Baba Dogo Spring 2005

In March 2005, Clare Priory parishioner Tony Hornby went out to Baba Dogo for a 3-month sabbatical, and was joined for a few days in April by Lawrence Garside. This is Lawrence's report:-


 Visiting the sick with Fr. Mike & his ministers The day after my arrival (Tony was already in situ) was spent accompanying Fr. Mike and ministers for the sick around Baba Dogo visiting those who were too ill to get to church.  This gave us an insight into the living conditions in the township and the problems faced by the community.  The roads (where they existed) were potholed with gullies running through them.  Thankfully, it hadn’t rained for a while so we were spared the worst of the mud and slime.  Kerosene burners were generally used to cook and also light up the one or two roomed shacks creating hot and breathless living accommodation.  There were several Aids cases among those visited, including one young man of 23 with a degree in applied statistics who had no means of self support.  There is a small Aids testing clinic attached to the Sacred Heart Church. 

Because of the great need, the Augustinians have made funds available to build a larger Aids / TB facility which is now almost complete.  During our journey, we met the Deputy Head of the Catholic school in the slums.  We asked what she was doing there.  She replied with some surprise that this was where she lived.  There’s no middle ground in Kenya, you’re either well off or you’re not.


The visit of the sick was followed by mass at 7pm, attended by about 1,000 parishioners, a foretaste of what was to come on the Sunday when 3 deacons were to be ordained.

 New AIDS/TB Clinic under construction
 Children in school The next day, the children had been invited back into school (they were on holiday) at 3pm to meet their visitors from Clare.  They started to arrive at 10 in the morning and we eventually saw them at 4pm.  Kenyan time is very flexible!  We were treated to a song of welcome, some dance routines and I had to inspect the scouts’ guard of honour.  In return we taught them “Is this the way to Amarillo?”  We ended up by giving out pens to the children.  I’ve often heard this was a precious gift in the developing world, but never quite believed this.  However, my belief was reinforced when the teachers asked “Tony, what about us?” of my colleague while he was giving pens to the children.
On Saturday, I had a walk round the compound, which included the church, school and clinic to see what was happening.  I was surprised by the number of groups using the facilities.  As well as the church cleaners and decorators who were getting the church ready for Sunday’s big event, the Women’s Catholic Association were preparing food for the deacons and their families.  In the school there was an aids support group meeting, a youth group seminar, a meeting for Eucharistic ministers, a choir practice and a prayer meeting.  The parish was certainly committed and enthusiastic.  Preparing a meal
 Preparing the church  

This opinion was reinforced the next day when we were privileged to be part of the congregation for the ordination of 2 Augustinian deacons and 1 from another order.  This was attended by the Archbishop of Nairobi, the Father General of the Augustinian order, 3,000 parishioners inside the church and 2,000 outside!  The mass lasted 3 hours; it’s the hottest I’ve ever been in my life, but the singing and dancing more than compensated.  The church is thriving in Africa with a level of commitment I haven’t witnessed in the U.K.  I don’t think it will be long before the missionaries from Africa will be working in Europe.  Shouts of joy broke out as the deacons answered the questions posed to them.  The day ended with barbecued goat, something I passed on when I noticed the skins pegged out to dry in the sun!


Clare Priory sponsors two students through university.  Our trip was completed by visits to their grateful families, seen here.
 A student and family  A student and family
During one of the visits, alarm bells were set off in a small compound by thieves who had broken into a house.  This caused a great hullabaloo as the thieves were pursued, luckily for them they were caught by the police, not the vengeful community who had apparently been known to take the law into their own hands!

I packed my case ready for the return journey, but had to re-pack several times as people arrived with gifts for me and my family.  The visit taught me a lot about the enthusiasm, generosity and friendliness of the Kenyan people and also the worth of our twinning arrangements.
Text and photos © 2005 Lawrence Garside

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