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Sharings - Starcross' Seasonal Newsletter

Sharings - Spring 2003

A reflection from brother Toby

PEACE SEEMS TO BE UP TO YOU AND ME

As the battle for Iraq ends, has the war with the Third Word begun? Our government felt threatened by Iraq. Now, much of the world feels threatened by the United States. Here at Starcross, in our work with other cultures, we sense this very keenly. Although there were widely differing views on the wisdom of this conflict, we Americans are perhaps all together in facing the consequences. What do we do now?

Forty years ago a dying man, John XXIII, responded to the Cuban missile crisis and the possibility of a war which could have destroyed millions of lives. He wrote Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) and addressed it to all people of good will. Pope John urged two things. First, respect for the human rights, including economic rights, of all people. Second, the need for a multilateral world authority addressing "the common good." He saw the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations as steps in those directions.

Much of the world believes our government has put itself forward as the supreme unilateral global authority. In a dramatic resignation, one of the State Department's career diplomats stated, "our current course will bring instability and danger, not security." He asked if oderint dum metuant ("Let them hate us so long as they fear us."), a favorite saying of the Emperor Caligula, had become our motto. There will always be those who endorse that principle. Cicero quoted it and was rebuked in the Roman Senate. I am sure some of today's leaders see nothing wrong with it. Is there much an ordinary person can do about this state of affairs?

In an April 26, 2003 New York Times op/ed piece the Dalai Lama observed that "These are times when destructive emotions like anger, fear and hatred are giving rise to devastating problems throughout the world." The solution lies, he believes, with the individual leading a peaceful, meaningful life. "If humanity is to survive, happiness and inner balance are crucial." I agree. But, for me, it is not enough.

At this time, when our nation is not perceived to be reaching out to those parts of the world suffering from disease, poverty, unemployment, it is important for individual Americans to reach out. When much of the world looks on us as insisting on doing things our way, and for our benefit, it is necessary for ordinary citizens to demonstrate that the opinions and needs of people from other cultures are respected. It is not easy to find individual avenues of compassion and cooperation but I have come to believe I cannot invest in the future of those I know and love without investing in the future of those I don't know -- and may even shrink from.

We are establishing our homes for AIDS orphans in South Africa on land once owned by Mahatma Gandhi's peaceful community. It is a few miles from where he was physically thrown off a train for being in a "Whites Only" car. He later said it was at that violent moment of attempted humiliation he understood the need to channel the energy behind his anger into other powerful strategies that respected all people. Today, at that spot, there is a statue of Gandhi. The name of the man who threw him off the train has been forgotten.

UGANDA: The children in our House of Hope near Kampala are flourishing. The program is 5 years old and is caring for 102 AIDS orphans, providing a loving home, education and security until they are productive adults. Most of our children are teenagers now. Some will continue on to higher education. Others will be trained in practical skills.

When sister Julie visits this summer, she will be looking toward the future with each child. Also, plans will be laid for a cottage industry which will give all the young people valuable work experience as well as helping to pay for their education.

MIRRIAM CELE

One of the greatest assets in South Africa is our KwaZulu Natal Director. We have never encountered such a "can-do" attitude! Mirriam is a remarkable woman, trained in Theology and Social Work. Her fine reputation and contacts in the community, have opened many doors. She is the founder of a grassroots effort by grannies and others that provides after-school care, tutoring, food, etc. to over 1,500 needy local children. She sees our program of providing a long-term home to orphans as a much needed service. We knew that Mirriam had received the prestigious Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Award but in her modesty she hadn't mentioned why. Her daughter explained that during the extreme violence preceding the first multi-racial election in 1994 Mirriam had walked into a particularly dangerous place in KwaMashu township where there was much shooting and killing. She told both sides to stop. And they did!

QUILT RAFFLE FOR A HOUSE: Our friend Sharon O'Reilly's quilting group is donating a handmade "Spinning Stars" quilt to be raffled next December. The proceeds are going to pay for the purchase of a house for a family of our AIDS orphans in South Africa — about $18,500. This is the sort of project we love - simple, homey, neighbor-to-neighbor. If you and your friends are game for some similar activity, perhaps to provide an $800 sponsorship (it takes 20 sponsorships to support a family), please contact sister Julie.

HELPERS BADLY NEEDED: As we increase our international activities there is a need for more help at home. Please take a minute to look over this list and see if there's some slot you, or someone you know, might help us fill.

1. Personal/Administrative Assistant to help sister Marti part-time in Santa Rosa. Volunteer or paid or a little of both. Flexible hours, often working at home. Projects would include website help, filling out forms, research, help with Africa projects, etc.

2. Farm Caretaker (year round, part-time) - paid, housing included, possibly for a couple. Field work, machinery, maintenance, etc. Optional full-time paid work Thanksgiving to mid-December.

3. Child Care - live in with 11 and 13 year-old in Santa Rosa. Sunday night to Friday morning. Mid-November through mid-December. (We're planning ahead for the wreath season!) Volunteer or paid.

4. Landscaping - volunteer project for a group. Plan and do the work to beautify some areas at Starcross. We'll buy the plants and supplies.

5. College Intern (Northern California) to help brother Toby with international and research projects. Any expenses paid.

Our Andrew has been selected as one of four to represent the children of the United States at a month-long international "village" of 11-year-olds in Denmark this July. The point of the experience, other than having a lot of fun, is to help improve future world cooperation and understanding.

 NEW HOPE FOR 100 AIDS ORPHANS IN SOUTH AFRICA

People often think of sister Marti as the administrator, “the practical one” at Starcross. But our venture in South Africa is about people. Specifically, little people — the children of our neighbors. Kids who find themselves alone and destitute. And, as those who know Marti will attest, she is a great people person. She just returned from arranging the second stage of our South African homes for AIDS orphans in KwaZuluNatal with such success that we have advanced the time schedule and by the time you read this sister Julie will be in KZN putting our first 24 kids into permanent families of 6-8 and housed in new safe homes with trained foster mothers. Why 24? That is all the sponsors we have at present. As more money comes in we will add children up to 100. The following is an excerpt from one of Marti’s e-mail reports.

Mirriam [our local director] had invited the new 14 children we will be taking to meet me. Meanwhile, she was running here and there, apparently distressed about something, and then disappeared into a room with a bunch of people for the better part of an hour. Finally, she came out and said that word had gotten out that we were caring for orphans and over 30 had shown up, so she had been interviewing them to see if they qualified. Apparently they all did. So I went in to meet them, and we explained that although we were planning to care for 100 children, we were only able to add 14 more at the present time, but we would take their information and as we were able we would take them. I took all their pictures.

Then in came a grannie with 7 children trailing behind her. She seemed very old and could hardly get around walking with a cane. They all sat down and Mirriam began interviewing them in Zulu. She sent one child to sit by the door, and as she asked questions of them and of the grannie she had them change seats. When she was finished, she turned to me and said, "The child by the door is just a neighbor. The other six are this woman's grandchildren, 2 from each of 3 daughters, all of whom have died of AIDS. The first two qualify - both their parents have died. The second two (two beautiful, tiny girls) do not qualify. Their mother died but their father is alive and away at school. He will finish one day and get a job and come back and take care of his children. The third two do not qualify. Their mother died but they have a father, who has run away. If we take these children and educate them and give them a chance in life he will come back and want everything they have. But Gozololo [an after-school program Mirriam founded] will help this grannie and the 4 children we cannot take.” Because Mirriam had been speaking to the grannie in Zulu, I assumed she did not speak English, and I said, "But what happens when the grannie dies?" The grannie replied, "Yes, what will happen when I die? These children will be on their own."

It was an emotionally draining experience. I had come to experience the joy of rescuing 14 children. In addition, I am experiencing something of the avalanche of need. I learned today that there is no health care for the destitute, no unemployment insurance, and no welfare. Nothing.

 

THE STORIES OF TWO OF OUR NEIGHBOR'S KIDS ....

 Last July Thobile Khumalo's life fell apart. Both parents died after long AIDS illnesses which had drained their savings. There were no relatives for her to turn to. AIDS had killed several aunts and uncles. Fourteen-year-old Thobile and her nine year old brother dropped out of school for lack of fees. A kindly neighbor let the children sleep in her crowded 2-room shack. There are 27 people living, and dying, there. This intelligent and articulate child spent her days trying to watch over her brother and keep both of them out of everyone's way. She could often be seen sitting outside the shack, hunched over, crying.

In January Thobile learned that things would soon get better. New friends in the United States would pay for her to go back to school, and would help provide food for the household. Now she has learned that she and her brother will move into a new house with a Starcross foster mother to care for them. She can go back to the business of healing, studying and growing up as children are supposed to do.

Thobile is one of the first ten children in South Africa we began sponsoring in January. Her story is not unique. Even more dramatic is the tale of our youngest, four-year-old Themba, who was discovered wandering around a settlement when he was just a toddler. Different families would feed and shelter him but no one knew whose he was or where he belonged. Eventually he was rescued by our director Mirriam Cele and a bit of his background pieced together. His mother had died suddenly. An older sister, only 8 at the time, lost track of Themba and his wandering began. They are reunited now and will begin a stable life together within one of our families.

 

 

 
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