“Father, there is no need to be anxious. You fear because of uncertainties. We as refugees, experienced these uncertainties from the very first moment we started running away from our countries. When we took our first step out from our lands, we did not know the future. Those were dark uncertain moments where we lost everything, but God saved us. So, we are still living. We do not know what our future will be, but one thing is certain, that is we know that God will care for us. Even when we die; we die with these thoughts that God loves and cares for us.” (Refugee Charite Lobo to Fr. Lasantha de Abrew, SJ, of Jesuit Refugee Services East Africa)
Father Lasantha de Abrew, SJ, shared the message above with his colleagues at Jesuit Refugee Services during a meeting to discuss how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We were so inspired, we wanted to know more about this refugee who exhibits such faith. Here is his story, as told by Fr. Lasantha:
Charite Lobo was born in 1989 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009, he was a primary school teacher, and the war between the tribes of Bahema-Nord and Walendu had intensified. Charite had to flee Congo, leaving behind his wife, Esther, and two daughters, Lajoie and Plamdi.
After a difficult journey filled with fear and uncertainty, Charite reached Condo, a town near Lake Albert of Uganda. He spent nearly three years in Uganda in utter loneliness, not knowing the fates of his wife and two daughters.
In 2012, he made his way to Kakuma Camp, the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) settlement in Kenya, near the border with South Sudan. He joined the JRS staff in 2014 as a day care assistant for children with special needs. In recognition of his selfless dedication and skillful listening to children with disabilities, his JRS superiors promoted him to lead trainer, training teachers.
Charite’s wife, Esther, joined him in Kakuma with their second child, Plamdi, after a long and arduous journey. Their older daughter, who had been with a family member, could not be traced, as she and the relative also ran away. “We still don’t know what happened to her,” Charite recalled with tears. “We have lost her, my first born.”
Charite says that his commitment to children with special needs is because of his younger daughter.
“Plamdi is disabled; her vision is impaired,” Charite says, explaining that she lost one eye completely as a baby. “She was a healthy child at birth, but within six months she had meningitis and lost her vision. From the day she arrived in Kakuma, I have been trying my best with doctors to restore the sight of her other eye.”
Plamdi had surgery last year, but the doctors were unable to restore her sight. The resources available to them are too limited. But Charite and Esther have not lost hope.
“They told me that with more medical attention in Nairobi it will be possible, but I am a refugee. When will I have that chance?” Then he became silent.
Regaining his voice, Charite said, “I know the pain of a parent with a child having disabilities. I understand the pain of my daughter, who is unable to see the world. I do my best to help these children to have hope for the future.”
Charite enumerates three contributions JRS has made in his life. “First, it has helped me by employing me, lessened my stress and helped me to cope with the utter loneliness of a refugee,” he said. “JRS has provided me the opportunity to care passionately for children and persons with disabilities, and in return I am able to care for my daughter more affectionately. That is the second. Finally, JRS has empowered me with various training programs. Because of JRS, I have dignity and hope.”
Please keep Kakuma Camp in your prayers. The first COVID-19 victim was diagnosed on May 24.