He was traveling from Sakone, a small town near Kaolak in Senegal, to the country’s capital, Dakar, when the area first caught his eye. “From Rufisque to Dakar it was just country, country and country. But we were already beginning to see barracks. And I said, oh, that’s ill-prepared. People will come to build huts here because those who have moved from the villages to the city cannot live.” This intuition of Sister Regina Casado (Rodanillo, Bembibre district, León, 82 years old) is a reality today .
Most of the 12,000 residents of Pikine in Dakar came from all corners of Sengal and other neighboring countries to escape rural poverty
Sam Sam III is the name of the neighborhood that has sprung up in the municipality of Pikine, on the outskirts of Dakar. Most of its 12,000 residents came from all corners of Senegal and some neighboring countries to escape rural poverty. Everyone built where and how he could. The area lacks basic services, paved roads or good sanitation, among other things. Therefore, when it rains, the water stagnates, flooding houses and streets. Few young people in the area complete basic education and the lack of work means they gather on street corners, waiting for a miracle to change their fortunes. Waiting for their parents to find a man who will marry them off, the girls switch from household chores to that of their husbands.
All this and more was recognized by the nun of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Child Jesus (popularly known as the Black Ladies) and for this reason she settled there in 2000, along with a group of Piarist Brothers who opened a school. Her supervisor allowed her to stay a year and now it’s almost 22.
It was 1968 when this petite woman with eyes full of life, who cannot sit still for a second and sometimes gets nervous when speaking because her mind is faster than her mouth, first set foot in Africa. It was in Cameroon. He broke off his music studies in order not to miss the opportunity to travel. After two decades she returned to Spain and worked in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona for a few years before being transferred to Senegal in 1992.
“I lived a childhood of poverty and saw people put you down because you had nothing. From there my vocation came, not religious life but mission: I will walk with the poorest so that they do not crush them, do you understand? And my life is to educate them to be people who defend themselves and keep all their rights and their dignity,” he explains his motives.
This is what Sister Regina has been doing over the years: improving the condition of the women she has met by offering them comprehensive training, from literacy to basic skills that will make their lives easier. Above all, it has taught them how to sew so that they can earn an income as quality seamstresses. In recent years he has introduced computers into his program so that beneficiaries of his program also have access to new technologies. It has also opened a cooking school in Sam Sam III.
The last few steps she has taken have led her to help young women start a sewing cooperative that they run and manage themselves, former students who have joined forces to produce more and earn a better income. The same goes for those studying cooking. In addition, they have a small restaurant where you can enjoy quality dishes or have a coffee. He owes much of what he has achieved to the support of the Santander Foundation’s Best Africa program and Manos Unidas.
Thousands of women have been trained by the nun over the years. “I say to my girls: You work with all dignity to be human, to show people that you know how to lead your life, that you know how to win,” explains the nun, who gets emotional when she talks about the changes in the world speaks of the lives of their students, which he has witnessed. “I see it when they come to visit me. Many have married and others have not, because sometimes their marriage fails, but they have children, they are clean, well educated, they go to school… They themselves know how to live more dignified. Some of them have completed sewing training and now lead workshops and train other girls. They already have the spirit of creativity to see other possibilities in their lives than waiting for their parents to marry them.”
I tell God that he only gives me the head and the strength to be able to work. The day I can’t let him drop me like that, Pam, and it’s over.”
Sister Regina’s greatest dream is to open a carpentry school for the boys. Due to a lack of work, most of them have nothing to do all day and in the end many turn to drugs or dream of migrating. That’s why, according to the nun, she wants to offer them new opportunities through vocational training: “Carpentry is more important than carpentry to give them a professional title. Because there are carpenters everywhere, but due to a lack of training, what they do is not very good. I tell people here that everything has to be perfect; Then we open the computer, I show them well-made furniture and insist: “Look, this is how your work should be”. That means you have to offer quality so that you encourage people to order.”
As for the possibility of returning to Spain, Sister Regina says: “I don’t even think about it, but when my superiors tell me to go back, I have to obey.” Then he clarifies: “I tell God that he only gave me the head and the strength to be able to work. The day I can’t, drop me like this, Pam, and it’ll be over.”
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