St Patrick’s Dispensary where I work as a nurse in Mombasa, Kenya, offers an outreach clinic at Kiberani every other Friday. This location is to better serve a population located about four miles away from our regular clinic, and is held at the St Francis’ school where Maryknoll Lay Missioner Teresa Villaruz teaches in the upper grades.
Several months ago we arrived for this outreach clinic and learned that a new child had been enrolled in the school. We were asked to complete a wellness check on her. The child’s name was Betty. Our first impression of Betty was that she was intelligent, clever and seemed to be older than the age of 7 or 8, even though she was very small and underweight. We could see that Betty was a survivor and knew how to take care of herself in very harsh circumstances. She was homeless, living in the dump with her father, coping with her father’s mental illness and trying to find food for them to live on.
Betty’s situation is unique in regards to other children in Kenya. Abandoned by her mother when she was a baby, brought up homeless in the dump by an incompetent father who needs more care than she does, and without extended family to turn to is not a typical scenario. Most children are cared for by single mothers who are poor and who may struggle, but they provide for their children as best as they can. These children are loved and know they belong to someone. Betty didn’t have any of that.
The Head Mistress described the father as “insane”, the word that we would use would be, ”mentally challenged”, a condition aggravated by local brewed alcohol and drugs. According to the Head Mistress the father came to see her in one of his more sane moments, begging for Betty to be accepted in school that she was in danger. She was admitted to school, but because St Francis is only a day school, had to return to the dump at night.
She was treated for her health problems and the Social Worker from St Patrick’s Dispensary began to make inquiries into Betty’s situation, looking for extended family members. There was only a half brother that was unable and unwilling to care for Betty. There were no other family members. The story was that Betty’s mother had abandoned her as a baby.
Because of the situation that Betty was living in, our Social Worker, Norah began in earnest to find an alternative living situation for her. She met with the Gov. Child Welfare Officer, she met with Elders of the area, she met with the father and half brother, and all agreed that Betty needed a new home. Norah filled out all the legal papers, met with authorities, obtained signatures, but could find no adequate orphanage that could offer Betty a safe home. Good Life Orphanage at first said that there was no room for Betty, but through the intervention of St Patrick’s Pastor, Fr. Gabriel Dolan who is good friends with Kevin and Mary Maguire, Betty was accepted and now lives in a very loving and supportive home, something she never had before. She has a resilient spirit, is quite intelligent and is presently learning to read.
It was through the hard work and persistence of our dedicated Social Worker Norah, who refused to take no for an answer, that opened the way for Betty’s new life. Just today I received an email from Mary Maguire from GLO who says that Betty has settled in and is adjusting well to her new home.
Link to the attached document titled “Come and Meet the Missioners”
Meet the Missioners!
Location: Maryknoll House, 2360 Rice Blvd.
Houston, TX 77005
Date/time: Oct. 4, 2015, 2pm
Description: Join Lindsay Doucette to learn more about overseas Catholic mission at this “Meet the Missioners” event, presented jointly by Maryknoll Lay Missioners and our mission partners, the Maryknoll Sisters and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
Ecumenical Advocacy Days is an annual encounter of people from more than 20 different Christian traditions, who meet each year to study a specific justice theme. They end the gathering with a visit to their congress persons to advocate change according to gospel values of justice and peace.
For this year’s conference, held April 17-20, the point of discussion and sharing was incarceration and the reality of prisons in the states and around the world. Nearly 1,000 members of the different faith traditions attended this year’s conference. Over 20 percent were Catholics.
Joanne Blaney (’91 Brazil) is pictured here (in the middle). Joanne has served as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner for more than two decades in Brazil. As an educator, she has worked in prison ministry, and along with a team, developed a system of restorative justice and right relationships. Her effective work and capacity to articulate the “what” and “why” of restorative justice has gained her international recognition. Joanne recently joined the MKLM team at its NY base of US operations as Director of Mission Services; responsible for recruitment, orientation, admissions, sending, Returned Missioners and Friends Across Borders. MKLM is very grateful that Joanne responded to our invitation to assume this key position and are confident in her leadership of the team and these important areas. We fully realize what a sacrifice it was to leave her beloved Brazil and incredible work.
Photo: Joanne is pictured at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days, as she catches up with Mary DeLorey (’87 Peru), who currently works for Jesuits on justice issues and Gerry Lee (’84 Venezuela, US/leadership), who is now the Director of the Joint Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns.
Since July 2013, Maryknoll Lay Missioners has been a member of JFM. During this time MKLM has written and published several stories to the JFM Publications such as this bi-monthly e-newsletter. JFM feel that, “Our Christian faith invites us to become agents of God’s compassion in a wounded world.” We here at MKLM believe that, “The Compassion of the Faithful Transforms Lives.” Find out more about JFM.