ORPHANCARED has been designed around and in memory of my late Mother Catherine Y. Lottin Mbappou.
Born on April 27 1939, Catherine was the first born in a family of 12 children. She was raised by a single mother, who instilled in her the values of love, kindness and care. At age 16, she was sent to marriage and, at age 17, had her first child. Then almost year after year, gave birth to 8 children in total. She was strong enough to pursue an education to become a nurse. Unfortunately, she was not able to work as steadily as she would have loved to, due to her duties as a wife and a mom. She chose, with a happy smile on her face, to be the wife and the mother God shaped her to be. She strongly and firmly welcomed the role of the homemaker God created for her, and brought the smell of love in every single room of her house, which brought immense pleasure to those who visited her. She equally took her role as a sister to heart, and helped her parents raise her younger siblings in the comfort of her home.
Her husband, my Father Nathan, was a very strong and distinguished man. He tirelessly worked to provide his family with a roof, food, health, love and care, but most importantly with education. His focused spirit, as well as his strict manners, were sometimes mistakenly taken as a stop sign, as if he was unapproachable. But those that got the priviledge to get to know him would describe him as a kindhearted, thoughtful and caring man, always ready to help the needy and promote education around him. His voice was soft and strict at the same time. He made it possible for many of his nephews and nieces to attend school and made it a priority to ensure the success of his initiatives, financially and emotionally. He was a great father.
Catherine, not being able to work on a continuous basis, later transformed her home into a “mini clinic” where she would give children, women and men of her village, the basic treatments necessary for their well-being, free of charge. As a child I remember seeing countless parents and children lining up to receive shots, or over-the-counter medicines, as well as first aid treatments that would help the ones with low or no income avoid pricey medical invoices. Health was the center of her focus and she made it her daily unpaid job; it was her commitment to the community.
Catherine would also make sure her kitchen was ALWAYS filled with food for everyone, especially the children. Everyday was a feast in my home. My parents enjoyed feeding and giving a roof to all. There was no difference between family, friends and strangers, everyone was welcome and treated with the same respect. Her passion for cooking was known by everyone, and her recipes were frequently shared. I know I learned from the best!
Her desire to provide a roof for all was deep. My parents let a mentally disabled man named Manga stay on our property for years and fed him on a daily basis. He spent cold and rainy nights in our house, was given medicine when sick, water when thirsty, and clothes when needed. We had no idea how to find his family as he was deeply disconnected with reality. We became his family and he adopted us as his. Some days were harder than the others as he sometimes experienced crisis, and needed professional help. Love and care were the one help we were able to provide, and I strongly believe it made a significant difference in his life.
Beside her sisters and their children, she always welcomed any person who needed a place to stay and helped them get back on their feet. These are the values I want to cherish and
share the most, to the best of my ability. I believe in life being a circle of individuals holding hands in prayer, dancing to the sound of joys and sorrows, laughing and singing as loud as possible, looking around with love, thanking the Lord to be alive and healthy, building a solid foundation for children, wiping each other’s tears and sharing the message of hope and faith.
Catherine also enjoyed gardening and sewing. Her front yard was a live representation of her heart. She planted and cared for her flowers, fruits and vegetables as if they were her other children. The yellow, pink and red roses were my favorite. Mangoes, Guava, Papaya, Soursop and oranges were my childhood fruits, as they were part of Catherine’s garden. The children of my village were allowed in our property day and night to enjoy the fruits.
She sewed dresses for my sisters and I for years, and made countless traditional outfits for women around her, especially at church and women gatherings, free of charge. She made drapes, table clothes and sheets as well, which became her favorite christmas presents to many. Catherine, Woman of many talents, Woman of GOD indeed.
My father Nathan suddenly became ill and died at age 54 in 1982, leaving my mother with the heavy responsibility of raising her children with no income. At age 40, Catherine was a widow, and I was an orphan, a single/paternal orphan, I was only 9! The rude and complicated world of widows and orphans was welcoming us. Her environment, and the one of her children drastically changed. Her husband, her rock, the father of her children, the sole breadwinner, the head of her family was no longer. We, as a family had to learn to live and count on each other emotionally. The many and precious lessons received from him helped all of us fight our sudden financial struggles with courage and determination. My mother was lost without him, without his powerful and strong presence, without his unconditional love and protection of us against the world. She struggled tremendously but tried tirelessly to maintain her home functional and care for her children with dignity and strength. It wasn’t easy, but we survived. Woman of Grace.
My mother was a soft fighter. She peacefully passed away on April 1st 2012, leaving behind her children and 21 grandchildren destroyed by her sudden death, but blessed by her teachings. Thousands of people attended her funerals, sharing the beautiful memories they had of/with her. The main ones being her smile, her gentle touch, her unconditional love for all children, her passion for cooking and gardening, her determination to teach life values to children, her advices to women of different generations, but most of all, her love for the Lord who she served all her life. Her last words were: “Na bake mese na Loba” (May God take care of it all).
Thank you Mom, from the bottom of my heart. I am the girl, the sister, the woman, the wife, the mother, the aunty, the friend and the neighbor that I am because of you, because of the values you instilled in me, because of the patience you showed me, because of your guidance, because of the love you showered me with, and mostly because of the fear and the trust in God you taught me.
Making you proud is my strength, my mission, the reason why I function.
I’ve been blessed enough, and am thankful for my blessings. Today, it’s my honor to extend my hand to the orphans and the widows, because I know… because it’s my story… because it’s my duty…
Rest in perfect eternal peace Mama. GOD is surely taking care of it all Mama…
For You, in memory of You, with Love and Respect...