IN the town of Yendi in northern Ghana, children who are born with birth defects are said to be evil.
They are “bad omens”, and when tragedy strikes the village, it’s the unhealthy children that are blamed.
They are banished, thrown on the street, fed poison and left to die.
Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love Sister Stan Therese Mario Mumuni has dedicated the past decade of her missionary work to rescuing these children.
In August 2014, Sr Stan helped establish the Nazareth Home for God’s Children – a safe haven in the Archdiocese of Yendi where abandoned children are given shelter, nutritious meals, health care and education.
“These children must be given the opportunity to live,” Sr Stan, who was in Brisbane this month raising awareness for her mission, said.
“These people (who are throwing away) the children have no faith.
“They believe in ‘the gods’ and ‘the spirits’; so they see these children as evil.
“And that was my reason to go ahead and find a place where I can rescue these children to give them life and to love them, take care of them, educate them, and to see how I can try to give them medical support to get some of their deformity problems solved.”
Some of their conditions include hydrocephalus (excessive water in the brain); Down syndrome; epilepsy; spinal damage; and blindness and deafness.
“Children who cannot walk by three or four years and above are considered a bad omen to the community and to the family,” Sr Stan said.
“Twins are also forbidden.”
Along with the other ailing children, twins are believed to be harbouring “bad spirits”.
“If a child is dumb and deaf they think this child is communicating with the ‘gods’ – so if there’s any misfortune in the community, or in the village, they will attribute it to such a child,” Sr Stan said.
The Nazareth Home for God’s Children is trying to turn around hundreds of years of this sinister practice.
“It is difficult,” Sr Stan said. “We have to educate the (villagers) as well as rescue the children.
“We have the (Catholic) priests who are preaching to these people and talking to them to be able to convince them, to be able to educate them to accept that all these children are created in the image and likeness of God.
“It will take time to be able to get these people to believe in our faith, in our religion, because these people are already blind in their way of thinking.”
Sr Stan has rescued some children who are now at the top of their class in primary-school education.
Her hope is that the Church and its parishioners around the world would help to educate these children at a high school and tertiary level.
“In the house you can see some of the children saying ‘I want to be a lawyer’, ‘I want to be a teacher’, ‘I want to be a doctor’,” Sr Stan said with a smile.
“There’s one girl I have now, called Precious, who has one arm amputated, and she said she wanted to become a doctor.
“But they need the education, and that is my mission here.
“My mission is to get them education – to ask the good people of Australia to please come to my aid.
“I have many needs, and with their help I believe I will meet those needs, like building the vocational school for the children, a primary school for the clever children, and a clinic to take care of their medical needs.
“Most of the time I’m struggling to reach a hospital that is one hour and forty minutes away from us and I have a child dying in my hands because of a lack of medical help.
“It takes me time to stand on the street and wait for hours for a car to transport me to the hospital to save lives.”
For more information on how to help Sr Stan visit www.catholicmission.org.au/our-work/ghana