From Ballyfermot to Kenya!
St. Louise’s School, Ballyfermot, Dublin is twinned with St. Emmanuel’s School, Kitale, Kenya. The retirement of Sr. Justine O’ Brien in December 2011 marked the end of the formal involvement of the Daughters of Charity in the education of the children of St. Louise’s School. The sisters had provided teaching and school leadership for thousands of children since the school’s opening in 1958. As tribute to the dedicated work of the sisters and in recognition of the years of service provided to many families and members of the school’s community, the staff and Parents’ Association of St. Louise’s pledged support for the Daughters of Charity overseas mission work.
In 2009/10 St. Emmanuel’s school was set up by the Daughters of Charity in Maitisi, Kitale, Kenya. Maitisi in a very poor, slum area in a large town called Kitale located in West Kenya. Many children there do not attend school at all and beg in the streets and survive as best as they can. Many women in the area brew beer and sell it to get an income. The school was intended to provide education for 650 pupils but quickly accommodated over 1,000 pupils.
In St. Louise’s we hold a number of fun-filled events each year to help raise funds to support pupils of St. Emmanuel’s and their families. Some of the proceeds raised at The Green Day Dress- Up, Halloween Dress-Up, School Book Fair and the Guess the Weight of the Pumpkin Competition are donated to the Daughters of Charity to help support their work in Kitale.
St. Louise’s are involved with An Taisce’s Green Schools Campaign. Every 2 years we are engaged with an environmental awareness campaign in an effort to maintain and attain our Green Flags. An integral part of our Green School campaign is to highlight how people’s lives are affected when they are deprived of basic rights like education, water, health etc. When we begin a new Green Schools theme we consult with the Daughters of Charity in Kitale and together we identify a project that we will support, so that our fundraising will make a difference to the lives of some pupils who attend St. Emmanuel’s School. The project in Kitale compliments the Green Schools theme we are learning about in St. Louise’s.
Between 2010-2012 our fundraising efforts contributed to the building of 4 classrooms with mud walls and corrugated iron roofs. We funded sports equipment – basketballs and table tennis tables and uniforms for the children.
Between 2012 – 2014 we in St. Louise’s worked on the Green Schools Water theme. The money we donated to St. Emmanuel’s was used to buy large storage tanks for water, so that rainwater could be collected and stored on the roof of the school. Water barrels and plastic piping was also bought. This meant children coming to school had water to drink and were able to get water and bring it home with them in a plastic container. Excess water was piped to the school gate, a pump was set up and local women set up a little business and sold water to others. Bricks were made by local people and the mud and wattle (stick) walls of the school were replaced by clay bricks.
Between 2014 – 2016 we in St. Louise’s worked on the Green Schools Travel theme. Many children walk long distances to school on rough roads and tracks in worn out or torn footwear. Many walk in bare feet. The money we donated to St. Emmanuel’s was used to buy shoes, wellingtons and sandals for poor children. The school staff buy second hand footwear at the markets and ensure the most needy children get “new” shoes. The children were delighted with their new comfortable footwear.
Between 2016 – 2018 we in St. Louise’s worked on the Green School’s Biodiversity theme. The money we raised for Kitale was used to support families to set up garden fences to protect their organic Kitchen Gardens. Fence posts and chicken wire were delivered to the families who built their own fences to prevent stray animals and people from trampling on, stealing or eating their crops. Staff trained local people to become gardeners. People learned skills such as how to sow seeds, take care of plants and look after the soil. They learned about growing the vegetables that are most suited to the soil and climate in their area. They learned how to nourish the soil so that it can produce healthy crops. People now grow food for themselves, their families and sell any extra at the market.
Between 2018- 2020 we in St. Louise’s are working on Green Schools Global Citizenship Food Biodiversity theme. There are now 144 households in Maitisi, , who have been helped to set up kitchen gardens and are growing their own vegetables. Water is needed to help sustain this project so we are collecting money to help people set up shallow wells for irrigation. Each well will be dug by hand, on average 21 feet deep, lined with a 3 x 2ft diameter cement culvert to prevent collapsing. Then a raised concrete slab is put on top of the well with a door and a padlock, just wide enough for a bucket to be lowered to draw up water. One gardener will share the well with 3 neighbouring gardeners.
Every year we usually manage to successfully grow pumpkins in our school garden. When they are harvested in mid-October some 6th class pupils are given responsibility for running the annual Guess the Weight of the Pumpkin Competition. Every morning for a week pupils in the school are given an opportunity to come along and for a small donation they can and guess the weight of two selected pumpkins. The event generates great fun and excitement and the at the end the closest guesses win the pumpkins or a small prize.
We are confident that our school community will continue to uphold the great spirit of generosity that has been the hallmark of the Daughters of Charity. We know that the sisters use the money wisely and carefully so that the very best use is made of every cent we give and we can be assured that the money is used to benefit the most vulnerable in this slum area, where so few services are available to the people.
Asanteni sana (Thank You in Swahili)