My recent trip to Uganda and Kenya
By Naomi Corera, November 21, 2014
I had the grace to visit our brothers and sisters in Kenya and Uganda for five days to check on our current projects and visit with our partners at the schools and convents. I flew into Nairobi, Kenya, late on the evening of October 26, and went to see our friends in Ruai. After Kenya, I flew to Kampala, Uganda, where I met Father George to travel to Fort Portral and Kyakatara and stay through November 1, 2014.
This trip was really meaningful to me and the continued relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Africa. When I go on these trips, I don’t want to be considered an outside donor who is arriving to find problems to fix; I always want to be a friend who is welcomed into the community. When I am visiting, I participate with the community: we go to Mass together, share meals together, pray together, and this all builds our friendship and community. We share our blessings together: they share their rich culture, their contagious joy, their faith and dependence on God, and their friendship, and I share the gifts from my friends to support them. They know that people whom they have not met still love them and are caring for them through their schools and families. They think that is so beautiful that they have friends in the United States who love them.
One of the highlights of my trip was to see the new van at Little Flower School. We have been collecting money for this van for a long time. This van means that children who live far from the school are able to come to school. The school also hired Peter to drive the bus and make sure the children are taken to and from home safely. I noticed that Peter took such good care of the children. The van has already become an invaluable asset for the school.
The children were waiting to see me at Little Flower Nursery School. The pre-K and Kindergarten children were excited to sing and dance for me. Notice that many of the girls have the hair cut short to avoid getting lice, with the droughts in Kenya and shortage of showers.
Peter invited me to his house and was delighted to invite me in without embarrassment. He ran in quickly to bring out his 7 month-old baby. When I entered the house, I was horrified by the living conditions. Notice the Rosaries on the wall. Peter told me about the power of the Rosary for their family. I noticed the dirt floor and Peter invited me to sit, but I was afraid to sit because the chairs were just sitting on stones. When I asked Peter about the land, he said he owned it, so I told Peter to keep praying and I would go back to try to help for a new house.
Rachel, the cook for the sisters, was so happy for my visit that she cooked two chickens for lunch.
Geoffrey and Peter are twins and the sons of a farmer from a village away. They came to the convent to get Rosaries to share with other high school students. They are the top students at their high school.
Back at Little Flower School, the children were eager again to see me. CWE brought the school back from decay and now the children from poorer families can attend. We paved the floors, procured the tables and chairs, and drilled a well. This is what I say “giving birth to my baby” when I see the children happy, smiling, and singing. The Rosaries are from IHM Rosary Makers group in Ann Arbor.
This is Anne, a mother of five. She is one of my faithful friends and she is looking so much better. Every time I saw her, starting about 7 years ago, she looked skin and bones and coughing. After noticing this each visit for a few years, I finally went to see the living conditions for Anne and her children. Her house had cement bags in a one-room hut with a landlady shouting for rent. There were dogs and chickens from the landlady sharing the house, too. Anne had nowhere else to go but no way to improve the situation. Now when I see Anne, she looks so healthy since there’s no one shouting every month to pay, the children have a place to play, and they are so happy. She says, “No stress. No stress.” What a difference!
Millicent and her five children also came to visit me. Millicent’s husband was killed while on night watch duty at the convent. Ronald (in red sweater) has just graduated primary school and is starting high school. After her husband’s funeral, everything had been taken from her family’s home – at the funeral, she refused to re-marry because she is already occupied with her five children, but if a widow refuses to re-marry a brother of her deceased husband, she is disowned from the community. By God’s grace, CWE was able to provide Millicent housing. She was very happy to see me.
When I arrived at Uganda, I met a group of siblings, one of whom is a nun and another who is a physician’s assistant. The PA has ambitions to start a clinic and has a building planned. I came to see how we could help bring this clinic to fruition. There will be four rooms in the clinic: reception, two patient rooms, and one overnight room.
I went with the sisters to a home for disabled girls. This home is supported by a British foundation. I met a girl who had been hit by a car and was receiving care on her leg. I also met a little girl with a tumor. I was torn that all I could immediately do was give her a ballon. Each girl at this home had a story: one had been beaten by her mother, another had suffered burns from boiling water assault, and an infant had Down syndrome.
Fort Portal is beautiful. The tea plantation was all green. Father Sylvester, just ordained one year, was giving Rosaries to the seventh graders before their high school entrance exams.
I was blessed to get to see Maria Goretti at her high school. She is so happy to be in school.
The sisters are always so happy and welcoming. Sister Apollo was celebrated her golden jubilee of 50 years as a professed sister. Earlier in the day she was hard at work tending for the piglets and picking pineapple and melons.
I visited Holy Spirit School to see the buildings that were supported by Holy Spirit in Brighton, Michigan. The new buildings are all new and nice, but most importantly they have concrete floor – the floor in the old building is dirt. We will help demolish the old school building and build the final new building for the school.
Reflecting on this trip and looking ahead
The big challenge of this trip was time: I just didn’t have time to meet with all of the families and children who are so grateful for support or yearning to go to school because of lack of a few hundred dollars. The sadness of the children who can’t go to school right now is really hard for me.
When I’m visiting the children, I am on top of the world. I’m in my glory, in my element, and I thank God for the opportunity continually. With my passion for children, all my dreams get ahead of myself and I just have to be present with the children in front of me and be grateful for being able to help.
I will always remember the joy of the people: the singing, the dancing, their satisfaction with the simple things. Specifically, I was so happy to see the well hole and construction of the computer lab at John Patrick High School, both recent results from CWE.
On the horizon, I will be continuing to pray for lots of grace and support for the children. After Lenten bread and soup suppers in spring 2015, I hope to return in early summer 2015.