The children of Bangla - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2020 newsletter


Kathy Flatoff, Kenya

Jerry can wagon

Merry Christmas from Mombasa. I hope you are all doing well in the midst of so much unrest and suffering in our world. Despite what is happening around us, let’s take time to prepare for the birth of our Savior. Our hope is in HIM!

Checkers with bottle caps

I continue to work at St. Patrick’s Dispensary in the informal settlement of Bangla. The first phase of reopening schools has begun for grades 4, 8 and 12. Schools are still closed for the other grades, so the children of Bangla often play in the dirt field next to the dispensary. It is the only “playground” they have. I marvel at how happy they are, playing amid the dirt and garbage strewn about. The football (soccer) games are popular for people to watch. Even youngsters who don’t understand the rules, try to get involved with kicking the ball. Other than some occasional cries and fights, I usually only hear their laughter and see their joy in playing.

A child’s life here is in stark contrast to a child’s life in America, which has become filled with technology, expensive toys and games, brand-name clothes and equipment, etc. Here the children play in the mud after a heavy rain, trying to divert a small flow of water into a little hole. They run with excitement as they chase an old rubber tire with a stick and try to keep it from falling over.

They collect colored caps from plastic bottles to use as checkers on an old board with squares outlined in chalk. The children are so creative. They are artistic. Their imagination runs wild as they make pull toys from sticks and string, using discarded plastic lids for wheels. They make a wagon out of a large, empty container of cooking oil or a cardboard box. They seem to have fun with anything they can find.

A serious game of bottle caps

Although surrounded by poverty, this is the only life they know. Some of them eat only one meal a day. Many are being raised by a single mother, with no father figure in their lives. They will struggle as they get older — for a good education, for a job, for opportunities that children in other countries take for granted. Many will give up on trying to find meaning in their lives and will resort to alcohol, drugs and gangs to lessen the pain of their existence.

But for now, the youngsters are filled with innocence. Their laughter, their happiness and their love of life make me smile as I watch them play. Oh, how God loves the little children!

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).

I am sending you Christmas peace, love and blessings from Mombasa.

Thank you for your prayers and your financial support,


Kathy Flatoff
In January 2024 Kathy Flatoff is returning to serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner nurse in Kenya, this time in the Diocese of Kitale. She previously worked at St. Patrick's Dispensary, a health clinic in a poor, informal settlement in Mombasa, Kenya.