By Mary Olenick
October 2001

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Little children have a way of brightening my day with their simplicity, fun loving attitude, warm smiles and honesty. If I were to close my eyes and listen to them at play, I would think I was back in Canada. Children are the same everywhere.

At St. Patrick’s parish here in Malawi, there are many children. They have few toys, but they are incredibly creative with their games and the toys they make from clay, or the things they find (usually in the garbage pit). I have watched one little boy make a car from a juice carton, with bottle caps for wheels, and even the driver made from clay. He then found a long stick to attach to the car and push it along.

Another little boy made an entire house from clay, including all the rooms in the house, with furniture and people. He even made dishes for the table. It truly was a piece of art.

The children come to my door every day, wanting me to read a story, or to color or draw a picture with them. Sometimes they are hoping for a treat of cookies, crackers, bananas, bubble gum or whatever I happen to have, and they aren’t shy about asking. Sometimes they just want to sit and visit with me on my front step; that’s when my lap isn’t big enough.

I remember once, when I was in a down mood, little two and a half year old Monica—who used to be terrified of us mzungus (white people) when we first arrived in Malawi—came over to me. She took my face in her little hands and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Sometimes the children and I sit together and blow soap bubbles, or I let them talk or sing into my tape recorder. They love to hear their own voices.


(Mark 10:14)

When they see me coming up the road (returning home from Mzuzu, the nearest large city), it’s usually a race to see who reaches me first to help carry my bags and umbrella.

In the back of my house there are large metal drums left behind by the workmen. At times, I will hear singing and drumming going on. It’s the kids. One or two will be sitting on the drums, drumming, and the rest go around and around in a circle dancing and singing.

With these children, I am always reminded of the passage where Jesus blesses the children and says, “Let the little children come to me...for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

I also have the privilege of working with disabled children at St. Magdalena Centre in the parish. There are 22 children at the centre with a variety of disabilities. I teach them English and sewing skills, and tutor them in Mathematics. We also color, draw, and sing songs together.

I marvel at their little community; the love, caring and support for each other is ever present. Jesus is among them! They are lively, happy children who enjoy having fun and spending time together. They also have their own daily chores to help keep the Centre running smoothly.

The children continue to be a wonderful blessing for me. They have welcomed me with love and have made me feel very much a part of their lives. Through them, my life has been enriched. They have shown me the joy and peace of Christ in the midst of their suffering. They have many obstacles to overcome but their lives continue to be full of hope.

Besides her work with children, Scarboro missioner Mary Olenick assists the Rosarian Sisters in Rumphi, Malawi, with projects for improving the lives of women.

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