Summer 2022 newsletter
Francis Wayne, Kenya
Greetings from Kenya. I now work at the Marianist Technical Institute, a nonprofit vocational school in Ukunda, Kenya, just south of Mombasa on the east coast of Kenya. I teach auto mechanic theory and practice as well as high school math. Being a carpenter by trade, I also do maintenance at the school and staff houses.
Our student population is about 150 students — young men and women, who are in age from 18 to their late 20s. They are from different tribes, religions and financial abilities. They are both day students living in the area and resident students living in the dorms on campus. They are a great group and determined to improve their own welfare as well as the welfare of their families and community.
The area and the majority of Kenyans are very poor. Overall, the country of Kenya is not poor since there is plenty of money and economic activity here, but like in many places, the money here is in the hands of the few. We can only hope and pray that someday there will be a more equitable distribution of goods and opportunities. Among Kenyans there is always hope.
At the school we experience this lack of basic resources and necessities: Students have no books. For the lessons that I teach, I plan from the books that I have and then write the lessons on a white board for students to copy. It’s a slow process, but it is functional.
I teach mechanic theory three days a week on the white board and practice, with hands-on tools, two days a week. In August a new term will start, and I will begin to teach math to two classes.
Classes are taught in a mix of English and Kiswahili. There are actually three languages to learn: Kiswahili, colloquial Kiswahili and colloquial Kenyan English. We sometimes still struggle to understand each other, but I am progressing and picking up more of the words I hear spoken.
I get up almost every day at 5 a.m. and always start my day with prayer. School starts at 7:30 am and ends at 5 p.m. I am usually enthusiastic in the mornings but often quite tired in the afternoons. Some of that tiredness comes from the changing weather each day. This is the rainy season, and it is pleasantly cool but wet. When the clouds clear, it can get hot. I am learning to look for the shade.
Here I learn something new every day, including life’s adjustments. For example, where I live in the community in an apartment house, I live upstairs between two apartments on each side. I know when the neighbors have guests, when their children are sick, what music they like, even what their laundry looks like. I sometimes feel like making a complaint, but then I realize that I don’t hear anyone else complaining. In other words, this is life in Ukunda community living, and I am adjusting to it.
I am still figuring out what to do for fun and relaxation. In the U.S. I often visited friends and had food. I miss that tremendously. It seemed so easy there to gather, eat and relax. Here food has to be prepared, green leaves picked and cooked. Meat roasted. Chai boiled. And often a small space gets crowded. It is fun, but it takes some patience.
Today I went to Catholic Mass, which was a special kind of “recreation.” Prayerful too, mind you, but the singing was angelic and everyone was swaying to the sounds. I love watching the children, who have no restraint when it comes to singing and dancing. Kenyans sure know how to praise and pray.
Enough for now. The three Kiswahili words I hear the most are pesa (money), mzungu (white person), and Mungu yupo (God is here).
Blessings to all of you,
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!