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Sister Ángela Vicenta Gutiérrez, Sister Hospitaller in the Province of France, tells us all about this project of occupational therapy workshop. Sister Ángela has been a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than 35 years. Specifically, she’s responsible for the ergotherapy workshop which consists in providing manual occupational therapy to the mentally ill in Kintambo – Kinshasa (DRC).
All human life is sacred, whatever its condition. Every human being has the right to a decent life. However, sadly we observe that some people, because of their extreme poverty, are subject to stigmatization, isolation, marginalization, and even exclusion. The precarious conditions to which several groups of disadvantaged people in society are subjected challenge our conscience. In the name of human dignity, we feel it is our duty to do something to help these vulnerable people.
As Sisters Hospitaller of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our mission is to provide holistic care to people who are sick and disabled, whether physically or mentally, with a special preference for the poorest of the poor.
In Kinshasa, through the «TELEMA» mental health center we are able to faithfully respond to our charism. Indeed, in addition to meeting the aspirations of the Congregation, the center is a response to the invitation of the local Church which, during the diocesan Synod of Bishops launched an appeal to religious congregations working in the area of mental health and all individuals with a special charism for those suffering from mental disorders. It is also a psychiatric institution which is active in the care and prevention of mental illness and promotes the social and professional reintegration of disabled individuals in its care.
In a big city like Kinshasa, with a population of over 15 million people in extremely precarious conditions, such a facility is an opportunity for disadvantaged populations to access quality care at an affordable price. Given the growing number of people who come to the «TELEMA-MATETE» center for consultations, in 2009 we opened another mental care center called «TELEMA- KINTAMBO».
The opening of this center reflects our wish to meet the health needs of the local population, but also to reach out to the sick people who come from the western side of the great metropolis of Kinshasa.
Through this new mental health center, “TELEMA”, located in Kintambo, in addition to caring for the sick and needy (suffering from psychiatric disorders and epilepsy), we offer customized care to each patient, making sure that they are welcomed and integrated into society in general and into their families in particular, through awareness campaigns, education and training.
On the social level, through the occupational therapy workshop of the “TELEMA-KINTAMBO” mental health center, we offer handicraft training, cutting and sewing and literacy courses to people with mental disabilities. We have also opened our training courses to single mothers in the neighborhood. This center is training more than 25 people to become tailors. Two professional seamstresses were hired to carry out this project, thanks to the support of a benefactor. One of them teaches sewing to the patients in the morning and the other teaches jobless single mothers in the afternoon so that they can learn to be independent and earn an honest living. Literacy classes are given to the children of the workshop every Tuesday and Friday.
This social program for the population of Kinshasa is possible only thanks to the support of our benefactors. A Spanish lady, Immaculada, as well as an association of French women, provide financial support to pay for the teachers and for the assistance to these vulnerable people. We express our deepest gratitude to them for their generosity and their involvement, which play an essential role in the success of our project!