited grounds for expansion. The construction of the hall and hostel was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu some 30 years ago. Maintenance and upkeep of the building is challenging.
Love knows no boundary. Hanging on the walls are some banners from NGOs, associations and Buddhist religious societies who have made donations and sponsorship of other means to the centre.
There are always good Samaritans around to give a helping hand. I also noticed a young man’s photo pinned on the board and found out that he was a regular monthly monetary sponsor from Singapore until his death two years back. Sister remembers him and offers a special memorial mass for him yearly.
Brother Ben in their hearts — always. But most of all, the person that Sister and the children never forget, is the founder of the centre, Brother Martinus JA Snoeren, affectionately known by all as Brother Ben, born on Oct 8, 1929 and was called to the Lord on Feb 13, this year.
His Christian mission started in 1953 and retired in 2014. He spent almost all his 61 years of service in Don Bosco. A little table is placed at the side of the hostel hall with Brother Ben’s kind face in a photo frame in memorial of him.
He was the “Papa” to the children of the centre. He will be forever fondly remembered by all the people who have known him. The children prayerfully remember all his love, comfort and hope he showered on them.
Sr Anne Marie and the five helpers at the centre have their hands full in looking after the children. Aaron, who was personally trained by Brother Ben, is one of the key assistants in the work force.
Sister said he is the “second Brother Ben”, a compliment to his diligence in looking after the centre. Sr Anne Marie and her team worked tirelessly in nurturing the children through prayer intercession, love and care to the best of their ability to deepen the children’s Catholic faith; strengthen their hope and increase their love of God to carry on the legacy of Brother Ben.
Bidding farewell. We left the centre at 12.30pm with mixed feelings. These children are “lucky” to have a place to stay, food for physical health and education to meet their best ability in learning. However, looking into their eyes, one cannot help but feel they lacked the genuine happiness of family support and love.
One of the occupants there, a boy who is finishing his Form Five this year, is very keen to learn music but does not have basic theory knowledge at all. He listens to music and makes do with practising on musical instruments he could get hold of. Some of our male members gave him a pep-talk and left their contact numbers with him in case he needed assistance to pursue a career.
The two hours we stayed with the children made us realise that material goods are just a temporary satisfaction. What they really need is attention and love, especially from their own families. We are looking forward to see the children again in the near future. – By Joan Pang
(The rector for the area, Fr Michael Modoit, had requested us to give a motivation talk to the children.)