In Myanmar, one of the least developed countries in the world, there is a small congregation of nuns who are giving their all to the community. For decades, the 13 sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus Center for the Disabled and Orphans in Phaya Phyu village have been working hard to demonstrate that being born with a physical or mental disability does not preclude one from living a functional life.
The nuns, who belong to the Sisters of Charity of Saints Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa congregation, offer a range of services from food and physiotherapy to providing a formal education to the local orphans and children of poor families. They currently care for 198 people from various religions and ethnic backgrounds. In addition to orphans and young children, the sisters serve those with disabilities and illnesses ranging from hearing and vision impairment to polio and epilepsy.
The Sisters of Charity of Saints Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa congregation was founded in the 1830s, and reached the shores of Myanmar nearly a century ago. The greater congregation has swollen to 196 nuns, serving in six dioceses. Some of their missions include elderly living facilities, leper colonies, boarding schools, and orphanages.
The Sisters of Charity identify the greatest need in their respective communities. In Myanmar, this means a focus on the disabled, who are not offered the same level of assistance they are in the Western world. These 13 nuns offer invaluable charity to their people, but they also rely on donations themselves. They accept everything from cash and food to oil and other necessities. Thankfully, they also receive some help from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, and from Myanmar’s Vice President Henry Van Thio.
Sister Natalina Misa, who runs the center, told UCA News:
“Most of the donors in Myanmar are Buddhists and some are Chinese. We also have some sponsors from Thailand and a Buddhist monk from Japan.”
Sister Misa said that feeding all their students and patients creates a monthly food bill of 6 million kyat ($4,000). The nuns use what little free time they have to lighten the financial burden by farming corn, peanuts, beans, cucumbers, gourds and pumpkins. They also raise pigs and chickens.
In 2017 the sisters also opened a health clinic offering free medical treatment to all. They are aided by two professional medical volunteers who visit the clinic twice a month.
They also recently built an “exercise house” to help out with physiotherapy for disabled patients. The facility, as seen in the above video, was built with the help of the independent Italian organization, New Humanity.