From the EO of Mercy Works Inc.
Welcome to the first edition of our new magazine, The Bilum. You may be wondering why we chose this name. In Papua New Guinea, bilums or hand-woven string bags, have been crafted and used by people for hundreds of years to carry a range of items.
In her recently launched book, Crossings in Mercy: The Story of the Sisters of Mercy Papua New Guinea 1956-2006, Sister Tess Flaherty says that women use bilums to carry their “most precious and essential” belongings, “first, and above all” their baby, then garden food or firewood. Tess goes on to describe the bilum as a feminine symbol of a
mother’s “enduring love and care for her family”.
In this way, the bilum is a powerful symbol for us at Mercy Works, not only because of our close connection with the people of Papua New Guinea. The bilum conveys a strong message about what we are trying to achieve through this magazine – to carry and communicate the “precious and essential” stories of the people involved in the many projects supported by Mercy Works. Through these projects mercy and justice are woven.
In February this year I travelled to Papua New Guinea, where, not only was I moved by the many faces of poverty experienced by the people, but also the remarkable energy and commitment of those who work in projects funded by Mercy Works.
My journey took me to Kiunga in the remote Western Province, where Sisters Maureen Sexton and Cathy Corbett are working with West Papuan refugees living in Kiunga and on the Fly River.
In Wewak, the capital of the East Sepik Province, I spent some days with Sister Kaye Bolwell and the young women currently in the Mercy Education Project. At Goroka, in the Eastern Highlands Province, where Sisters Gaye Lennon, Theresia Boyek, Maryanne Kolkia and Robina Einde work in the Mercy PNG Project, I was exposed to the
increasing problem of urban poverty.
Since February, reports have arrived from Sister Anila Isaac in Pakistan, with feedback on the slum school in Mughalabad, and from the Notre Dame Institute of Education in Karachi, where Sister Margaret Madden is the Director.
Recently, Mr Charlie Barnett of Rotary Mosman, returned from Timor Leste with news that the Fohorem water project has commenced. Sister Helen Nolen is alive with information about the newly-formed Feto Fitun Fohorem Women’s group, and of the renovation of the building for which Mercy Works provided funding.
In Australia, the Community Links Project in Sydney and Wollongong continues to train and support volunteers who assist refugees as they settle in Australia. The agency is also supporting a pilot project called Classroom Connect, an intensive tutoring and mentoring programme for refugee students entering the mainstream school system.
As I reflect on the activities of Mercy Works, several insights emerge. The projects we support are addressing, in no small way, aspects of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). You will remember that in 2000, 189 countries, including Australia, signed the Millennium Declaration which aimed to halve world poverty by 2015. From this declaration came the eight MDGs:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Develop a global partnership for development.
Grounded in Gospel values and inspired by Catherine McAuley, Mercy Works is committed to effecting transformation. As you read about our projects in the pages that follow, may you be amazed by what is unfolding. The future of the agency is dependant on galvanising partners who are committed to making a difference. We need you to be committed with us in effecting this transformation.
Blessings to you all.
Rosemary Carroll RSM, Executive Officer