Year Joined MKLM: 2008
Population Served: children (preschool).
MINISTRY: Teacher’s aide at St. Agnes Primary School (ranked top in county)
MINISTRY GOAL: Provide a warm and nurturing environment conducive to learning for the poorest of the poor.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa
Left South Africa in 1969 to work and travel overseas
Most recently residing in St. Dominic’s Parish, Benicia, California
Employed by Trust Bank South Africa, Bankers Trust London, Hong Kong International School
Lived and worked for extensive periods of time in eight different foreign countries
Lifetime professed in Dominican Laity
Ilona Helmholz came to MKLM in 2008 from St. Dominic’s Parish in the Diocese of Sacramento, California. Prior to moving to Kitale, Ilona and her husband spent 18 months in Mombasa where they worked on a Village for Aids orphans in the Taita Hills and Ilona also worked with street children, sexually abused children, pre school children and taught Sunday School.
Having accomplished as much as they could in the implementation of the Taita Hills Children’s Village project, and waiting on the Government for the title of the property, Ilona and her husband, Pat, moved from Mombasa to Kitale in November 2010.
Kitale is an agricultural town with many missioners from different denominations who are very heavily involved in working with children in the form of orphanages, homes and schools and their care. These are mostly children who have been affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Street children are present in Kitale too and this phenomenon is on the increase all over the world.
For part of her time, Ilona worked in Kipsongo Slums where people mostly from the Turkana region have fled and sought refuge. The rest of the community does not think very highly of them and as a result are marginalized. The Good Shepherd Sisters have built a shelter where they have developed programs to help them become self sustainable. In the morning when they arrive, devotions are held, after that the group is divided into two and they are taught Swahili/English and Math and English (depending on their level). Thereafter they break into 2 groups – one which crochets sofa covers and the other make rosaries and crucifixes. Among other development activities, Ilona was encouraging them to stuff empty water bottles with plastic so that these could be placed within the mud walls of the homes they were building, for insulation from heat and cold. Weekly, they prepared the mud and built a small home with the help of men. It was very rare and very welcome that men should help.
In her remaining time, Ilona worked at “Oasis of Hope” which is a drop in center for children living on the street and/or in extreme poverty circumstances. She taught mathematics to 2nd graders, and through this work, helped them change a pattern of bad choices to one that embraces new life options that offer hope.
Together with Pat, Ilona re-joined MKLM to work with preschool children at St. Agnes Primary School in Voi.