, 11 May, 2020 / 1:39 AM
Members of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis (LSOSF) in Kenya have reached out to needy families at a slum parish in the Archdiocese of Nairobi with food donations in response to the Catholic Bishops' appeal for assistance amid COVID-19 restrictions.
“There is the Bishops’ letter that was requesting communities, institutions to donate something to the people that are in need. So, we decided to come and at least bring the donation,” the Regional Superior of LSOSF, Sr. Lucy Wanza told ACI Africa Friday, May 8 the day of the intervention.
Sr. Lucy added, “We have been seeing people asking for help and we were touched by what is happening.”
Although the nuns met with a few households during their Friday visit, they donated food items that will benefit 100 families for a period of one week.
“Our target was to reach out to 100 families, but for today, we met with the leaders and some few beneficiaries of about 10 families and gave a bag of assorted foodstuff; flour, rice, sugar, oil, bar soap and salt, to each family,” She said and continued, “We then left the other foodstuff for 90 families to the Parish priest who through the leaders will distribute to other vulnerable people staying in the slum.”
Referring to the government’s stay-at-home recommendation as a way to curb the spread of the pandemic, the nun probed, “People are being told to stay at home but when they stay at home, what are they eating?”
“It is very challenging as most people survive from hand to mouth. That touched us and we thought we should contribute something,” she said.
“We cannot give them fully but we need to give the little we can to the parish then they can hand it over to Christians because they have a way that they do it,” she said referring to the donation handed to St. Mary's Mukuru Parish in the Archdiocese of Nairobi.
The nuns' May 8 initiative was in response to the appeal by Bishops in Kenya who, in their collective statement of April 23, called for solidarity with those affected by COVID-19 measures especially the most vulnerable, including those living in informal settlements.
According to the Bishops, “an estimated 2.5 million population living in informal settlements will be hard hit by the pandemic, since the areas are densely populated with inadequate household water and sanitation, little or no waste management, overcrowded public transport and limited access to formal health care facilities.”
Speaking to ACI Africa during the May 8 interview, Sr. Lucy recounted the situation on the ground and other well-wishers to heed to the Bishops call and offer help where they can.
“The Parish is really in a slum. The people are really needy, when you look at the structures of where they are staying it is really touching and they really need help,” she explained and continued, “People should support the needy in whichever way they can. If people share, all of us can be healthy.”
The Regional Superior of LSOSF also invited the families in the slums to be responsible and join in the fight against the spread of this pandemic by adhering to the directives given by the government and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“People should listen to what the government and the Ministry of Health are saying. If you can stay home, stay home, wash hands, sanitize and observe social distancing. People should know that this thing is real,” the Kenyan-born nun said.
Sr. Lucy, who led a team of three nuns to hand over their congregation’s donation also said they collaborated with Caritas Nairobi in identifying a needy parish within the Archdiocese.
Speaking to ACI Africa Saturday, May 9, the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Mukuru, Fr. John Munjuri said the received food items will help feed 100 families for a week.
“We received a package to cater for 100 families. What they brought is an assortment of flour, sugar and soap and cooking oil. This package is supposed to try to take care of the family for one week,” Fr. John told ACI Africa.
“Some representatives of Caritas Nairobi and LSOSF came to our parish because they heard the appeal which was made by the KCCB Bishops, to reach out to the needy during this time,” he explained adding in reference to a feeding program by the parish, “through a representative of Caritas in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, the sisters came to learn about our program.”
The Spiritan-run Parish organizes a feeding program under the auspices of the St. Vincent de Paul Group. Every Fridays, vulnerable families from the slums are identified and issued food parcels in the Church. The initiative is sustained by proceeds received from the offertory of Sunday Masses.
However, since public Masses were suspended in the East African country, the parish has been struggling with the weekly feeding program.
“We have this feeding program to reach out to them once in a week,” Fr. John said and explained, “We share the little that we have with them so that they can take care of themselves. Initially, this program was supported through the offertory on Sundays but now since the churches were closed, we have drained what we had collected and we no longer collect every Sunday.”
He added, “We have tried to reach out to individual people, calling people individually, telling them what the situation is and that is how we came in contact with Caritas Nairobi.”
Explaining the situation in the slum, the Spiritan Priest said, “It is bad. In Mukuru slum, the majority of the population depends on casual jobs. Now, since the pandemic and the restriction on movement, the families that were hiring them for jobs are no longer receiving them because of the lockdown, the fear that maybe they might be infected.”
He added, “People who were dependent on casual work are currently jobless and there are families who solely depended on them who can no longer feed their families.”
Amid the challenges, Fr. John encouraged the people of Mukuru to be hopeful.
“For the people of Mukuru, I urge them not to lose hope. To keep that hope that the situation will be better,” he said and assured, “As the people who are serving them, we are there to receive and to do what we can, to reduce their pain of the moment.”
Fr. John concluded with an appeal to other well-wishers saying, “I’m appealing to the people outside Mukuru, to those who have, that they can share the little they have during this time of the pandemic and this will help and even save lives of those who don’t have.”
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa