Grace gets news glasses — and preparing to say farewell - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2021 newsletter


Kathy Flatoff, Kenya

Grace with her new eyeglasses

Shortly before Christmas a woman named Grace came to St. Patrick’s Dispensary and asked if we would buy eyeglasses for her. Unfortunately, our dispensary does not have funds to do that.

I listened to her story and found out that she is blind in one eye as a result of an accident with fireworks. As she got older, the vision in the other eye began to worsen. She went to an eye clinic for an exam and was told she needed glasses. The cost would be 7,500 Kenyan Shilling ($75). That is a lot of money for someone living in poverty, and she was not able to raise it.

Grace kept the prescription for the eyeglasses but never found any help. I looked at the prescription. It was dirty, wrinkled and old — dated January 2018. For more than three years, this woman has needed glasses but could not afford them.

The children have brought such joy to my time at St. Patrick’s.

Thanks to your donations, we were able to get things moving quickly; after all, she had been waiting for three years! Our social worker took her to the Lions Medical Center, where they have a special eye clinic for the needy. Grace got a new exam, and eyeglasses were ordered with a “Rush” label.

Just before Christmas we got the call: Her glasses had arrived. She was so excited to get them and very happy to finally be able to see better. She thanked us immensely, and I hereby pass on those thanks to you donors, who made it all possible. What a great Christmas gift for her!

As my Maryknoll contract comes to an end, I am preparing to return to Wisconsin. I am filled with many emotions. I will miss my friends here and the many relationships I have established, but part of me is ready to be reunited with friends and loved ones back home.

As I reflect on these last three years of living in Kenya and working with the poor in Bangla, I have feelings that are hard to describe. My outlook on life has changed. I have witnessed

the inequality between the rich and the poor, as well as violence, injustice, and corruption at so many levels.

I have seen the eyes of the poor filled with hope, even in the midst of sickness, helplessness and despair. I admire their strength, their resilience and their faith. They have taught me how to live simply, to not be upset with the little inconveniences of life, to be more patient and to live in the present. They have taught me about complete trust in God, looking at the gifts of today, not worrying about the problems of tomorrow. “God will provide” is the mantra of many people in Bangla.

I will miss the fun times with the St. Patrick’s staff.

I came here as a Maryknoll lay missioner wanting to share my life with the poor but more importantly, they shared their lives with me — their weddings, the births of their children, their festivals and even their funerals. I have celebrated with them, laughed with them, and mourned with them. I have grown.

I will close this newsletter with gratitude for the many ways you have given me support — emails, cards and phone calls to lift my spirits and help me through the lonely times. I have been humbled by the trust and generosity of so many of you who have donated to my ministry — friends, relatives and people I have never met. You have enabled me to buy wheelchairs, pay school fees, help with rent for a destitute family and pay for hospital care for someone who has no money. In this sea of poverty, together, we have made a difference in their lives.

It has truly been my privilege to serve here. Part of my heart will always remain in Bangla.

Asante sana na Mungu akubariki!
Thank you and God bless you!


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.