About 50 people gathered at the Catholic Pastoral Centre of Our Lady of the Mission in Highgate on April 27 to listen to the experiences of Sr Margaret Scott RNDM, who is on home leave after spending the last six and a half years in South Sudan.
Maureen Palfrey, a partner to the sisters in mission, also spoke of her six weeks in South India, where she experienced the various ways in which the sisters are involved with the poor, particularly in the state of Bihar.
The Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions are just one of more than 150 groups of religious orders working together to build up the infrastructure of South Sudan, which has been totally destroyed after 40 years of war.
The group, known as Solidarity with South Sudan, is working especially in the areas of education and health care.
Sr Margaret is the director of the teacher training college in Yambio. Its first class of graduates is already out in the field where their creativity and commitment are daily challenged by the lack of basic resources such as actual buildings, books and other fundamental teaching aids.
She spoke of the importance of hope for the future, especially in the face of fighting that has broken out in South Sudan recently, this time between tribes rather than between Muslims and Christians.
In her visit to Almel, Bihar, Mrs Palfrey was impressed by the progress made in the provision of education from the primarily illiterate women of the area through to the setting up of micro-credit groups which enable them to set up income generating projects and to develop a sense of their own dignity and possibilities.
This has led them to value education for their children who attend the schools built by the sisters with the help of overseas donors.
Both Sr Margaret and Mrs Palfrey highlighted the emphasis given to the education and formation of girls, because women are for the most part the ones who see to and provide for the education of their children.
They explained that it is only through education that there is a way out of the grinding poverty that is endemic in these regions.
Yet, despite this poverty, both Sr Margaret and Mrs Palfrey spoke of how deeply touched they were by the great sense of hospitality where, from the little that they have, people are ready to share all with their guests.