Cristina Cabrejas |
Kinshasa (EFE).- Accused of being possessed by evil spirits, the mentally ill in Kinshasa ended up abandoned on the street until the “Télema” center opened in the Kimtambo neighborhood, one of the largest on the African continent, founded and managed for the Spanish nun Ángela Gutiérrez and her sisters from the Sisters Hospitallers, who every day assist those whom no one wants.
“At first they told us that we were the crazy ones,” Sister Ángela, a diminutive Asturian who arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 30 years ago and who, with enormous strength of mind, faced one of the the greatest stigma in Africa, mental illness, and in 1989 he founded Télema in 1989 with the Congregation of the Sisters Hospitallers.
Now Télema, which means “Get up”, because that is what they do, “lift up those who are left lying on the streets of Kinshasa”, has two offices in the capital and has become a benchmark in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. highlights the mother superior of the Hospitallers of the DRC, Sister Alina Lyna Kana.
In the chaos of the capital, between chipped streets and shacks, the Sisters Hospitallers have built an oasis that has a large outpatient clinic prepared to treat illnesses such as depression or epilepsy, and a physiotherapy service, an analysis laboratory, and a pharmacy that a lot of work they manage to supply the necessary drugs, almost impossible to find in this country.
They receive about 125 patients a day, almost 50,000 a year, and in a country where there is no free healthcare, the medicines they give are free, while they charge 5 euros per consultation: “Not even that for some, because we have collected from the garbage and we have brought them here to cure”, explains Sister Ángela.
«Do not touch them, they are possessed by evil spirits, they tell us, and perhaps the only thing they have is a serious epileptic attack, but we pick them up, wash them and cure them because we have not come here for the diamonds, they are the diamonds» , says this nun who has received recognition in the DRC and that in 2021 she received the Official Cross of the Order of Isabel la Católica.
Sister Angela proudly shows the new “Betanie” pavilion, humble, but neat and tidy, which can accommodate 23 inmates, women with serious mental problems who need to be hospitalized or simply a place to heal from postpartum depression, rape, abandonment of his family or a life full of difficulties.
One of these women punished by life has lived in one of the rooms for five months: «She lived on the street and her two young children were robbed. He found the boy eight years later, the girl, never. This breaks your head. He never recovered”, explains Sor Ángela.
But in addition to curing the mind, at the Télema center in Kimtambo they have set up a sewing workshop so that these people that nobody wants just because they have a mental problem can learn to sew and earn a living.
This nun from the Asturian town of Panes proudly shows the creations of those who come to the workshop every day, as they have done today, when, despite being a holiday in the country for the arrival of Pope Francis, they have come to make cushions, bags or brightly colored tablecloths.
Malala is 30 years old, tells EFE that when she was 15 she lived on the street with her brothers and her mother, who disappeared one day. Since then, she suffers from severe depression, but thanks to her help, Sister Angela and her companions, she has found a home and has learned to sew, with which she can earn some money and help her brothers.
«You see them lying in the streets, among the garbage. The Government, the family have abandoned them because they consider that they have bad spirits…, in Africa nobody understands what a mental disorder is. But here they are recovered and with the work they do they feel valued”, explains Sister Alina.