#4 The Situation on the Ground

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dear Friends,

I’ve just written to the board chair and pastor of St. Denis Church in Menlo Park, which has supported students at Archbishop Ndingy Boys High School and has provided funds for initiating a master plan for upgrading that school.  They had expressed concern for the continuation of that plan and I wrote to reassure them.  After I sent it, it occurred to me that others might have those same concerns, particularly those of you who are our Kenya Help donors.  Here, with some minor editing is what I told the St. Denis people.

I can understand your dismay upon learning that Fr. Kiriti was being transferred.  The bishop actually left him here in Naivasha for almost 3 years longer than is usual so he could complete St Francis Girls.  

The work at Archbishop Ndingi is proceeding well.  I stopped there just 2 days ago to greet Alfred, the principal, and to tour the work that was done.  The classrooms have all been painted and ceilings installed.  He said for the first time they are now able to teach when it rains hard.  Before, with only the pitched, tin roof, the noise was so great in those incredible African rains, that the teachers would give up trying to be heard.  

He told me that when the boys returned after their break to find the classes painted a light color and the ceilings in place, they were very, very happy.  The ceilings reflect the lights better as do the light colored walls.  Before the rooms were dark and cavernous.  Your gifts have made a tremendous difference in the learning environment and have raised the spirits and efforts of the boys.

One of Fr. Kiriti’s many gifts is his ability to delegate responsibility and to set up systems that operate very well in his absence.  For both schools, a new board has come in, as prescribed in their constitutions.  The Ndingi board has embraced the master plan set up by the previous board.  The improvements I’ve described were Step 1 in that plan.  Believe me, the plan’s implementation will go forward.  Alfred indicated the field where one of the new buildings will be built and expressed hope that they could begin soon.

He and the board have plans for fund-raising, but as you know, this is a poor country.  What they can raise will be but a token amount.  Donating to a school is not a part of the traditions here.  However, Alfred plans to speak to the current parents at the prize-giving day coming at the end of this month (to which he invited me).  He will encourage them to take some ownership in the school to help pay for further work.  He feels confident that they will help, as so many have expressed their appreciation for what has already been done.  Nonetheless it would take many years for them to raise even part of what is needed.  Your help is still greatly needed.

The bishop has not revealed the name of Fr Kiriti’s successor.  As I said in one of my emails, it is very frustrating, but whoever he is, it is not likely that he would interfere with the progress of the school.  The funds you have sent have come through Kenya Help.  Fr. Kiriti has established an NGO in Kenya named Empoowering the World (ETW).  All funds remaining from what KH has sent have been transferred to an ETW account and KH will send any new funds to ETW.  The ETW board in chaired by Fr. Kiriti.  Thus, he and the ETW board will be responsible for the disbursement of any funds to Ndingi and for scholarship funds.  He did this to ensure that any funds coming to the parish through KH would be responsibly used.  

For myself, I am in awe of how well he has planned for this transition.  Currently the parish has no leader, but it continues to run smoothly, thanks to the many years he has spent training and empowering the people.  He has set a very high standard for shepherding a parish and they are very sad to see him go.  But the parish is humming.  Even as he left, there is a seminar going on this week, Living in the Life of the Spirit, I think it’s called.  

I really understand your concerns.  I have shared them, but now that I am here and have seen and heard, I am not concerned about the schools.  Just like the schools in the US would continue to run w/o the superintendent, so is that the case here.  Kenya has a long history of operating schools.  It’s amazing what has been done with relatively little money.  The Catholic Church has been a major player in this education and many schools were begun by missionaries.  Without the Church education would be very rare here.

Just a word about Fr. Kiriti’s choice to move to a very remote area, instead of to some well-established parish.  He is so well respected that I suspect he could have had his choice of destinations.   He volunteered for this post.  He told me he wants to experience the challenge of a hardship assignment.  Ever since his ordination, almost 25 years ago, he has had the dream of serving the very poor and needy.  His new parish will certainly fill that longing!  Despite the distance from here, he will be “coming in” at least once a month to meet with the bishop, to purchase food and supplies, and to see his 90+ year old father.  His family compound is near Naivasha and he is very close to his father, brothers and extended family.  He will not be a stranger.  

I hope what I have written has reassured you.  Please feel free to write to me with any other questions you might have.

Thanks for writing and letting me know your concerns.

Blessings and thank you so much for all you have done.


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