« Even during difficult times, children still feel happy because they have to fight to live. It is precisely in that struggle of life that children no longer think about their difficulties: they appreciate what they have and play joyfully. »
These words of Agnes Lali Milla were still resonating in our minds when we left the simple veranda of an orphanage that she established six years ago. Mama Agnes, as she is called, is a former nun who remained unmarried and decided to devote her full life to the love and care of disadvantaged children on the island of Sumba. Now there are 47 children cared for in the Hati Nurani (Conscient Heart) orphanage. Their backgrounds are diverse – orphans, children from extremely poor families, sick children, abandoned or entrusted to the orphanage by troubled parents… They all found home, hope and motherly love in Hati Nurani.
« The love I have for the unlucky, neglected, disadvantaged children had brought me to this vocation for life.
I opened gardens, planted rice, corn, sweet potatoes, vegetables; I borrowed someone else’s land for us to grow our crops. And thanks God, we are always blessed with enough harvest, which we consume ourselves, and sell the rest. We breed domestic animals: pigs and chickens, for sale. We produce snacks and drinks, my children sell them at school and in the neighbourhood every day. All kids do some kind of work, according to their abilities and age, I do not teach them to be beggars but to live off their own sweats!
Every day has its own challenge: from taking care of food, paying school fees and buying equipment, to transporting children.
The weight of taking care of them is not a burden for me, but a challenge to tackle. Hard work and gratitude are my main values, which I teach to the children as well. I want them to become religious, independent and hard-working people. »
Daily activities at the orphanage begin at five in the morning, when children wake up, then start the day with praying, cooking, studying and packing to school. After breakfast, Agnes then drives little children to their school, and picks them up later using an old pick-up car. After school and lunch, they take a break and have time for a short nap. Then they work in the garden, take care of livestock, clean the house, cook and eat dinner. study and close the day with evening prayers. « From our money, I also pay for a private English tutor. My time is not enough to help them study, because I have to work to get money for all their needs. If I sell pigs on the market, I have to sit there or sometimes even do door to door. «
“My biggest dream is to receive regular financial help in order to be able to anticipate the future. I want to provide safety to my unlucky children who deserve a bright future ».