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Copyright©2008. Congregation of Saint Joseph.

In January 2009, Sister Jackie Goodin, CSJ, embarked on a physical and spiritual journey to Songea, a small rural town in southwest Tanzania, an East African country. She ministers at St. Joseph Hostel, a residence for girls and teenagers sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery. The Hostel provides a safe and caring environment which allows the girls to complete their high school education in town. She works alongside other Sisters of St. Joseph caring for the girls’ day-to-day needs.


March 2014

There's Chaos in the Hostel

Hadija (left) is sifting flour which will be made into a stiff corn mush. Everina (right) is at a study table. Both are form 1 girls and on scholarship at the Hostel through the help of donors.
I have encountered many strange non-human creatures here, fortunately none all that close up. A most fascinating family of creatures is that of the ant. (Incidentally, when I first arrived in Tanzania, I looked out for the small ants which come out of the ground right before a rain and which give a nasty bite before you could yell “I’ve ants in my pants”. But three years later, they seem to have been replaced by bigger black ants. I wonder if climate change has anything to do with this.)

The black ants are similar those we would call “picnic ants”; they can also nip nastily at your feet and legs if you step in a nest. When I take the time to contemplate them however, I am amazed at their ability to work as a team even though I cannot discern any obvious plan or organization, as I’m used to it. One time I watched as they were working on demolishing an earth worm. Within just a few minutes the ant team had carted off half of the worm; then, just a few minutes after that, the rest of the worm was GONE-GONE-GONE. Wow, fast work to satisfy the queen-ant. The black ants are everywhere and it feels as though they are taking over the entire Hostel property.

Oh, there have been some other interesting chaos-es going on here. As I prepare this blog, a “lost” dove is sitting on top of the television cupboard in our dining room. Last night she slept on top of a dining room bench. She appeared almost two weeks ago; she circles the building, sometimes flying, sometimes strolling. It seems hard to believe that the poor thing can sleep with all the noise that happens around here sometimes, but she does.

Oh, did I mention the bat that circled the dining room last night about four dozen plus times. It simply couldn’t find its way out of the open door. I consoled myself as I watched the girls watch the bat and cover their heads nervously that perhaps the bat was eating all the mosquitoes. Now that would make me happy and make co-habitation with a bat worthwhile.

Oh, yeah. Then there’s a mongoose that darts from the Hostel property to cross the road in search of some tasty hens to catch. They are fast creatures!

I’m afraid that Freddie the Rat, along with his extended family, is winning the battle of “Whose food storeroom is this?” Every day, despite the best of rat traps and poison, we find yet another tomato or potato gnawed.

Do you remember a popular song from the 1960s “Oh no, don’t let the rain come down” AKA “Crooked little man”? The song captures reality at the Hostel during the rainy season— the dining room ceiling leaks in three different places and we have to move the tables around so the rain doesn’t fall on the tables during meal times.

Perhaps the greatest chaos is what happens in our hearts. Just yesterday, we learned that, once again, some of our girls—your global daughters and sisters—were beaten on their hands with a bamboo stick by school teachers. The reason: students had failed an examination. When the girls returned to the Hostel after school, we saw their swollen hands. What is worse, the girls did not want to tell us for fear that the teachers would take further retribution. Our hearts are so troubled with the reality that physical abuse takes place in nearly every school in Tanzania—Catholic-sponsored, government, or other private. We have spoken with the administrations of every school which our girls attend, we have directly witnessed this abuse taking place and immediately intervened to stop it, we have informed the schools that we do not give permission for this kind of discipline, we have offered non-violent alternatives. The threat of corporal punishment is a daily reality for our girls. Abuse at the hands of teachers continues; it is deep within the culture. We feel helpless.

Well, you can see how I might say that there’s a bit of chaos here, though nothing to compare to the global chaos of war, violence, victimization of men, women, and children by abuse or enslavement, environmental degradation, and so on …. But, nonetheless, it does feel a bit overwhelming to be attentive to the needs and concerns of 59 girls. We Sisters are often praying to our good God for strength, wisdom, and patience! We hope you are praying for us, too.

If you would like to learn ways you can help Sister Jackie's girls, contact
Pat Milenius at 216.252.0440, or