Whenever I pass Cancar on my way from Labuan Bajo to Ruteng I visit Charles and friends in St. Damian. St. Damian is home to a group of adults and children living with a physical or mental impairment. Charles has lived there since his childhood. Sr. Virgula enabled him to study English in a Bali University and he is the English teacher in St. Damian and in the local school in Cancar.
Sr. Virgula retired from St. Damian in the early 2010’s, by then she was already in her late 80’s. She had been working in Manggarai for many decades. She now lives in a convent in Steyl in the Netherlands. I visited her there in 2013, together with Marion Tjia and she told us her life story. Born in Germany she decided to enter a convent in The Netherlands when she was aged 18. It was a closed order and she was not allowed to see her family again, saw them only once when her father was very ill. Soon after she was asked to go and work overseas; in 1965 she moved to NTT to care for patients with Leprosy and people with disabilities. She was based on Flores and Sumba. Her work over 48 years improved the lives of many children who needed support for education and rehabilitation, she was their ‘second mom’. She has been called ‘the Mother Teresa of Flores’. We also had a mission: deliver a letter to her from one of the long-time residents in Cancar St. Damian and Labuan Bajo Binonko, they all miss her.
One group of St. Damian residents work in the artisanal workshop and produce beautiful high quality products, all handmade with natural materials. You can purchase them for your home and for the hotel & restaurant industry. With the sales of their products they can cover for their accommodation, food and care in St. Damian. For orders please visit the atelier, best first contact Pak Charles at 0812 36019981 to make an appointment.
St. Damian is supported by various organisations, one is OSSAA, supporting for reconstructive surgery