For the past 25 years, every suffering child who has crossed paths with Dun George Grima was hugged, fed, treated and clothed.
Albino children are sold for body parts. The disabled are thrown away in the trash
“Every person counts, no matter if he is healthy or weak, no matter his religion or skin colour. We definitely cannot let our religious differences divide us on a cup of rice.
“Everyone is the same in God’s eyes, and everyone pays you back with the same currency: a smile,” he says.
Fr Grima, 61, is the founder of Jesus in Thy Neighbour, a missionary movement set up to “listen to and love the ignored” in Brazil, Ethiopia and Kenya.
The movement has spent the past quarter of a century looking for disowned children abandoned on river banks and trash mounds, in juvenile homes or hospitals. They are then “adopted” by the Maltese for less than €28 a year.
Conceived as a silver lining for the poor, the movement’s three main aims are to feed, educate and heal.
“The poor fill up their belly when they drown. They earn a piece of land when they’re buried, and move forward when they’re kicked,” Fr Grima says with a furrowed brow.
Some of the abandoned children the movement takes in return to their families after they are fed and treated for any illness they have.
When the biological family is untraceable, however, they remain at one of the movement’s homes. “The poor world is something we cannot begin to conceive. Pregnant women gnaw on stone for calcium. Albino children are sold for body parts. The disabled are thrown away in the trash.”
Marmesh, a blind girl from Samarro, Ethiopia, was not accepted by her father.
One day, the father ordered her elder sister to throw her away in a rubbish mound. But her sister, who knew Marmesh would be food for hyenas, stayed with the small girl, hoping some passer-by would take her in.
Luckily, Fr Grima found the girls on one of his daily searches for abandoned children.
But not all stories have a happy ending. When Fr Grima went to a hospital in Nakuru, Kenya, to collect two abandoned babies, he came across a woman crying her heart out while giving birth.
Her husband had ordered her not to return home with their offspring if the baby turned out to be a girl. Her fears had come true.
Fr Grima told her he would accompany her home the following day and try to convince the father to accept his own child.
But the woman left the place before Fr Grima made it there.
Later on he learnt that she had killed her baby by bashing it against the wall and tried stealing a baby boy from the same hospital.
The movement, which runs on the combination of selflessness and adrenalin of some 25 volunteers, has over the years built homes for the disabled, constructed schools and orphanages, erected an operating and plastic surgery theatre and dug several boreholes.
Children have to walk for hours on end to find water, while others even die from dehydration while digging. These €10,000 boreholes bring new life to villages affected by drought.
A current project is the Sacred Family Home in Bonda, Kenya, housing blind, deaf and dumb, albinos, and children with Aids.
Its next big project is the first home for disabled children in Bonga, Ethiopia, which will equip children with skills that ultimately lead to an independent life.
“Our charity never closed the door to anyone. We welcome the unwanted and give importance to those who are made to feel unimportant.”
Asked about the coming 25 years, Fr Grima smiles. “That’s in God’s hands.
“All I can say is, if you want to be happy, join us. No matter how poor you are, there is always something you can give, and keep in mind that one’s time is more precious than money.”