The History of Aid For Chad
Cast your mind back to the Autumn of 1984, when we were all horrified to see the heart-breaking coverage on TV of the famine in Ethiopia. It inspired Bob Geldof to form Band Aid, followed the next summer by Live Aid. It also inspired a small group of women, here in Oakham, to raise money by holding a coffee morning and a ‘bring and buy’ sale. We all had small children, and the thought of having to watch our children die because we were unable to feed them was unimaginable. It spurred us on to raise more money. Little did we know that we were about to embark on a mission which would still be going strong decades later. We were on the verge of starting Aid For Chad – a mission that would become as much a part of our lives as our families.
By chance, we heard of a nun doing incredible work in famine-stricken southern Chad, a region of Africa barely mentioned in the TV reports of the time. And even to this day, Chad’s struggle remains neglected by the World. The nun we heard of was Sister Dominique, who began sending us chilling first-hand accounts of the terrible conditions around Bénoye. She spoke so eloquently and with such emotion that she touched our hearts, and we vowed that we would help her. We discovered a way by which we could send money to arrive safely, so we started to raise funds in earnest.
Sister Dominique Spreads The Word of Chad’s PovertyIn mid-1985, Sister Dominique fell desperately ill with malnutrition and cerebral malaria, and was flown back to England. After 14 years serving the people of Chad, the terrible conditions had taken their toll: weighing only 5 stone, she was close to death, but miraculously she recovered her strength and over the next couple of years was able to visit the Aid for Chad charity on a number of occasions.
Sister Dominique travelled around the British Isles spreading the word of Chad. She was humble and charismatic – softly spoken, but her words struck deep into your consciousness. She was dedicated to the people of Chad, and realised this was her chance to help them from afar. Fundraising took many forms throughout England, and indeed Ireland, and many thousands of pounds were raised and sent on to Chad.
How The Funds We Raised Were Spent
- Since those early days, the money we have sent has made an incredible difference to the lives of those around Bénoye and M’beri.
- The Sisters who continued Dominique’s work in Chad have built wells and shown them how to maintain them, educating people about hygiene and the importance of clean water.
- We have built granaries so that crops could be stored.
- Over the years, we’ve contributed to the purchase of several 4-wheel drive vehicles, which are essential to transport the sick and elderly, and to take supplies to outlying villages.
- We have built a school, where around 200 children are taught and fed daily.
- Around a hundred younger children are being taught and fed; approximately thirty older girls are being educated; approximately ten thousand patients last year took advantage of medical consultation by visiting our dispensary.
- Gradually, small dispensaries were set up, using basic medical supplies, and more recently, a larger dispensary was built.
- We have sent several large consignments of urgently needed medicines which helps over 70 patients a day.
- We have also provided a power generator, extending the hours of medical attention.
Our Introduction To Peru
In 1989, we were approached by Sisters and told of the abysmal conditions in Peru. They worked in two missions:
- In San Juan del Oro, in the Andes province of Sandia, where the people are extremely poor and many suffered from tuberculosis (TB).
- In slums in Lima, where life was miserable. The children did not go to school, and were so hungry they ate newspapers and soil, and made soup from ground-up cardboard.
With our charity already established, we decided to support the two missions in Peru, and Aid For Chad evolved into Aid For Chad & Peru. We soon heard how our money was being used to set up soup kitchens, pay for medicine, support families in dire need and help prisoners with severely restricted human rights.Traditionally, children could only attend school if they wore uniform, so we paid for uniforms and books. In San Juan del Oro, we have built a dining room where to this day 200 children are fed daily, supplied with books and school equipment, and helped with medicine to combat TB.
Sadly, as pointed out above, the San Juan mission had to close.
In 1998, we were introduced to two Australian nuns who ran women’s groups in the shanty towns of Lima, teaching the local women skills such as crocheting, knitting, embroidery, hairdressing and dressmaking. They now produce the most exquisite handicrafts including stunning dolls, wall hangings, bags and Christmas decorations.
By then, the charity had moved into a new phase – electronically ordering the handicrafts, and selling them wherever we could. Little has changed since. As soon as we receive the goods, we send money straight back to the Sisters, who pay the ladies so that they are able to support their families. Not only are we feeding them through our charity, their dignity is restored as they have directly improved their lives due to their hard work. However, we are constantly striving to think of new ideas to suggest to the ladies and find new outlets for them.
Sister Dominique was thrilled that we were able to help desperate families in Peru as well as her beloved Chad. She agreed with us that introduction of the beautiful handicrafts breathed new life into Aid For Chad & Peru – they provided a direct passage between the First and Third Worlds. We continue to send funds to Bénoye, M'beri and Lima three times a year, as well as supporting the Women's Group.
Sister Dominique’s Last Years
Sister Dominique spent the last phase of her life teaching at St. Bede’s Primary School in Basingstoke, near the Alton Convent. In March 2005, she suffered a stroke, and sadly passed away. She knew that the seed she sowed with her first-hand accounts from Chad continues to flourish.
How We Are Heading Forward
Through many different types of contribution Aid for Chad continues to raise funds to support the needy in Chad and Peru
Please get in touch if you would like to help us.