June 2006 letter from Sister Yvonne in Kenya

14th June 2006

Dearest Brian,

I decided, no matter what, I would commence a letter to you this day so that you could update the news in the Lodwar website. How long it may take is another story. So much has happened over the period of time since my arrival. It was March 2001 when I first came and here it is five years down the track. I have grown to love the people and place so much and shall miss Africa terribly when the time comes to leave. 

Being here with these Turkana people has been such an enriching experience and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity. I've learnt much about life and the resourcefulness and tenacity of very materially poor people. Also, I've experienced the feel of desperation in it all. Still it is amazing how simply people can live and find a measure of happiness in spite of the hardships.

It has been gratifying to see the empowerment of people as they have gained meaningful employment or have been given opportunities to learn new skills and so become more financially independent. I see this happening more and more. The Diocese certainly plays a big part in this empowerment and is not in the practice of seeking publicity for the many projects in which it is involved.

The Diocese of course has been the recipient of generous funding over many years from various non-Government Organisations around the world. Some of these agencies include:

DKA    CORDAID    TERRES DES HOMMES    TROCAIRE 
IRISH AID    SANANDA    HORIZANT 3000    UNICEF
MISSIO    WORLD VISION    COMBINED SERVICES
THIRD WORLD FRIEND 

On the other side of the coin, poverty and the resultant consequences are still prevalent. Alcoholism, domestic violence, HIV, orphans, neglect of children, petty and serious crimes and border conflicts are serious problems still needing much attention. The road between Lodwar and Kitale defies description. It is an apology for a road and quite threaterous. The whole infra structure of Lodwar town needs a massive overhaul. 

As already mentioned, many people from countries around the world have been extremely generous to the Diocese with financial and personnel support. Monies directed to projects in which I have particular interest or involvement have come mainly from individual families or small Parish groups from Australia, the States and Ireland. 

I'm sure most give not having their left hand know what their right hand is doing. The God of us all knows and will reward you accordingly. I could never express my thanks adequately for the support and relief I experience by your generosity. I know God is never outdone in generosity. I pray you in turn may experience being blessed abundantly. The Bishop regularly prays publicly for all our benefactors.

You will be interested, I'm sure, to know how the contributions given through me have made a difference to the lives of some of the people of the Turkana Diocese:


THE ENVIRONMENT PROJECT

1. This simple project gives employment to young men with alcohol/drug addiction problems. Their task is to enhance the environment. This includes gardening, getting rid of the volumes of rubbish and plastic bags and doing painting and the occasional repairs around the place. They have requested work T-shirts with ENVIRONMENTAL TEAM in bold print across them. I will get around to providing them one day. They do a marvellous job and take it all very seriously.

A PROGRAMME TO REHABILITATE PEOPLE SUFFERING DRUG & ALCOHOL ADDICTION IS NEEDED DESPERATELY IN TURKANA. 


EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES

2. Many young people are being given help with schooling, boarding fees school uniforms and the other necessary requirements. Some people have taken responsibility for sponsoring particular students on an ongoing basis. How wonderful for these lucky children. Others make regular contributions to support the education of children when and as the need arises. There is still a constant stream of students at the door begging for educational opportunities. Only twenty-seven per cent of Turkana children actually attend school.

The Diocese has been responsible for building most of the schools in Turkana. They have also, more recently, built many Nursery Schools. Many more schools and teachers are needed.

FAMILY SUPPORT

3. One family has taken on the financial responsibility of a small AIDS orphan. They keep in touch with the child and the family who have taken him in. Very comforting for the child knowing there is 'someone out there' who cares for him in a special way. Another lady regularly sends money for clothing for a family of AIDS orphans.


ANOTHER ENVIRONMENT PROJECT 

4. Three environmentally friendly toilets have been installed. These toilets don't use water. They were constructed in Melbourne and packaged over. A big plus in this barren land. Through the process the waste makes perfect compost for the garden. All we need is the RAIN WATER!!!


THE VULNERABLE CHILDREN'S PROGRAMME

5. The latest and biggest undertaking is the setting up of a 'Vulnerable Children's Programme'. Because of the AIDS pandemic and other debilitating circumstances there are many vulnerable children. Initially we hoped to identify and start with about thirty of the most seriously vulnerable. However, the response from you has been so overwhelming the Bishop hopes it can be extended and in time be set up in other parishes. I'll write a detailed account of this project at a later date. 

We had a meeting with the guardians, mothers, grandmothers and single mums of these children last week. They feel the Programme is giving them some real hope.

 

TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT OF STAFF AT BETHANY HOUSE

6. The Staff at Bethany House continue to improve their skills and become more creative in their culinary arts. We are trying to organise for some of them to undertake computer courses to further develop their learning. None of them had any Secondary Education and are very capable. They are all Turkana people.

Regularly Students from St Clare's Home Craft Centre come to Bethany on Placement. The permanent staff members are particularly patient and encouraging and give the students every opportunity to practice and enhance the learning they receive at the Centre. 


THE BORE PROJECT

7. Monies have been donated for the sinking of a bore. The water situation is desperate. Unfortunately, after two attempts water was not struck. When the Bishop returns in a couple of weeks a decision will have to be made to determine what to do next. As more people settle in Lodwar the need for water becomes more and more crucial.

Later Newsflash! You'll be pleased to know that as soon as the Bishop returned he moved immediately on the water problem. He had organised to have a drill brought in. The bore was sunk and water has been found. The next move is to see if it can be adequately desalinated or if the alkaline level is too great. We all have our fingers crossed. 


GREY POWER

At the beginning of this year 2006 a very youthful, energetic, and creative grandmother, Lynn Creber from Yamba in Australia, came for a year's volunteer work.

Lynn straight away threw herself into working with the young single mums. They have started up a really creative weaving industry. Lynn covers the costs of a teacher who is still engaged in showing the women the intricacies of weaving. They have one large commercial, two table size loom and about eighteen small looms.

It is truly amazing what they have already produced. It is hard to build up any stock with items being sold as soon as they are finished. For starters they have made, sets of table mats, kikoys, table cloths, shopping bags, small shoulder bags, wall hangings and scarves. Many other items are on the agenda.

Lynn is teamed up with the Youth Worker cum Project Officer, Tim Flynn. In the near future they hope to open a Coffee Shop adjoining the weaving centre. The idea is to have people enjoy the coffee and sweets and then view the weaving and other items on sale. View and then BUY of course. The patrons will be mainly visitors to Lodwar.


VISITORS, INCLUDING SOME FROM AUSTRALIA 

In the five years I have been at Bethany we have enjoyed the visits of people from many countries around the world. Some of these include: 

Netherlands, U.K., Ireland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Japan, Austria, New Zealand, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, USA, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Hong Kong, Denmark, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Shri Lanka, Ecuador, Argentina, Vietnam, Turkey, Andorra, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria, Australia, Somalia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania. I've surely left some places out but you can see the mix of countries, cultures and people who have made an impact on our lives in this remote spot of the global city.

I had almost given up hope of there ever being any Australian visitors when the Bishop's sister Catherine and husband Michael Lawton from Canberra came to visit. Then at the end of last year Louise Bernard from my own home place arrived. Louise offered her Nursing services for a month to work in whatever capacity would be helpful. 

Like many other people who have visited, and seen for themselves the crying needs of the poor here, they and their families and friends, have continued to send financial support.

So after all this Brian, the main thing I want to say to each and every one of these wonderfully kind supporters is.... A BIG THANK YOU!

Bethany House
Turkana Province
Kenya

 

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