Where are they now? Part 2

Catholic Digest shares the latest news on individuals previously featured in this column

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By Julie Rattey


Since February of 2006, Catholic Digest has told narrative stories of individuals whose lives have been changed for the better through their interaction with a Religious Order or organization. This month, we continue to share updates on how some of these individuals are doing today.

The Missionaries of Africa

In November 2006, we introduced Evaristo and Mubanga, two teenagers in Zambia who pursued their interest in cooking with help from Father Joseph Braun of the Missionaries of Africa, who enabled them to cook for the parish convent.

It was a typical night in 2006 when Evaristo finished work for the night as a cook for the New Fairmount Hotel in Livingstone, Zambia, and caught a taxi for the ride home. He couldn’t have known it was a night that would change his life.

 

The taxi got into an accident, and Evaristo found himself in the local hospital for weeks. Worse still, he somehow contracted tuberculosis. Due to concerns in the industry about transmitting the disease, Evaristo would not be able to pursue his culinary career. Nevertheless, he didn’t give up.

“Accepting the situation [early on] perhaps helped me in facing the challenges that come with such illnesses, such as the discrimination associated with the disease itself, but thank God I managed to pull through,” he writes.

Drawing on previous non-culinary work experience, Evaristo interviewed with a local non-governmental organization and was hired as a paralegal officer in charge of the group’s prison program. Though struggling to make ends meet, Evaristo still enjoys the job, he writes, “because I am helping a lot of people who unfortunately are unable to hire the services of a lawyer when in need of one.”

He also has an eye on the future, hoping to go to law school, marry, have a family, and, one day, pursue cooking again.

“I still miss being in the kitchen,” he admits.

Despite the challenges he’s faced, Evaristo is hopeful for the future. “I have challenges of how to meet my daily bills, which at the end of each month seem so unbearable, but am still able to find joy in at least helping someone out there with a legal problem. That’s where my joy is!” he writes.

Evaristo is occasionally in touch with Mubanga, who is working as a chef in a lodge in the town of Chingola. The hard work feels worthwhile, Mubanga says, when people compliment the food he prepares.

Hard work has paid off in another way for Mubanga. This year, he finally saved up enough money to marry his longtime girlfriend, Angela. The two had plans to wed as far back as 2006.

“She’s a good lady, a very understanding person,” he says, a smile evident in his voice. “If I’m sick or low or I fight with my boss, she always cools me down.”

The two will doubtless have future challenges to face, but Mubanga puts his faith in God.
“I’m still surviving,” he says, “because of Him.”

Though Father Joseph Braun is now living in the United States, Evaristo and Mubanga are still in touch with him by telephone. Braun says that he is proud of the young men and how they have coped with challenges they face. The praise is mutual.

“When I grew up, [Father Joseph] was that father figure in my life,” writes Evaristo. “He has been a parent when I needed one, he has been a friend when I need one, a listener when I needed to be listened to, and a shoulder to lean on, but above all he taught me to be me and preached the word of God not so much in words, but in the way he lived and cared for me and many others.”

The Columban Fathers/PREDA (People’s Recovery, Empowerment, and Development Assistance) Foundation, Inc.

In March 2007, we told the story of Isabel and Irene (names have been changed for privacy), twin sisters from the Philippines who suffered sexual abuse as children and were sold to pimps by Mariefe (name has been changed), the woman who called herself their mother. Through the help of a neighbor, they were rescued by PREDA, just before they were scheduled to be shipped off to Japan for a life of prostitution. At the time we published our story, Irene and Isabel were 18 and attending college, after having been cared for at the PREDA Home for Girls.

For many brides, the day they get married is the happiest day of their life. But for Isabel, it’s the second.

“The happiest day of my life was when I was rescued by Father Shay from the traffickers and that awful life,” she says of PREDA’s founder, Father Shay Cullen.

“It was a simple but beautiful wedding,” writes Father Shay, who celebrated the marriage. Friends, family, and PREDA staff were gathered, dressed in their best, to watch Isabel, clad in a white gown, walk down the flower-draped aisle to join her soon-to-be husband, Arturo. Irene, her twin sister, was a bridesmaid.

Isabel now has a healthy baby boy and plans to shortly resume her college studies, which she hopes will lead to a career as a social worker. Irene was also in college, writes Father Shay, but suspended her studies to care for Mariefe, whose health has been poor. Despite the fact that Mariefe had sold the girls, they consider it their duty to care for her, Father Shay says. Irene is currently working in the PREDA Fair Trade department and is supervising and assisting other girls rescued from traffickers and sex clubs to attend classes in literacy and garment-making. She is a “powerful inspiration,” to the girls she helps, Father Shay says, and gives them hope that they, too, can overcome their pasts and live better lives.

“I want to study business management,” says Irene. “I can see that I have a talent for this and it’s helping so many others like me.”  CD

Photos:
Evaristo and Mubanga - photos courtesy of Evaristo and Tommy Shamakamba, JR
Isabel and Irene - photos courtesy of Father Shay Cullen

Managing Editor Julie Rattey

Julie Rattey is a Boston-based writer and editor. She is the author of If I Grew Up in Nazareth, available from 23rdPublications.com.