“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.”
1. First leg of the journey: THE ROAD
Put together five women who set off loaded with gifts, dreams, and shared hopes and the journey
then becomes an unforgettable adventure.
A spectacular landscape of raw beauty welcomes us boldly; with its greenery of a thousand shades
and an incredibly blue sky.
And right from the sky you begin to love this incredible country. A sky that envelops you, just as the
aromas that penetrate you, reaching even under your skin.
The road that will take us to Shashamane runs along the lake of Hawassa. A golden lake of a
thousand shades. Along the shore with its nooks and crannies, half hidden by the trees and the high
bushes, young people are going for a swim. Groups of women wash linens to be hung to dry under
the sun, while undisturbed cows and zebu graze in the large meadows. This already would be
enough to make you happy; but… further south, in a wide clearing, an officer oversees the marching
of newly recruited young soldiers.
They are so young that it appears as if they are playing at making war. Unfortunately, this is not the
At Shashamane our guests receive a warm and joyous welcome. Returning here is like coming
home, if you’ve been here before. If this is your first time visiting, then it’s more like a blow to the
heart. The people, of various hues and all poor, that sit in the dust, and eat in the dust, approach
you in an unrelenting hustle and bustle, amongst the small but extremely fast running 3-wheeled
taxis (bagiag) and carts pulled by donkeys who are overworked and emaciated. The children
overwhelm you with their beauty, their large eyes so dark and clear, and their mother-of-pearl
2. Second leg of the journey: THE ENCOUNTER
The children we encounter at the Mission are all so sweet. These are children supported via our
Child Sponsorship program and they attend school as part of the program. And it’s thanks to our
Sponsors that they are able to study and learn to live in a situation of social and human redemption.
At the Summer School we reviewed each of the children included in a support program. Medical
visits, scholastic screenings, skills to be upgraded, gaps to be filled, bread to eat… The network of
support which has been built here is a bridge between us and them. Not everything is easy; in fact,
it’s very difficult to maintain relationships with the representatives here and their difficult language
plays a part in that difficulty.
Many of the projects have been successful, such as the construction of 3 classrooms in School 01.
And even more beautiful is the inauguration of the “Bianca d’Aponte Foster Home” for abandoned
girls at Hosanna. It’s the first time that a Foster Home for girls is not an orphanage. What a joy for
these girls! -- the poorest of the poor, but the richest of all in the loving thoughts that they have
3. Third leg of the journey: THE GOOD STORIES – MICROCREDITS
We’ve all had our fair share of bad stories, and encountered “the Lestrygonians and the Cyclops”
along our journey. But we want to dwell on the good stories, because those are the ones that give
us hope and should be told. Here’s one for you: “JOANNIS, THE GIRL, THE DONKEY AND THE GARI”
A man as thin as a reed is crying in the courtyard of the Mission. He once had a cart, a donkey, and
some plastic containers which he used to bring water to sell at the market. The markets were closed
due to Covid, and he was no longer able to sell anything. A family to feed, with a newborn, and he
had no choice but to sell his only source of income. His cart and donkey. Nothing, completely
nothing to give to his children. So we decided to intervene using microcredits. We bought Joannis a
cart (with a plate, yes!, with a plate like they use here), a donkey, and plastic containers. Now he
can once again go around selling water. Joannis has promised to return the borrowed money on an
installment basis. This is not a hand-out, but rather a possibility, an opportunity for another chance.
An additional seven families chosen from amongst the most needy will be able to make use of
microcredits. But is this all there is for women and families in need? No, there’s more.
At Shashamane there is a prison, and the women’s section is supported by us at GMA and via the
good works of the Sisters of Foucault. The nursery for the children who live with their mothers in
the prison has already been operating for a few years now. Together with the volunteers and Sister
Mariapia we visited the women and the children of the nursery. The women are able to work thanks
to training courses. They embroider either by machine or by hand, and they weave very colorful and
very beautiful baskets. We donated perfumed soaps to the women, candy and cookies to the
children. It was a wonderful time for them, but heartbreaking for us.
4. Last leg of the journey: Meki – RIFORESTATION IN THE VILLAGE OF ABONO GABRIEL
From an early age children must learn to give up something of their own in order to donate it to
someone else who needs it more. Solidarity must be cultivated. Our “5 Euro to plant a tree”
campaign has been a great success.
We brought a small sum of money from Italy to be used to plant trees. Each tree bears the name of
the child who has donated his savings.
Taking care of greenery, planting seeds and trees that will bear fruit represent hope for the future.
And now we have reached the end of our journey. What will we take away with us? “gold, pearls,
perfumes, and precious stones” – hugs and smiles. We have arrived at the port of Ithaca, and from
here we will set off again.
“ALWAYS KEEP ITHACA IN YOUR MIND.
TO ARRIVE THERE IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL.
ITHACA HAS GIVEN YOU THE BEAUTIFUL VOYAGE.
WITHOUT HER YOU WOULD HAVE NEVER SET OUT ON THE ROAD.
SHE HAS NOTHING MORE TO GIVE YOU.”
-- Taken from the poem “Ithaca” by Constantine Cavafy