MAF South Sudan pilot Florian Poinstingl chats with Father Jan Marciniak, a Polish Salesian missionary who has worked in missions in Africa since 1991. Florian flies a MAF charter to Maridi for the Catholic charity Don Bosco with a full load of cargo made up of mostly medicine for their dispensary and some food items, plus two passengers, Emmanuel Simon Mbiko, a candidate for priesthood, and Salesian priest Roman Portukhai from Ukraine who will volunteer for two months. Father Peter, who met the plane at the airstrip says, “With the current situation of insecurity, whenever we need them, MAF is ready to help us. The cargo today was almost 90% medicine, which is going to our dispensary, we don’t charge anything. Everything is for free. Whenever the patients come, no matter if they have malaria, typhoid, whatever, we treat them. “We have a parish, a dispensary, 3 primary schools and one secondary school. In the secondary school, we have 120 students, and primary school we have 600. We follow the principles of the founder, Don Bosco to support educating the poor and abandoned youth.”
In the town of Maridi, South Sudan, the Don Bosco priests are well known among the local residents, particularly the very poor, who have benefitted from their commitment to children—who are often the most disadvantaged.
Their founder, Italian Catholic priest John Bosco (Don means “priest”) committed himself to improving the lives and education of street children, juvenile delinquents and other disadvantaged youth, following the teachings of Christ to care for the poor. He developed teaching methods based on love rather than punishment, an unusual practice for the time.
MAF passenger Emmanuel Mbiko is from Maridi and grew up seeing the work of the Don Bosco priests. “I was inspired by the way Don Bosco cares for the young people,” Emmanuel explains, who later decided to join the priesthood to serve with these same priests. “They work with the young people but also the poor ones, those who maybe lost their parents, or are not able to go to school. So Don Bosco helps educate these children and bring value to their life, those who maybe lose hope, or maybe they’ve gone through this experience of war. They are helping by giving them a lot of skills of how they can improve their lives.”
Emmanuel remembers one 16-year-old girl in particular who came from a home of alcoholics. “Rita” often came late to school, but the priests don’t believe in traditional punishment, which in South Sudan would include physical discipline such as caning. We look at the background and see some that are coming from very bad situations, maybe their parents are not there or things like that. We said, better that we try to find out why she’s always coming late to school. So we went to the family and found she was having problems—the parents drank and gave her heavy punishment, and the grandmother was very poor. “Rita” had to collect water in the mornings, so that’s why she was coming late. We didn’t punish her but helped her. After that she finished in our school and became a teacher and is also now teaching in the school.
It is apparent from MAF pilot Florian’s beaming smile and warmth that he deeply respects these men who give of their lives for the community in Maridi. He says, “I admire these missionaries and how they serve the Maridi community to educate children, to give them hope. The children are the future of South Sudan”.