ROHERO, Bujumbura, Burundi, May 9 2015

Rohero is a suburb of Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, where the Sisters of Saint Teresa of Calcutta have their home. These sisters welcome and assist the most desperate. Hard-working and efficient, they seem moved by feelings that do not hide an underlying depression, which must happen to those dedicated to supporting the needy. Motivated by something strong and resolute that cannot be defined, they are special people. I never imagined that someone could be so close to holiness.
We get to Rohero after driving across Bujumbura, normally noisy and animated by unruly traffic and cheerful horn honking, but now eerily silent and emptier than we had ever encountered. It had become a deserted city with an alarming and unnatural silence. The ramshackle blue and white taxi stops in front of the Sister’s Iron Gate, we ring, the gate opens and the car enters the empty courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard is a large mango tree whose shadow always welcomes the “guests” of Rohero: congenial people, always smiling even though they are the most underprivileged. We ring the doorbell and wait. A worried sister opens the door and calls the mother superior, who is a young Indian nun with a sweet expression. She welcomes us and we find our smiles again. We ask if there are any patients to examine. She brings us a child with osteomyelitis of the tibia (a severe infection of the bone), a woman with a fractured femur that did not heal correctly and an old woman with a deformed wrist. The tension is released; the courtyard is repopulated, crowded and lively, as we have been used to seeing over the years. Tomorrow we will examine those patients that need operations at the hospital in Bubanza.
Are you afraid? Tomorrow is a special day as there will be an important event and going out will be dangerous. Every day is special but tomorrow will be particularly momentous. We will see how it goes tomorrow. We leave Rohero and everything seems to have gone back to normal – the fear, violence for the moment has been won over. It is important is carry on “despite” what is going on around us. It’s just logical. To live is to continue in spite of everything as sooner or later all things must end. Nearby there is a school and we can hear children learning something by rote and their voices have a joyful chant.

Pietro Ortensi


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