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Summer 2024 newsletter

 

THERESA GLASER, KENYA

Two girls solve math problems

Two girls work on math problems at St. John Bosco Rehabilitation Centre in Kitale, Kenya.

“Holy ground” — these are the words that come to mind when I look out over the campus of the St. John Bosco Rehabilitation Centre near Kitale in western Kenya. This is where I am now serving as a Maryknoll lay missioner.

A project of the Diocese of Kitale, the center is a place of rescue for young children from a life of extreme poverty — children at risk of a life on the streets; children most definitely at risk of a future in which everything is focused on mere survival.

Students washing clothes

When the midday bell rings, students perform chores, such as washing their clothes, before eating lunch.

Many of the children are from families of the Turkana tribe, a nomadic group who, in the harsh environment of northern Kenya, have been forced to move south and now live in government camps, without opportunities for earning a living.

Fifty-five children between the approximate ages of 8 and 12, selected though careful interviews and home visits by social workers, first arrive at the center often needing instruction in the most basic tasks involving personal care and hygiene. During the week they live in dormitories and attend informal school with the aim of preparing them for entry into the formal Kenyan school system. On weekends they return to their families or to an identified guardian (if the child is an orphan).

Have you ever seen a pencil, sharpened at both ends and used to the size of a nub? Have you seen a rubber eraser worn to a size so small that small fingers can barely grasp it? I never had. I have been a teacher in American schools for 36 years, and I had never given a thought to the value of something so small when one has nothing.

At first glance, there are no apparent luxuries to be found here. Squat toilets serve both students and staff. Functioning electricity is not guaranteed. WiFi is not available. Children have only one school uniform, and it is their task to hand-wash their own clothing. When the midday bell rings, children first run to the dorms to perform chores before being summoned to the lunchroom.

Student leading review before class

Before school begins, and without a teacher present, students take turns leading the class in a review.

But the “luxuries” that are present are those of a structured, stable, God-centered environment, and the education and impetus for integration into Kenyan formal schools.

And there are opportunities and role models: The two informal teachers presently employed at the center were themselves rescued as young children and went on to complete post-secondary school training as educators. The social worker and matron, also from humble beginnings, moved through the system to successful professional employment. Still others are currently attending medical school and other higher education institutions.

Holy ground. Working alongside a dedicated staff with a heart and vision for the very poor, I know it is a blessing to be here; to be able to participate in the day-to-day shaping of a future for our children at the St. John Bosco Rehabilitation Center.

Yours in mission,
Theresa


Please consider supporting my mission work at St. John Bosco Rehabilitation Centre in Kitale, Kenya, with a donation via the button below. 

If you are able, I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 

 

Theresa Glaser
Theresa Glaser joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2023. She is serving at the St. John Bosco Rehabilitation Centre in Kitale, Kenya.