Archive for May, 2012
St Clare Girls Centre continues to receive young girls from all over Kenya. During my last visit to St Clare in February and March 2012, I again had the opportunity and privilege to speak with several young girls from different villages and cities in Kenya. They shared their stories and again I was amazed and inspired by the incredible courage and resilience of these young women.
We begin with two girls from Kibera. Kibera is located near Nairobi,and is the largest slum in Africa. The living conditions there are horrible with sewage strewn through the streets. The children in Kibera wear only tattered clothing, have no shoes, and have not bathed in some time. The area is characterized by a terrible stench, and mud and more mud.
Mary (not her real name) age 14 came to St Clare from Kibera, a slum outside of Nairobi, where she lived with her grandmother in a tin hut after both of her parents died. She recalls that there was no plumbing, waste was thrown on the streets and there was little food. “In order to assist my grandmother with a few shillings, I washed people’s clothes. If I made an error in my work, I was often beaten by these people.” Sister Marianna, an Italian sister living and working with the slum people, rescued Mary. Mary continues “ I know if Sister had not brought me to St. Clare I would have been raped in the slum.” Nancy is very happy at St Clare where she loves to dance, study and spend time with the other girls. “When my education is complete, I want to return to Kibera where I will build a school for other slum girls.”
Elizabeth (not her real name) is 13 years old and spent her young years also living in the Nairobi slum of Kibera. She too was rescued by Sister Marianna who lives and works there with the slum dwellers. Cynthia recounts “My father was a gangster who was murdered and my mother became very stressed out so could not care for me. I was left all alone with only my aunt who tried to care for me. My aunt also was a slum dweller who had no work. There was really no one to help me but I was blessed as Sister Marianna knew of St Clare and brought me here where I am so happy to have friends and a very good school.”
Last year’s drought and famine sparked a new idea in Fr. Riwa. In realizing that he needed to be more self-sufficient and raise more food at the Children’s Village, Father built two tilapia fishponds and stocked them with 15,000 fingerlings. In addition, he hopes to add two more ponds in the future. With four fishponds he will be able to add protein rich fish into the diets of the children at least once a week.
Tilapia is wonderful at eating the scraps from the table so feeding them is not a problem. The biggest problem seems to be with the younger children, especially the little boys who love to hang around the edge of the ponds and try to catch the fingerlings by hand.
Since day one the interior gathering space at St. Clare has been a dust bowl in the dry times and a mud pit during the rainy seasons. As a result, dust, dirt and mud were constant décor in the classrooms, dormitories, lavatories and dining hall. Finally those days are over. (The top two photos show the problem.)
In March, work began on paving the gathering space with a grill covered drain channel running down the center and outside and away from the building. This will make a huge difference in the cleanliness of the building, but will also lessen the chronic dust cough, which has plagued so many girls. The courtyard has been cemented with the drain running down the middle. It will all be tiled, even the drain.
Because of recent violence near St. Clare, Fr. Riwa contacted the Kenyan chief of police and asked for protection for the 850 children in his care. To his surprise, the chief appointed Sergeant Susan to the Children’s Village, which became her permanent post. Susan is a member of the Samburu tribe, where Fr. Riwa first worked as a young priest, so she was aware of Fr. Riwa and his work. Further, Susan is a veteran police officer and has served in many capacities.
One would never know how tough Susan is when first meeting her, as she is warm and affable. However, several weeks ago a small group of young men jumped over the wall and stole mangoes. Before they could get away, Susan had arrested them and taken them to the nearest police station. When asked why she was so severe Susan replied: “They were trespassing on private property today and that is against the law. I want the word to go out this is not permissible. It is mangoes today, but what could it be tomorrow? It is my duty to protect these children and I will!”
So the word is out. DO NOT MESS WITH SUSAN!
Concerned with for the safety of the girls, Fr. Riwa took action two years ago. At that time, he constructed a ten foot stone wall across the front of the St. Clare compound and along one side. This is because there are busy public roads which pass that way. However, Father did not have the money to complete the wall around the back and far side of the St. Clare compound.
But there is good news! Work to complete the perimeter wall around the back and side has begun due to increased violence in the area and in Kenya. With national elections only a few months away, people are becoming more and more agitated. Recently, several young men came onto the property to steal mangoes. Fortunately, Sergeant Susan, a police officer assigned to St. Clare, apprehended them and they were arrested. This action made it clear that the perimeter wall needed to be completed. A recent donation has made this possible, so “safety is just a few stone blocks away!”
The science labs at St. Clare Centre are almost finished and ready for us. Begun six months ago with funding from the Tom and Carol Cracchiolo family, two rooms in the parish dispensary were converted into science labs for the girls at St. Clare. These rooms are located next to St. Clare and will give the girls a chance to put into practice what they are learning in their classrooms. Most important, the girls will not develop the scientific background needed to pursue professional careers which demand backgrounds in science.
(The photos to the right and the left show the early work on the labs. The center photo shows one of the nearly completed science labs.)
When Bud and Sue Ozar returned to The Children’s Village in February 2012, they once again spent time with the girls at St. Clare Centre. During this visit, Sue explains that they saw a great deal of progress. Father Riwa continues to be so grateful for all the support and help provided by Friends of Kenyan Orphans.
On February 20, 2012, Bud and Sue Ozar were in the middle of their annual visit to St. Clare and St. Francis schools. Curious to know how the students viewed them, Sister Kathryn, one of the Adrian Dominican sisters living and working at St. Clare, asked this question of the photo- journalism class, a class composed of Form Two (sophomore) and Form Three (junior) girls:
“How has the Mission of Madam Sue and Mr. Bud Ozar influenced my life?”
Here are some of their answers.
“Where would some of the girls be if it were not for our benefactors like Mr. and Mrs. Ozar? Many would be suffering in the streets. These “guys” are full of life.”
“Whenever I see Madam Sue and Mr. Bud, I feel peace around me because they are the people who think of me. They leave their home, not to come as tourists, but to come and ensure that I have quality education, good shelter, am fully dressed and that my dreams are fulfilled. They are doing this for us not expecting no repayment from anybody, except Almighty God. I wish that when I grow up I could go to America and take care of them in their very old age.”
“When I grow up I would like to help street children, orphans and needy children. I always ask God to help me to have the heart for helping others. I am looking forward to following in the footsteps of Md. Sue and Mr. Bud.”
“I have thought of giving them a title. I did research, wrote poems, and read other books. The best title I could give them is from the set book The River Between by Ngugi Klataiongo and that title is ‘SAVIORS’”.
“St. Clare has not only helped me but the lives of hundreds of people. Truly my life is changed. At least I can see a future ahead of me, a life full of happiness and hope. Perhaps Md. Sue and Mr. Bud were sent into my life as my ‘saviors’”.
“Their mission has really influenced my life in that I wish to serve the poor when I complete my studies. When I have a profession and a paying job I plan to use some of my earnings to help St. Clare. I will support St. Clare the best that I can.”
“Md. Sue and Mr. Bud actually came to Kenya as missionaries. Their mission was to support and uplift the life of street children and the orphans who are really mistreated and despised by everybody. They have fully dedicated their lives to serving the needy children.”
“All that I can say about them is that they are heaven sent to help us to get out of poverty. It is only a person with faith, hope determination, love and a person who has a call from God who can do all that they have done and are still doing for us.”
“I wish one day, one time in life, that I will be like them and help people like me who are really in need. They help us so that we can be the messengers of tomorrow to help others.”
“Since I came to St. Clare in the year 2006, my life has really become better. A lot of support from this couple, like building our classrooms has provided a good environment that has enhanced learning. I wonder how I would be, what kind of a person I would be if I were not at St. Clare. Maybe I would be in the street, a school dropout.”
Handy at making small wooden toys, Bob Kassin, from Shelby Township in Michigan, packaged a suitcase of these toys, which traveled to Kenya this past February. These toys were then distributed to the toddlers at the AINA House, which is the neighbor to the St. Clare Centre.
“It was our intention to give the toys to the children at St. Clare” said Bud Ozar, “but when we saw that those little children at AINA had nothing to play with except rocks and sticks, we knew instantly this is where the toys should go.”
The AINA House was established to care for children who are HIV positive. The children live there and those who are old enough attend the local school. At AINA the children are provided the drugs necessary to suppress the HIV virus and avoid the sickness and illness, which usually accompanies HIV infection.
“You would think it was Christmas when we brought out the suitcase of toys,” Ozar said. “The little ones were so excited. They took the trucks and began to move them through the dirt and grass. The little girls hugged their wood dolls. It was their first doll and their first toy. What a moment.”