Current Events — August 2 – 10, 2009 — Kenya
By Theresia Sinaga
It was August 1, 2009. I had just graduated from the Servants of the Sick Training Center in Nairobi after completing my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training – 10 weeks of verbatims, visiting the sick in nearby hospitals, and many group and individual encounters. I wanted a break, and one of my fellow CPE students – Fr. Apil – gave me that opportunity. He has completed 2 units of CPE and is a diocesan priest from the Kisumu area in western Kenya.
Servants of the Sick Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya
Theresia Sinaga receives a diploma for Clinical Pastoral Education.
Pictured are (from L to R) Mrs. Botela (Deputy of Matron of Mathare hospital,) Sr. Dervilla O’Donnel (CPE Supervisor, Servants of the Sick Training Center), Fr. John Mosoti (CPE Supervisor & Director of Servants of the Sick Training Center), Students
On August 2, following a spirit-filled Mass at St. Bosco Catholic Church in Nairobi, Fr. Apil Bosco and I embarked on a journey to Tabaka. Our first stop was Uriri, the home of Fr. Bosco’s mother. The seven-hour journey was pleasant, despite the irregularity of the unlighted roads. We arrived in Uriri at about 8:30 pm, where we were warmly greeted. I was surprised to discover that the homes did not have electric service. I wondered how the inhabitants were able to function and assist their children with their studies without electricity.
We spent the night at St. Ann’s convent with the five Fransiscan sisters who reside there. The site also serves as a dispensary, school and a boarding house, where approximately 300 students live and learn. In the morning, I had the opportunity to spend several hours with Sr. Vera, the headmaster. Her heart-rending description of the school and the histories of the individual students touched me deeply. Most of the pupils came from poor families; many were orphans. I was particularly moved by my acquaintance with a timid 9-year-old child by the name of Pauline. Her mother is infected with HIV, and she has no father. Sr. Vera told me that there has been no tuition paid on behalf of the girl for two years. After acquiring more details, I decided to support Pauline by assuming the responsibility of her tuition. I already support four children in my own country, Indonesia. If we do not help them, who will help them? So many have no means of support other than what is provided by benefactors.
The dispensary provides medical services to approximately 20 to 30 patients daily. One of the two nurses who work at the center is a midwife; the other is a pharmacist. There is no medical doctor on staff, as the current budget is insufficient for such services. The sisters have applied to the government for funding for the salary of a doctor, but thus far their request has not been granted. Medication is also in short supply. Presently, medication is purchased with money provided by patients, or an occasional dispersement from the government. The sisters continue to pray for increased funding so that they can provide their patients with more adequate treatment. I was most grateful to have the experience of witnessing this lifestyle of love of the Lord through service to the poor and the sick, and also for the opportunity to be of assistance to this disadvantaged population. Prior to our departure to the project in Tabaka, Fr. Apil and I thanked the Franciscan sisters for welcoming us so hospitably. Thank you, Franciscan Sisters, may God continue to bless your good works in serving the medical and pastoral needs of these people.
The following morning, we departed at 9:00 am for our next destination – Ahero (Kisumu). We arrived around noon to a very warm welcome. Fr. Apil has started a project in Ahero for orphans and widows. I was warmly welcomed – especially by Inda. Fr. Apil then showed me the facility and what he has accomplished there. I saw many hungry children waiting in anticipation for their lunches. The Center serves approximately 117 orphaned children, all between the ages of 2 and 16 years old. The Center provides lunches, but a scarcity of funds prevents the distribution of more than one meal daily. Local widows cook and care for some of the orphans. One widow will often take 4 or 5 children into her home and care for them. Fr. Apil has arranged to provide shelter and support for these widows. Currently, he assists 5 widows who farm and attend to the Center. The project is directly supervised by a man named Charles. He has been managing the project in a volunteer capacity since 2004. He assists in caring for the orphans and widows, and he works as a farmer.
Fr. Apil provided me with some information about the history of the project. In 2004 in Kisumu, he befriended a man from Germany who arranged a visit to Ahero along with some of his associates. There they witnessed the tribulation of the local people as they struggled with the primitive conditions. Aghast, they observed the difficulties suffered by the impoverished population to accommodate the basic necessities of life. People transported water on their heads. There was no electricity, and even food was in short supply. Many perished for lack of basic medical care.
Following a year of observation, the German benevolently provided a water tank at the school adjacent to the Center, thus benefitting the entire community.
Presently, there is a hospital within a reasonable distance from the Center. It is a private hospital, however, and the cost of services is quite formidable. Fr. Apil has been seeking support for medical services for a number of years, to no avail. His hopes have been renewed through getting to know me and the work of CTF-SOS DRS.
Fr. Apil’s account of the German’s intervention to minimize the poverty surrounding the project in Ahero inspired me to contribute to the improvement of the existing pathetic conditions. I recalled a fine lunch which included fried eggs that were served to me upon my arrival. I had inquired as to the source of the eggs, and I was told that they were purchased for 10 shillings each. Upon further inquiry, I discovered that the price of a chicken was 300 shillings. I proposed to provide the project with 10 chickens if they agreed to provide a chicken coop, and explained to them some basic principles of operating a small business. I agreed to evaluate the endeavor after a period of time and consider additional support.
After spending the entire day at Fr. Apil’s project near Kisumu we went to the pastoral center nearby where we stayed overnight. We were waiting for Fr. John Mosoti to arrive the following morning. Fr. John, the director of the Camillian pastoral center in Nairobi and a CPE supervisor, was also interested in the progress of the project. On Tuesday morning Fr. John Mosoti arrived to view and discuss the project. For starters, Fr. Apil proposed that the CTF-SOS DRS fund additional CPE training for Charles.
Next on our agenda was a three-day visit to Tabaka Hospital in Kisi. Fr. John Mosoti, who is from Kisi, was kind enough to transport me there. I was anxious to learn more about the work of the Camillians in order to integrate the efforts of CTF-SOS DRS and their existing programs. I was introduced to some benefactors from Trento, Italy and met Fr. Raphael Wanjau, MI, the director of the Tabaka Mission Hospital, who obligingly gave me a tour of the compound. I also met two other Camillians – Fr. Franco Avi, a doctor/surgeon at the hospital and Br. Albano. For a bit of fu, the Italian benefactors and I visited the Masai Mara, a renowned 1510 square kilometer wildlife reserve. It was a fun and memorable experience, which provided me with the opportunity to network and strengthen my friendship with my new comrades. I am hoping that we will be able to work together in the future to serve God by providing aid to His people in Kenya.
August 25, 2009