Sister Ivy Khoury: seven years of highs and lows in Africa
30 Jul 2014 | Blog | Mozambique | Long-term Development
In her seven years at Caritas Australia, Sister Ivy has experienced the highs and lows of development work. Although she has despaired when visiting communities that have lost everything, whether through natural disasters or war, she takes great joy in walking alongside those communities as they rebuild.
“Two years ago I was taken to a village in Dontane, in Mozambique, where over two thousand people were living in tents. They had lost their homes and livelihoods to flooding. And then the same thing happened last year in Mozambique, where thousands of people lost everything.”
“It’s terrible seeing those types of situations. But six months or a year later, it’s so heartening to see the change in people’s lives. They have water. They have latrines. They have housing. They’re not living in tents anymore, or they’ve started their own garden, their own income generating activities. They have rebuilt their communities from scratch.”
“It's so inspiring when you see that people don’t give up, they just won’t give up. And they really believe that Caritas is a sign of hope for them. You know, we talk about Caritas meaning “love and compassion”– they really believe that. And they’re not dependant, they’re not waiting on a handout. They’re doing it themselves. That’s when I get a lot of joy, from seeing so much positive change in people’s lives.
A small act can make a big difference
“I'm also heartened by how our support from Australia can make a real difference,” says Sister Ivy. “Sometimes the simplest thing can be the key to unlocking a community’s future – like the fridge we helped villagers buy for Cubo, in Chokwe, Mozambique.”
“Cubo had been devastated by flooding in 2009, and with their crops destroyed, the community relied even more heavily on income from selling the fish they caught,” Sister Ivy explains. “But they had no way of storing fish for any length of time, so they had to sell their fish cheaply by the end of each day, or the fish would go off. Buyers would come in from Maputo city and purchase fish from them, take it back to the city and sell it at twice the price!”
The community needed a way to keep fish longer so they could sell at a fair price. They didn’t have the funds to buy a fridge, but knew they could earn enough from selling fresh fish to keep a fridge running. So community leaders approached Caritas Australia’s partner, Caritas Chokwe for assistance. With funding from Caritas Australia and the expertise of Caritas Chokwe staff, a fridge was sourced from South Africa and delivered to the community.
“I was there the day the fridge arrived,” says Sister Ivy. “It was a big moment. Hundreds of people turned up to see the fridge unveiled. Local government representatives were there. A priest blessed the fridge, a ribbon was cut, and there was singing and dancing. It was a great day. Not only did the community have an improved source of income, but they could avoid the health risks of eating fish that had gone off.”
The community benefited from the new fridge for some time, but, in a cruel blow, severe floods returned in 2013, forcing the villagers to move away from Cubo and damaging the fridge.
"The fridge has been taken to Maputo for repairs, and it’s not clear when the villagers will be able to return to Cubo. The dam is just too unstable,” explains Sister Ivy. “But the fridge made a great difference for the years it was in service. And our partner, Caritas Chokwe, is still there working alongside the people of Cubo, helping them rebuild. We will continue to walk with the people of Cubo until their community is self-sufficient.”
“The people of Cubo are strong. I know they’ll keep fighting and bounce back from this current setback. They’ve done it before, they can do it again. And it’s great to know that they have the support of our Caritas community as they rebuild their lives.”
About Sister Ivy
Born in Australia, Sister Ivy Khoury holds a Bachelor of Health Science (Nursing) and Diplomas in Midwifery and Palliative Care. She is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Sister Ivy worked for seven years in Ethiopia as a nurse and midwife, and including some years providing care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS. She is currently Caritas Australia’s Coordinator of Africa Programs.
“There are times when I’m in Africa that I ask God ‘why?’” she says. “Why is there such a distinction between the rich and the poor? And I always find it hard coming back to Australia… seeing how comfortable we are here in Australia, coming back from countries where people are so poor. They [the poor] teach me so much.”
“But when I feel overwhelmed with what I see, my question is: What can I do to somehow be the voice of the most poor and marginalized in Africa? How can I let the people in Australia know how lucky they are to have so much? … So I’d just encourage the Australian community to continue to contribute as much as they’re able to, but also encourage them to pray for our brothers and sisters in Africa. Together, and in harmony with the communities we support, we can make this world a better place, a truer reflection of God’s love and compassion.”
More stories from our 50 year celebrations
Below is a picture of Cubo villagers singing at the fridge's blessing ceremony.
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