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2011 0930SEAFIELD0342Equipped with the many generous donations from Donnybrook parishioners I set off for Kenya on the evening of Monday 26th of June.

Having overnighted  in Nairobi, I flew on Wednesday afternoon to the western city of Eldoret, where I was met by Fr. Julius. From there we travelled to Kachibora by road – a journey of just over an hour. On arrival I was introduced to Fr. Paul Sunguti, a priest that was ordained two years ago and who is currently assisting Fr. Julius with his very busy parish.

During our evening meal I was given an update by Fr. Julius about the various developments that had occurred over the past two years since my last visit. Much had happened, the greatest change was in the number of children that attended the parish school – St. John the Baptist Primary day and Boarding school. The figure of 330 in 2015 had grown to 480 in 2017!!!.

As parish priest for Kachibora, Fr.Julius is involved with other Catholic schools in the area On Thursday 29th I accompanied him to St. Peters secondary school for Girls. Each year they celebrate the feast of St. Peter and Paul with a morning Mass that all teachers and pupils attend. The afternoon is their annual sports day. A fabulous day of fun was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The school is administered by two excellent teachers , both of whom I met before. Mrs Martha Muge is the head teacher and Miss Lucy Ngachi is her deputy.

Friday 30th of June turned out to be one of the highlights of my life. I formally opened the boys dormitory building for boarders which the school board had named after me!!. What an honour for me and when I enquired from Fr. Julius why me and not the people of Donnybrook, I was told it was because my personal involvement that the school wanted to acknowledge my ongoing support for St. John the Baptist school over the past 7 years. Well it turned out to be a wonderful occasion. The whole school attended the “formal” opening and great song and dance ensued. A government representative, Mr.  John Bakasa, was also present.

I was also given the privilege of presenting awards to students in Primary 8 (their final year) who had achieved very creditable marks in various subjects. For the record the two top overall performers were female. Boys, however did better in Mathematics and Science.

On Saturday morning I met a group of pilgrims who had just returned from Uganda – They had gone on a walking pilgrimage to honour the Uganda Martyrs. The roundtrip had taken 21 days. Some of the group were members of the Legion of Mary and I was asked if we had the same difficulty in Ireland  as they were experiencing i.e recruiting new young members

That afternoon I attended a Month’s Mind Mass in a nearby satellite church. The ceremony was held under a marquee as there was a turn out of numbers that exceeded the capacity of the church. There was a very nice mixture of singing and dancing. What I found totally different to any Mass in Ireland was the fact that all this occurred less than 50 feet from the grave.

The Sunday Mass took place at 9 a.m. and the singing was absolutely fantastic. A very large number of children attended and participated. The Homily took approximately 30 minutes (any shorter than that the parishioners complain!).

Over the previous few days I had met with various teachers, members of the school board as well as a representative from the pastoral council and had been given a broad as well as a very specific “list” of school and parish requirements. With these points in mind I sat down with Fr. Julius and we agreed the following:

  1. Build another class room to facilitate the growth in school numbers. The builder who had constructed other classrooms would immediately commence work on this job.
  2. Fr. Julius had identified a local contractor who was drilling bore holes to secure a guaranteed water supply for the school and with money from our fund he could organise this to happen within weeks.
  3. Purchase sports equipment for the children to use as at present they had absolutely nothing with which to play.
  4. The remainder of the money to be used on other educational material

On Monday having visited each classroom to speak with the pupils – giving them words of encouragement and advising them to work hard if they wished to achieve their dreams – Fr. Julius and I set off to meet a contractor about the water supply. We met him on site of a recently completed bore hole and were  shown a manually operated water pumping system. St. John’s will need an electric power driven system as the plan is to have a 10,000 litre tank to supply the school. The use of rainwater will still be part of their supply but with the current issue of drought in a large part of East Africa this can no longer be  guaranteed.

Subsequent to this meeting, Fr. Julius also secured estimates from two other possible providers and will make a decision shortly.

Fr. Julius drove us into Kitale and we purchased sports gear for St John’s school.

After lunch we visited St. John Bosco school. This school has less than 100 pupils but is attempting to educate extremely deprived children from the very poor areas of Kitale and is having some success, as the parents have absolutely no education themselves and as a result have no particular in their children receiving any!. One of the teachers involved  Mrs Lydia Simiyu was previously on the staff of St . John’s. I gave them a donation on behalf of Donnybrook.

The focus of the next 3 days was on the up and coming dedication of the Parish church as the building work was now completed after 11 years.

By 6.30 am on Sunday morning the voices of many people could be heard in and around the church and surrounding grounds as the last minute  decorating of the interior of the church and final rehearsals by the various choirs and dance groups were under way.

Some parishioners had left their homes at the early hour of 5 a.m. to ensure that they would be sure of a place as the expectation was a congregation of some thousands. I was lucky enough to be on site and resident in the house that the Bishop was using for his robing and disrobing as well as where he would dine after the ceremonies were over. The main “event” for most people was that a bishop was coming to “their” parish. There were also to be 80 people confirmed that day.

Bishop Maurice Anthony Crowley ( 45 years in Kenya – 20 years as the Bishop of Kitale ) emerged from the house at 10.45 a.m. and processed to the altar with a number of priests,  deacons,  nuns and church council members as well as an all female choir. The altar that had been erected at one end of the large open area in front of the church and school. With the church dedication as well as the confirmations, the ceremony went on until approximately 4.30 p.m. and was followed by a hot meal for everybody. As there were over 1,500 people it was some feat this was to feed all. Just goes to show that when you have a great community involvement what can be achieved!!.

The next day, Monday 10th, Fr. Julius and I decided to take the day off and drive with two friends to Kisumu on Lake Victoria. This was my third time at the lake and on each trip we go on a short boating trip. After this we purchased fresh fish from one of the fishermen and got a local restaurant to cook them for us. What an experience!!. As they say in many children’s books, we returned home that night – tired but happy.

On Tuesday we undertook a final shopping trip into Kitale to buy some additional sports gear as well as some educational material.

My final day in Kachibora,  Wednesday 12th of July, was spent with the school children, taking photos, telling stories as well as playing games. The love and affection that the children showed to me so often left me in no doubt as how much they appreciated what the people of Donnybrook were doing for them.

Next morning Fr. Julius and I departed at 8 o’clock for Nairobi for my flight back to Ireland via Dubai.

Summary :The support from the people of Donnybrook has greatly assisted the development of the parish of Kachibora. Gratitude was so often expressed by both adults and children.

The educational system is changing over the next two years from 8 years primary and 4 years high school ( which St John’s currently do not  provide )to the same as ours – 6 years primary and 6 years secondary. The parish have decided to offer the new system and this will result in a major building programme as well as a sizeable increase in the number of students attending the school.  

Finally this what your donations achieved this year

  1. A new “block” classroom was built
  2. Allowed the parish to employ a contractor to drill a borehole to provide constant water. This will reduce and possibly prevent the effects of drought. Rainwater will still be used for washing and the underground will be used for drinking.
  3. Provided sports equipment for the children, which included footballs, handballs, netting for netball.
  4. Increase our monthly contribution towards the nutritional supplements from €150 to €200.
  5. Despatch 7 cartons of religious reading material from Dublin that had been donated.
  6. Give small donations to other needy groups/schools in the area.

                                             KACHIBORA PERSONNEL

Parish priest – Fr. Julius Shibanda

Parish Curate – Fr. Paul Sunguti,

Head of school board – John  Chege

Head teacher – Hudson Walumbe

School secretary – Margaret Komen

Head of Pastoral council – Dixon Muntoka

Area Government representative – John Bakasa