GOOD SHEPHERD – KITALE (KENYA)

The Good Shepherd Sisters is an international congregation of religious women in the Roman Catholic Church, and is present in 73 countries. The primary mission is to bring hope and dignity to poor and marginalised women and children wherever we serve.

We were invited in early 2008 by Rev. Bishop Maurice Crowley to minister to the poor in the slums of Kitale and to offer relief to the many Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who came into town following the 2008 post-election conflicts that had devastated many cities in the Rift Valley.

We urgently seek donations to fund our Feeding Program, School Program and Day Care Program for children.

KITALE AND THE KIPSONGO SLUM

Kitale is an agricultural town in western Kenya situated between Mount Elgon and the Cherengani Hills at an elevation of 7,000 feet.

Kipsongo, is 2 kms away from the centre of Kitale, and is one of the largest slums in Kenya. The slum lies on a 5-acre plot of land which was initially a dumping site. In the early 1970s, a group of the Turkana people moved south to Kitale in search of food due to a prolonged drought which killed their cattle and caused a catastrophic famine.  They currently live in small huts made of polythene sheets collected from the dumpsite (see pictures).

Villagers' Hut

The harsh living conditions in this slum are due to the lack of clean drinking water, decent housing and many diseases caused by over-congestion. Because of the unhygienic conditions and the lack of healthcare facilities, HIV/ AIDS and malaria are rampant.

The Kipsongo slum has the highest crime rate in the whole area. In addition to the adverse conditions, the 2008 post-election conflicts that raged in the Rift-Valley saw some 17,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) seeking shelter in Kitale with many eventually settling in Kipsongo.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC BACKGROUND OF KIPSONGO

The residents work mainly as carpenters, manual workers, and house-keepers in the town centre. Others derived income from illicit brewing, prostitution, and begging. The majority of the population is unemployed. The Turkana culture encourages polygamy and large families. When they were a nomadic pastoral tribe, they could afford to have large families who could look after cattle. Now that they have settled in the slum, they cannot afford to raise that many children, but their traditional habits have not changed.

THE CHALLENGES

60% of the children living in Kipsongo have no access to education, mainly because their families cannot afford even the basic needs of food and clothing, let alone schooling materials.

Malnutrition of children with protruding round stomach is a common sight with visible symptoms of severe malnutrition. Skin rashes and hair loss are also common among children.

Jigger menace causes sicknesses and death and is widespread among children. A jigger is a sand flea brought about by poor hygiene and breeds in dirty places. The impregnated female jigger embeds itself in the skin under the toenails and feeds on the skin of its host. A jigger-infested foot is completely disfigured; the afflicted can barely walk due to the pain from ruptured flesh. The resulting social isolation in turn creates a sense of trauma and reduced self-esteem. In Kipsongo, it is very common to come across shocking and unbelievable levels of jigger infestation, especially among children.

High crime rate and high rate of HIV/Aids exist in the community. It does not help that there is widespread discrimination and marginalisation of Turkana people by other ethnic communities living in Kipsongo.

GOAL

Improve the general living conditions of the children living in the Kipsongo slum.

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES

Increase the number of Kipsongo children enrolled in schools; decrease the level of malnutrition and mortality rate among Kipsongo children; and minimise early marriages of young girls.

PROGRAMS

A Feeding Program for 130 children who will receive daily meals to stave off hunger. Having food and a balanced meal improves dramatically the children’s health and living conditions and enable them to be more motivated and focused in school.

A School Support Program for 50 children admitted into primary schools at different grades.

A Day Care Program for 80 children.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES

• Increased number of children from Kipsongo attending school • Improved health condition of the target children • Reduced number of children in the streets • Reduced child-begging • Reduced crime rate by at least 20% in the community • Increased employment in the community • Positive attitude of community toward education.

The programs for the children have already started but we need funds to sustain them over the next 12 months. The Day Care is currently run by one Sister, with two teachers and two cooks  who come from the slums and streets of Kitale town.

The Sisters have received funds from Homes for Hope to purchase 4 acres of land in the nearby countryside to set up a shelter for single mothers, a Skills Training Centre and a farm to provide employment for the local community.

Please support and make your donation through “Good Shepherd Restful Waters”.  Contact Sr Lucy Chia at +65 62422925 (Singapore) should you require more information on this project.

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