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Please note that Sr Stephanie died after an accident and that our fund raising is now for the Sean Devereux Children's Fund. For more information please go to

Message from Doug and Maureen Carr

Hello everyone

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak to you all today - for those of you who do not know us – I’m Doug Carr - and I’m Maureen Carr and the sister of Sister Stephanie, who runs the school for handicapped children in Clodomira, in the north of Argentina. St. Hugh’s parish has supported these special children in Clodomira for many years as an overseas project.

We were lucky enough to be able to visit Sister Stephanie this summer, together with my brother who has recently retired and had never been to Argentina before. We were able to see at first hand all the changes that have happened since we last went out to Argentina six years ago and to share some of this with you.

We had forgotten and what struck my brother most was the poverty and poor living conditions of the people in and around Clodomira, compared with life in England. It is a very flat, dry, dusty area – and although it was winter the temperatures were in the twenties, rising to 35°C at one point. In the summer it is often 45°C.

Unusually for this area there had been floods earlier this year which had caused considerable damage to many houses, completely destroying some of the poorly built ones.

We visited the school for the few days before they broke up for a 2 week holiday, just before the 9th July, their independence day. In Clodomira all the local organisations held a formal grand parade, with much flag waving and swearing of allegiance. Sister Stephanie’s children took part, all dressed in their best clothes, the younger ones joining in for the 2nd half of the ceremony.

We were touched to be standing behind some of the deaf children who were singing the National Anthem with their teacher in sign language. About a quarter of the children at the school are deaf. It was great for us to see some of the children that had been at the school six years previously when we last visited – obviously much more grown up - and progressing well.

The school has changed greatly since our last visit, now with 150 pupils has more than doubled in size since we were last there. It started as a small group of handicapped children and their families meeting under a tree with Sister Stephanie, about 13 years ago, who moved then into two small rooms behind the church.

The nuns of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (the order my sister belongs to) then gave their house to the diocese for the school as it grew, In recent years two new buildings have been built to accommodate the increase in children – this is largely due to the generous support from St. Hugh’s.

The new buildings are well built, in contrast to a lot of local dwellings, all this organised by Sr. Stephanie, using local labour and buying building materials, including bricks, doors and windows etc. - all made locally and supporting the local population.

There are now 22 staff altogether, including teachers, helpers, secretary and specialists in speech therapy, physiotherapy, teachers for those who are blind or partially sighted and teachers of the deaf. Also a cook (as Sister Stephanie continues to feed the children each day) often the only meal they will have that day. The staff invited us for coffee and cakes one morning and all introduced themselves and each explained their role in the school (interpreted by Sr. Stephanie of course).

Each child in the school now has a chair – thanks to your generosity back in January 2005, when you may remember we had a week of awareness for Clodomira, when Sr. Stephanie was last here. They are good hardwood chairs which will last a very long time. The children in Clodomira are all aware of their link with St. Hugh’s and the school photograph of all the St. Hugh’s school children and teachers, which we took with us, is now proudly displayed in the entrance corridor of their new building.

When we were last in Argentina there was financial parity between the American dollar and the argentinian peso, but since the financial crisis in Argentina, four and a half years ago when the banks shut and the people could not get their money, a peso is now only worth a third of a dollar and as salaries have not risen greatly, the people struggle to make ends meet.

It does have the effect however of making each pound donated go a long way as, on the whole, although we got at least five pesos to the pound, the buying power of each peso was often equal to a pound.

There were some notable exceptions, white goods – electrical appliances, TVs, etc. but especially vehicles, which have the same cost as here in the UK, which puts motor transport out of the reach of most. Many of the vehicles on the roads are ancient, at least thirty years old, often rusting and falling to bits, but still with a resale value.

We spent two of the Sundays we were out there with the extended family of one of the staff, Marcos, he is a great help to Sr. Stephanie and seems to be able to turn his hand to anything practical – most of the cupboards, bookcases etc. in the school have been made by Marcos. He teaches the boys practical skills in his workshop with the hope that they will be as independent as possible.

When asked why he had a mirror on the wall of his workshop we were told it wasn’t to check his appearance, but to teach the older boys to shave! We were made extremely welcome by his family and well fed – cooking is done outside in a clay oven, heated by burning wood beneath it.

One of the priests from the neighbouring town of Termes, Father Alfredo - a La Salette father - kindly lent us his truck, so we could all travel in comfort together and we did a circular tour to the north of Clodomira. We stayed on the outskirts of Salta – one of the largest cities in Argentina - for a few days in a house that the nuns have built recently, to live amongst and to support the poor.

It is situated on a barrio on the outskirts of Salta. A barrio is the name given to a neighbourhood area – this one has only been in existence 18 months to two years and already there are more than 20,000 people living there, and there are many barrios like this. The government gives the people a plot of land about 10 metres square – well not gives – it’s a bit like DFS - after 10 years they have to start paying for it. They have to start building within a month and have to be living in the dwelling in three months.

Most of the so-called houses are about 10 foot square, often with no doors or windows for some time as they cannot afford these at first, and sometimes without mortar between the bricks! The roads are unmade and the whole area looks a bit like a shanty town. The nun’s house is large by these standards, but very basic by ours - and there are five of them living there at present including three local entrants. This small community was full of life and fun and they shared their lives and the love of God with us. One of the young nuns – Ellie has a 1st communion group in the barrio this year with more than 160 children in it.

We had a little difficulty with transport however - we broke down in Fr. Alfredo’s truck towards the top of a mountain – miles from anywhere. We had blown the head gasket and you’d have been amused to see us trying to find water for the cooling system in nearby streams – only to find we were so high up all we could do was chip off ice and use that!

Also three out of our six flights were severely delayed, we had an aborted landing in Madrid, as there was another plane on the runway and our luggage was lost for over two days. When we went to check in for the flight home from Buenos Aires we found that the flight had been rescheduled (but we had not been informed) so we had to stay an additional 2 days in Buenos Aires.

Unfortunately the house the nuns originally donated for the school in Clodomira, although only 50-60 years old, has major faults and cracks, made worse by the floods this year, and it seems the only answer is to pull it down and replace the accommodation with a further new building. Sr. Stephanie has already had plans drawn up for this.

Fortunately, the FCJs have agreed to fund this project. All in all it was a lovely visit, to be able share Sr. Stephanie’s busy life for a little while and to see the school developing, to be made so welcome by people who have so little, and to see God’s love working across the world.

Sr. Stephanie asked us to thank you all for all your help and please to continue to pray for the community in Clodomira.

Doug and Maureen Carr

Downloadable presentations

The following presentations about the Clodomira programme are available for download...

Watch Out - if you click one of these links you will start a download of a presentation nearly 6 megabytes in size!!  If you have a dial-up internet connection, it will take a VERY long time to complete.

View/print introductory presentation about the Clodomira programme (PDF format, 5.9MB)

View/print a presentation providing a Clodomira update for 2006 (PDF format, 5.6MB)

Click here to download a free copy of Adobe PDF Reader

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