Monday, April 12, 2021

The Seeds of Hope

 By Mereani Nailevu


Being in this challenging situation we now call the ‘new normal’, where life is full of uncertainty over fears of job security, longer working hours, the vulnerability of contracting the virus, the sorrow of not being able to give proper respect to those who have died, and dealing with the challenges of home schooling, among others, has led me to do a lot of thinking and questioning. ‘How can I be of help to these people?

Despite being confronted with this new normal, the Columban community (priests, lay missionaries, staff, benefactors) work as a team to respond to the needs of the people within the community. The pandemic and resulting lock-downs have provided the time and opportunity to introduce backyard gardening to every household. Square foot gardening and preparing their own growing areas and sowing seeds brings hope to these families, and gives them a space to experience nature, life satisfaction, quality of life and a sense of community. Square foot gardening has also helped families gain a sense of security by being productive amid this pandemic. Many would agree that gardening, aside from providing fresh, organic food, has a therapeutic effect of improving mental health. 

When I visit the communities, I can observe how their back-yard gardening has brought them a lot of confidence. Although some families have limited space, they utilize their talents by using whatever available resources at hand to grow their plants indoors. For example, rather than creating a whole garden, they recycle empty bottles and containers in which to plant vegetables. 

Despite being in this COVID-19 reality, family bonds are getting stronger, working and supporting each other by gardening in order to put food on the table. It also makes people appreciate the importance of Mother Earth and how we are connected. Hands-on activities like gardening also encourage children to participate in a way that will enhance their learning. 

We are all affected by this “New Reality” but somehow, we all carry it differently. Some are deeply hurt, some are scared, some are depressed, some are thriving. Sometimes it has drained me emotionally, feeling trapped, with questions running through my mind on how I can respond to the people who are crying, to the people who are dying of hunger. How can I respond when all seems hopeless?

Helping people in the community brings a lot of insights and reminds me of the call to
pray - to pray individually, pray as a family, pray as a community, remembering what Jesus said in the Gospel
‘for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am in the midst of them.’ (Matt 18:20) 

And I do believe that it is also a battle of soul. It challenges me to reach out to people not just to help them physically, but also to allow them to participate in the love we have come to know through Jesus. 

Mereani (back left) with other Columban Missionaries



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