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​Parishioners of St. Agnes church, Huyton have recently returned from another successful humanitarian visit to Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana) in South America. A small party of ten people, members of the We Can Make A Difference project (WCMAD), including their parish priest- Fr. Anton Fernandopulle - spent a little over two weeks, renewing old friendships, making new contacts and, once again, lending much needed practical help. 

Published :  20/03/2010

On the Sunday before the group was due to depart for Suriname, a Mass of commissioning was held at St. Agnes’ Church for the success of their visit. 

On the day of departure - Monday 24th of January- Fr. Anton led the group in prayer and handed each person a short reflection based on the Social teaching of the Catholic Church, to be used, from time to time, throughout the  journey, as food for thought.

Just as before, each group member funded their own expenses for the trip. Since their last visit to Suriname in March 2010, St, Agnes’ parish has tirelessly continued to hold numerous fund raising events, including social evenings, raffles and car boot sales. All money raised having gone directly into helping the various communities in Suriname.

On arrival in Paramaribo, the capital of the country, the group met to work out a plan based on experience previously gained. Accommodation was provided for them in the Pastoral centre- a former leprosy hospital.

They met with their old friend Fr. Dorris Weewee OMI, Parish Priest of the Catholic Church in Brownsweg and many other communities. It was decided that both the interior and exterior of the Brownsweg Church were in need of repainting. This was undertaken using material purchased locally.

Their journeying continued, to include the villages of Powaka, Redi-Dotti , Casipora, which are mainly inhabited by  the Carib and Arawak native Indians and also koynakondre , which is a maroon community of African descent. Casipora was a great distance away and the group wondered at times whether the area was actually inhabited at all. God was always with us providing a means of communication, as we were able to find at least one person in every village, who was able to communicate in English. 

Having visited and observed the needs of the school in Powaka the group decided to provide the children with much needed sports equipment. They also bought a new computer for the school and an organ for the church. A sports day was organized by the group at which these gifts were presented. Two qualified electricians in the group, were responsible for wiring the church in Powaka, for electricity. In addition new benches were sponsored and paid for by the parishioners of St, Agnes’ but constructed using local labour.

 In Nieu Lombe, a new computer was supplied and set up for the use of staff and pupils, while in Redi-Dottie the school there also received sports equipment and new toys were purchased for the children in the kindergarten.
The staff of all the schools were delighted with gifts of wind-up torches, so useful when electricity supplies fail.

All these tasks were carried out amidst the heat and rain of the mosquito infested Suriname jungle. To travel deeper into the interior to reach the more remote communities meant crossing the river in a shallow dug-out canoe, climbing half-constructed bridges or using pot-holed roads in unsuitable vehicles, yet despite these challenges and having to share their living quarters with rats and giant cockroaches, nothing fazed this hardy group of travellers. On the contrary, for them it was a humbling experience and a great privilege to integrate with the local people, especially by celebrating and sharing in the Mass with Fr Kenneth and his parishioners, close to the French Guyana (Cayene) border.Fr Kenneth is responsible for twenty one small communities in the interior, while another priest – Fr Toon –takes care of thirty small communities scattered throughout the Amazon jungle as far as the border with Brazil.       

The group came together each evening to celebrate Mass, to pray and to share their spiritual experiences with one another. As this was the time to remind them that the whole experience was a faith journey and it was important to spend quality time with the local people, not just giving practical help. This was an integral part of the entire visit to Suriname. 

The We Can Make A Difference (WCMAD) group members wish to acknowledge the help and support of local businesses in Huyton, particularly Specsavers for providing numerous pairs of spectacles for the people in Suriname and also ASDA for their voucher scheme which enabled gifts and raffle prizes to be purchased prior to the trip.

In addition they want to thank those priests in the Archdiocese of Liverpool for their generous response to the appeal for vestments and sacred vessels for use in the poor parishes of the Diocese of Paramaribo. Thanks are also extended to KLM Airlines for agreeing to donate a number of in-flight blankets which will be used to help another ongoing  project, in Romania, which is organized by the parishioners of our sister parish of St. Aidan’s Church, Huyton.

During the visit the Bishop of Paramaribo Rt. Rev. Wilhelmus de Bekker- met with the group from Huyton to express his gratitude for the on-going assistance given by the people of St, Agnes Parish. In particular, he spoke of the solidarity established between ‘our’ communities and he encouraged the involvement of various lay members of the parishes of the interior (along the Amazon), together with the staff already employed in the Projects Office of the Diocese of Paramaribo, thus ensuring a co-ordinated approach to future ventures—proving that: 

Together – We Can Make A Difference.

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