So many things I could write about, but what is really eating at me right now is several very hard stories.
First is from Esther, one of our Mji kids, very bright girl who is finishing her diploma course in medical technology—training to manage the machinery in hospitals, IV’s MRI’s etc. She has 2 more years to complete a degree, after which she will be imminently employable. But in her last term, she failed a class. This is despite the fact that she’d never failed before and that one of her room mates, whom she had tutored, passed the same class. Curious??? Questionable? Yes! Here’s the story.
The head of the department of medical technology routinely, selects some girls whom he propositions. If they refuse, as Esther did, he arranges for them to fail. In other words he’s a total scumbag. Esther is no wimp. She went to the instructor, questioning why she had failed. “Oh, you weren’t serious, you joked around at the end.” Huh! This is a girl who had never failed and who is not given to joking around. He did not show her her exam nor explain just how she had failed. He refused to reconsider her grade. By then she knew the dept head and his shenanigans, so she approached his secretary, who confirmed that he does this with every new class of students. The good news is that she is retaking the class, doing well and by this time he has moved on to the new students. She won’t be bothered and she won’t fail. She would love to change schools, but this school is considered tops for this training. She is virtually guaranteed a job upon finishing.
Naturally she was embarrassed when he first approached her. Like many such victims, she was ashamed, despite having done nothing wrong. She didn’t tell anyone, just tried to avoid the scumbag. But finally she came to me and has now told Hillary and Fr. Kiriti, who have both assured her that she did the right thing, they are proud of her for standing up to this person in a position of authority. We will of course continue to support her, have paid the fees for the retake and will support her for her final 2 years. But she’s paid the price of losing a whole term!
Today came Mary, a graduate of SFG from 2011, where she had position 2 (her score on the KCSE was second highest). She went to Nairobi University where she majored in sociology. She wants to be a social worker because she wants to help other unfortunate kids. She comes from a totally dysfunctional family and knows how important it is for such children, of which there are many, just like in the US, to have someone to pick them up, dust them off and tell them they are OK, they are loveable, they are bright and they deserve a future just like everyone else. But, in all this time she has been unable to get a job. Why? She goes for an interview, is tentatively offered a position, but either she’s expected to bribe the intake person, or sleep with him. Like Esther, she refuses.
I told both of them about the Me Too movement and how at least a few of the most egregious scumbags are now in prison, others have been discredited, lost their jobs, lost their families and certainly lost the respect of those who incorrectly believed them to be good people. I truly believe in time women will be seen not as “other” but as equal partners in the experience of growing up and becoming conscious human beings. But…..oh my, it’s a slow process. ARGH!!!!
Later a visit from Sister Veronica, who lives in the small convent here on the church property and works in the District Hospital across the road. I know that generally when someone like that comes, it is with the hand out. Today the tale was of a family, once able to live independently, but now destitute because the carpenter dad fell from a roof, breaking his leg, which has not healed well. Their 7thgrade daughter and form 2 son are home for lack of school fees and there is little food in the house. Believing the long term end of poverty is education, I gave her funds to pay the school fees and some for food. I can’t feed all the hungry people in town, nor can I pay fees for all the children, but when I hear of something like that, and I have money in my bag, I can’t refuse to help. I advised her to assist the family apply to ETW for the following year. We support only high school fees, so the family would need to find other support for their daughter, but grade school fees are not too much and Sr. Veronica will find other to help. As we talked, we bemoaned the passing of parish social worker, Jecinta Gakaku, who passed away maybe 8 – 10 years ago. She was the go-to person for the whole town, not just the Catholics. She never asked the religion of a hungry person, she just scrounged around to find them some cooking oil, maize flour for ugali (traditional food) and some beans. Because she was so effective in distributing food to the needy, agencies would bring in large supplies. I remember once when one end of the Mji dining room was stacked almost to the ceiling with bags of maise, beans and flour, plus oil and other necessities.
When she passed, the priest who succeeded Fr. Kiriti chose not to replace her. Nor has the current priest seen the necessity to do so. It’s just tragic. I’ve urged each of them many times to find another social worker. I’m always given the runaround, “I’ll ask the diocese to send us one from the social worker office in Nakuru”. Guess how many have showed up. Yep!!! Nada.
It’s now Saturday morning. I’m in my “house” listening to the glorious music of the choir as 3 new priests are being ordained in the church next door. I had considered attending, but in the end I knew I couldn’t manage 4 or 5 hours of sitting, standing, kneeling, not understanding the sermon, and having to sit so far back, I couldn’t see. Moreover, I’ve kind of used up my weekly energy allotment, so am sitting on my bed, writing, thinking and again feeling some degree of amazement that I am here and that I am so happy being here.
Earlier this morning as I sat in my pj’s and warm robe eating my breakfast, Fr. Kiriti breezed in to deposit his bag while he attended the ordination. He sat for a cup of tea, then went off to see who else was here. These events are always a time for them to meet and greet. Shortly after that arrived Sr. Irene, whom many of you will remember for her heroic work among young Pokot girls to save them from the traditional FGM experience. She, too has come for the ordination, along with another nun who has preceded her in Pokot.
When I get my act together, I’ll shower and shampoo, take my clothes to the washer in the rectory, and go off to the Naivas for our weekly shopping. I’ve been here 2+ weeks. It is so familiar that it was “home” to me 5 minutes after I walked in.