Kesheni Kenya Immersion Program 2019

Staff from our schools have just returned from a two-week trip to Nairobi in Kenya as part of the 2019 Kesheni Kenya Immersion.

The travellers visited a number of Catholic agencies including the Ruben School, Ruben Medical Centre, Kurt Fearnley Centre, Mary Rice Centre for handicapped children, Women for Women Centre, St Stephen’s School, Wings of Hope Orphanage, St Joseph’s Home for the Destitute, Br Beausang School Embulbul and Youth and Health Clinic programs.

This is what some of the participants had to say about the trip:

“When I talk to people about my recent immersion trip to Kenya, the words that come to mind are confronting, amazing, inspiring. Much of the immersion was spent in two of the slums of Nairobi, Kabira and Mukuru which house close to two million people. Driving or walking into the slums was a shock to all our senses with the smell of raw sewage, people living cheek by jowl in tin shacks, palpable poverty, and unkempt kids playing in the dirt. We visited a number of schools in the slums with up to 100 children, trying to learn, crammed in each classroom.

“Although we heard of a dysfunctional and corrupt government, dire poverty and systemic abuse of girls, we met some local people going ‘above and beyond’ to run schools for the children of the slums, providing safe havens for the disabled as well as the abused, operating a birthing clinic for young mums in the slums, and nursing the disabled and dying with dignity. These wonderful people are true saints. They are bringing hope and love to the most vulnerable. These people were indeed inspiring! – Greg Cumming, Principal of St Paul’s Primary School, Gateshead

 “I went into the Kesheni experience fully prepared to witness the poverty, despair and surrender that might be present in the lives of more than 1.8 million people living on less than $1US dollar a day. While I did see some of these things to some extent, I was blown away by what I also witnessed, that I certainly did not expect to. Each day, I was privileged to witness amazing people doing wonderful things for the right reasons. In a situation where people could be forgiven for focusing on getting themselves “out and away from the problem”, I was impressed by the mindset that it would be better to “stay and solve” the problem for the community as a whole. Together, they could find solutions.

“The whole experience has taught me lessons I did not even know I needed to learn and changed my mindset from “what is” to “what is possible”. And I thought I was there to HELP them! – Julie Mulhearn, Principal of Corpus Christi Primary School, Waratah

“Like many others, I approached Kesheni from a rationale place. What I did not expect was to immerse myself in a world so filled with hope and aspiration. Every day I was humbled to learn from and work with some amazing people. At the Mary Rice centre, I was privileged to share in a tiny portion of the amazing work that goes into supporting the most disabled children of Kibera. With the Edmund Rice camps, I was able to share in the youthful joy of an emerging youth leadership team. At Women for Women in Africa, we were able hear how young people and adults are being empowered. We were able to spend an afternoon chopping wood and prepping meals with the Missionaries of Charity.

“I still have a lot to learn from my visit. I went looking for Lazarus and instead found communities rich in spirit, joy, and belonging. I found friends, colleagues, heroes and villains. And I found myself still uncertain as to my role in heeding Christ’s call to “love thy neighbour”, but feeling assured that all those small actions make a difference (including those thousands of can sales.” – Andrew Cornwell, Studies Coordinator at St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm  

“When I accepted the offer to participate in the Kesheni Immersion, I knew that I would be leaping outside of my comfort zone. But how could I not embrace this opportunity when I am consistently encouraging my students to step out of theirs? 

“Upon my arrival in Kenya, it was the first time that I had encountered the world of those who live in a developing country and whilst I encountered what my rational mind had anticipated, what caught me by surprise was the overwhelming embrace of a welcoming community, the incredible life stories, the resilience and the sense of hope for the future. 

“When I arrived in Kenya, it was with an open heart, but I didn’t expect it to be captured by the incredible people that I encountered and built relationships with there. It has been almost a month since I returned to Australia, but the experience continues to challenge me daily. Mary MacKillop’s ‘never see a need without doing something about it’ have really spoken to me through this experience and as such, it is my intention to return to Kenya at the end of the year.” Jasmine Hutchinson, Student Coordinator at St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm 

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Gabrielle Sutherland

Gabrielle Sutherland is a Marketing & Communications Officer for the Catholic Schools Office and a regular contributor to and Aurora.

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