Home » Education » Kwa heri: My farewell letter from Mombasa

May 2021 newsletter


Mike Garr, Kenya

With the catering class of 2019

I still vividly remember my arrival to Mombasa—and the smoke- and dirt-filled, late-evening drive from the airport to our temporary apartment in the city center. In the blackness of the night, I caught glimpses of Kenyans illuminated from the flames of those cooking along the roadsides and from burning rubbish piles. I felt empty and thought, What have I gotten myself into?

It took unwavering perseverance to overcome the many challenges, frustrations and fears that lay ahead. In retrospect, I have no doubt that God was carrying me every step of this journey. It is here that I have truly experienced what it means to trust God.

As I reflect on the past three years, I feel deep gratitude to each of you for so, so much. Your moral support, encouraging words, correspondences and love comforted me in times of need. The often impeccable timing was surely God’s work.

Musa (a Masai) and I parting ways in Zanzibar

Some of you prayed for me every day, which humbles me. You have provided me with opportunities to show people here how loving and caring Americans can be; the generosity you displayed is rarely exhibited here. It is why Kenyans have often voiced to me how they admire Americans. “I like the way you people …,” they tell me.

Through your financial sacrifices, we have accomplished so much, but the greater fruits we will most likely never know. Supporting these poverty-stricken youth has been the crucial focal point of my mission here. For this targeted demographic, it is difficult to achieve a high school education, let alone to enter college. Together with the education they received at Marianist Technical Institute, they also learned discipline and moral values. I know that this formation will provide great ripple effects for now and future generations.

Many little people in many small places undertakingmany modest actions can transform the world.
African proverb

Thanks to your donations, several in my Kenyan community were able to access medical services—one for a head injury received during a football match, a child who had lost her eyesight due to being born with HIV, and others who needed treatment for depression or drug addictions.

Some of the people you supported are orphans, who had spent years in orphanages, and others lived in bondage within society. You provided help for small business startups and housing assistance that kept people from having to live in the streets.

Eid al Fitr — Breaking the Ramadan fast with neighbors (Photo by Sulieman)

And when the COVID-19 pandemic robbed people of their livelihoods, you provided emergency food rations for many.

I have been able to walk with many youths who had known very little beyond their immediate surroundings. Imagine at the age of 18 and older not knowing how to use cutlery, never having traveled by car, used kitchen appliances, entered a supermarket, or gone to a cinema, etc. Supplying novels, teaching them discipline, how to save, how to respect one another and how to be gentlemen and good future husbands and fathers have been my greatest joys.

My boys are now “growing up,” either by finding employment or in college. They are joyfully struggling and charged with hope!

Out of the ashes we shall rise!

As I ponder during this period of transition, I’ve begun to question, “Where is home?” Is it the town where I was born and raised or the home where my immediate family was established?

Or is home determined by the roots, footprints and relationships planted along life’s journey?

However home is determined, I am happy to be considered family here.

With much love and appreciation,

Maryknoll Lay Missioners works around the world to lift people from poverty by promoting social justice, civil rights, women’s rights, education, agriculture and health care, to name only a few. Please consider continuing your donations to enable others to bring the message of Jesus to those in need. Click the left button: 


Mike Garr
Mike Garr is a catering instructor at Marianist Technical Institute in Mombasa, Kenya.