School Sisters of Notre Dame – Africa

Transforming the World through Education


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A Broken Life Fashioned by Love

This reflection is from Magdalene Umoh, a Novice doing her apostolic time at the Orthopedic Training Center in Nsawam.

Can you imagine the power of love breaking through death? The ultimate of all gifts to any individual is genuine love expressed in the light of Jesus’ love for us on the cross. I feel strongly convinced that no matter ones physical or psychological limitation, all we need do is to love and love well. Never in our life should we dream of denying any one love, for when denied, we deny giving life as co-creator with God. I feel touched, moved and passionate to share a story about a young girl Afia whose life I have shared and witnessed God truly as a mystery these past months. Afia was born at the age of 29 weeks with club feet deformity domineering at that time. Afia who was rescued by Hanukkah orphanage Sunyani was brought to OTC Nsawam for rehabilitation. She had other deformities that were unknown at birth but began to manifest as her days and weeks pass by in OTC. Afia is apparently 3 months old and has brought forth signs of cerebral palsy and was hydrocephalic which touched us and drew our compassionate heart to sort for a better and healthy future for her. A couple of scans have been carried out on her and she has eventually been diagnosed to have very little brain for survival. She is blind and she could possibly be speech impaired and mentally retarded with a hole in the spine which would leave her in an intensive care paralyzed for the rest of her being. In all of this, she has no biological parents to support her during this hard reality of her life. Though Afia was very sick and septic about six weeks ago, she has lived to see this day being nurtured by our love, care, support and prayers. Sitting in silence to ponder what life holds for this child, I blinked my eyes in tears, unable to grasp but suddenly a voice whispered to me that some thing deep in all of us yearns for God’s beauty and we can always find it no matter where we are and who is involved. I dare not fail to mention Catherine, a young mother from the orphanage who has been with Afia all this time, leaving her kids in the care of another person for about 9 weeks now. She has contributed life to this child by her motherly love and affection, May God bless her richly. Walking with Afia during this hard time has revealed to me that we become authentic and saintly people when we lay down our lives for others in love as we in OTC in one way or the other have truly been a sign of Bread that is Blessed Broken and Shared in the life of this child. I have no doubt there were times the demands may have consumed us in doubt and fear, conveying levels of emotions and feelings yet, our Faith kept us going be cause we trusted in the power of love as Christ has commanded. Still, we are left with multiple questions to wonder and ask WHY? ‘Can you for once imagine yourself living with very little brain in such a miserable condition for life? How then do we take life for granted? Neglecting the minute’s ingredients that make life worth living? Life though full of risk and uncertainties, provides us with precious opportunities to step back and experience the divine in all people, all thing and all situation no matter how hopeless the situation might seem. The journey through life may sometimes throw us into the clouds of fear, doubt, regrets, imaginative thinking and reasoning especially in this our on going contemporary world of scientific and technological research. Yet, in the midst of all this, the nature of the Divine can never be fully comprehended by any one despite the advancement. I have no regret to say God bring certain people and situation our way even when we least expect nor feel reluctant to embrace. God will always gift us with the tools and graces we most need to carry on the task. This experience so much bespeaks a communal faith journey that involves a difficult and painful learning process on the long road of discipleship. As we travel along the path of life, let us not forget that though the challenges of life may some times place us beyond the reach of human being especially when the future seems to look bleak and hopeless, it can never place us beyond the reach of God who loves us so tenderly and so dearly.

Meg and Afia

Novice Meg and Afia. She has stolen many hearts!


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Trip home

Sitting in Amsterdam waiting for the second of three flights. Sooootired but can’t sleep on planes. The one today felt very cramped. And I can’t believe with all the movie choices there wasn’t one that I really wanted to see. I watched an Indian one with subtitles that was good and started to watch “Ted” but it was kind of stupid.

Got to visit a bit with Rosanne. She came to Ghana for the Area Leaders meeting


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Last full day

I spent part of this morning trying to organize a bit more. I don’t know why it always looks like I don’t try even when I do. I moved my things into the little office they have so I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way.

There is a little boy who Liz calls her grandchild because she knew his father when he was a child here at the center. He is a “little” spoiled by the sisters. He wanted me to play computer games with him. I found him a few he could play but I had to watch. so the morning went quickly.

On Sunday they have the main meal here at 1 PM. Cecilia BBQ’d beef steaks, we had rice, veggies and salad that Liz prepared and then ice cream and chocolate cake made by Cecilia. YUM. Brother comes up for lunch, Fr. Wilfred comes and today they had Meg’s mom and myself as well. So it was a nice group.

Meg and her Mom went to the parish for Mass today. On the way home someone gave her a big container of palm wine. Haven’t had that too often in the past 20 years. It was the morning tapping so it was fresh and sweet. I’m glad I got some before I left!

I think I wrote about the alligators they have here but I don’t think I put the picture up so I will do that in the next post.


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Saturday

Left Nsawam at 7 AM to go to Accra. I had a meeting with Mary Kerber to get caught up on the procedures that are being put in place for some of the work that I do. But first stop on our route was the airport. Meg is a novice who has been in Nsawam during her apostolic phase of the Novitiate. She has been helping at the Orthopedic Center and is doing a great job. Her mother was coming from Nigeria for a short visit so it was very exciting to be able to be there with her to greet her mother. I love airports in the arrival hall. So much happiness.

From the airport they took me to the Provincial House and so Meg’s mother got to see everyone there. I think it is very good for her to see where Meg has been living with her own eyes.

Vic and I gave Mary a summary of the Development Meeting and then we were able to cover all the other business. So it was very good to have the time. Mary took me back to Nsawam. Actually it is more like driving from Ripa to St. Charles. (Only the traffic can get a little worse.)

One of the SVD’s came to our house for a 5:30 Mass. It was very nice…and then we had hamburgers and french fries for supper!

I’m trying to consolidate all my luggage so I don’t have to bring a carryon to the plane.


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Notre Dame Clinic

Immunizations are not fun!

Immunizations are not fun!

Maternity ward with Notre Dame cloth for curtains.

Maternity ward with Notre Dame cloth for curtains.

Wound care

Wound care

Mother and child wait for their turn to be seen.  Love the mother's evident joy in her child.

Mother and child wait for their turn to be seen. Love the mother’s evident joy in her child.

Cecelia consults with Hannah, one of the midwives, at the beginning of the day.

Cecelia consults with Hannah, one of the midwives, at the beginning of the day.

Sometimes Lena even understands sign laguage!

Sometimes Lena even understands sign laguage!

Lena, who knows four languages besides English helps with interpretation for this mother and baby.

Lena, who knows four languages besides English helps with interpretation for this mother and baby.


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Nsawam Notre Dame Clinic

Got to go with S. Cecelia today to the clinic. I had seen pictures before but seeing it in real life was so much better. We went early before the clinic was scheduled to open but even then some patients had arrived. The routine is very orderly even if at times the crowd of people makes it look like it isn’t.

The clinic must keep the notebook in which the history of the patient is recorded. So each folder must be located before the process can begin. This is not the automated system of US clinics. It is often tedious because there may be two people with the same name or one person who has used two different names. Once the folder is located and it is determined whether the patient has insurance, then the patient can be called into the correct room. There is a room for wound care, one for immunizations, two for other medical problems and a place for prenatal and postnatal care.

The maternity building was just finished two years ago but has a nice maternity ward, a delivery room and a room that is used for circumcisions, two overnight beds for patients that need to stay and offices.

The curtains around the beds in the maternity ward are made out of the special cloth that was made for the new province. It looks really nice. On Fridays the staff wear their clothes that are made out of the cloth.

A lot of the patients have malaria. Many suffer from hypertension and a good deal of people suffer from diabetes. Many of the wound care patients are also diabetic.

Cecelia had asked to midwives to let us know if there was a delivery that I could watch, but that didn’t happen until we were gone home for lunch — rats! But I did get to watch a circumcision. It was a little more complicated that I had thought it would be and my heart went out to the little guy. But the midwife was very careful to suture the blood vessels and make a clean margin. So I guess that was the highlight of the day!

Pictures in the next post.