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‘Mr. Mike’ and fellow catering instructor ‘Madam Ruth,’ preparing food bags for distribution to students of the Marianist Technical Institute in Mombasa, Kenya

In my ministry here at the Marianist Technical Institute in Mombasa, we truly are one big extended family, bound together by camaraderie, honor, spirit and faith. As the saying goes, “A family that prays together…stays together!”

Our mission here is to provide skills for very poor youth that allow them the chance to move from poverty to independence. Most of our students come with low academic achievements, have taken several years to accomplish their secondary education, and some never had the financial means to go beyond Class 8.

Staff members prepare food bags for distribution

They arrive undisciplined and unexposed to most everything outside their own small world. Suddenly they find themselves existing in an unfamiliar, regimented and disciplined environment. Once they get into the groove and learn to support one another, they become a part of our Marianist family.

It has been eight weeks now since the school has been closed due to the coronavirus. Our students and their families are struggling to pay rent and to eat due to the loss of work. Many here work today so they may eat tomorrow. In our Marianist community, we have pooled together our resources to purchase two pickup truck loads filled with food to support our family members. Several staff members assisted in organizing the 5,840 pounds of food for the 230 students. We had many laughs working together in harmony.

It took five days to accomplish the organization and distribution of the food to the 230 students. One day for purchasing, one for portioning and organizing and three days for distribution. We contacted each student and gave them the day and the time to arrive for pick up. Spreading it out in that way allowed us to be in compliance with government physical-distancing regulations — and to avoid creating crowds that might lead to a run on the limited food supplies. The steady stream of students began at 9 a.m. and continued for 6 hours each day.

Three of our past tailoring students are currently in the process of sewing 5,000 masks to be given to the poor. They already contributed 230 of them for the students too.

It brought great joy seeing the happy and thankful students’ eyes as they passed through the lines picking up their food items. For me it was also a very happy time seeing them once again! They allow me to realize just how much I have; how much I need to be thankful for and how much more I need to share with others. Over and over I heard, “May God bless you.” But in reality, it is they who give me so much, and it is I saying to them, “May God bless you!”

Photos by Nancy Fedha


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