The Knights Of St. Columba Quiz Night to be held on Saturday 16th September will be raising money for this programme, which is KSC's current National Action Project. This briefing note explains what it is all about.
Thika lies around 20 miles north-east of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. It is an industrial area, surrounded by plantations and countryside. Most people work either in the town’s factories or the outlying coffee and pineapple plantations.
Plantation land is owned by a few wealthy individuals. Life for the workers is difficult. Planting and harvesting are labour-intensive tasks and the salary is around £1 per day. The plantation work is seasonal, meaning that in the rainy season when the coffee beans are growing, there is no work and therefore no pay.
Many of the men move to the towns in search of work. This means that the workers are mainly women who live in small tin huts on plantation land with their families and must pay rent to the landowner. Each house has only one room and is often home to several generations of the same family. There is no electricity or running water, nor any nearby healthcare. The workers own no land of their own on which to grow food. This desperate situation means that most families cannot afford essential items and often go hungry.
Unemployment in Kenya is high and pay is low, so many families have to send their children to work rather than school to help earn enough for essentials like food. Children without an education end up trapped in a cycle of poverty, unable to get more reliable and better paid jobs.
The Assumption Sisters of Nairobi were founded in the 1950s as an African order that women in the area could relate to. Their founder was Archbishop John McCarthy, an Irish missionary, whose motto was from John 10:10 – ‘that all may have life in its fullness’. This is the vision the Sisters continue to live by, working to uplift the human dignity of the poor through education.
The Assumption Sisters of Nairobi recognised the need for change and came to Thika to help. With the support of Missio, the sisters run a feeding programme from the school. It aims to ensure the children living on the plantations are given the opportunity to have a healthy meal every day.
Sr Francisca is an Assumption Sister of Nairobi who came to Thika to work with the children and families working on the plantations. She teaches in the school from where the feeding programme is run, and in the words of Pope Francis, she encourages the children to ‘Look to the past with thanks; live the present with passion; and embrace the future with hope’.
The feeding programme has made a huge difference to the children of Thika. The lunch the children receive at school is often their only meal. It enables them to concentrate better on their schoolwork and provides for them nutritionally, aiding their health and well-being. The promise of a meal at school means that many more families are now choosing to send their children to school rather than having them work to earn money. This chance of an education means the children can hope to get jobs outside of the plantation and escape the situation their families have been caught in.
By providing a feeding programme, the Sisters are enabling parents to focus on the other needs of their children, such as healthcare, clothing and school expenses such as books. What the Sisters do for the children is more than simply physically feeding them. They are also nourishing them with love, empowering them with hope and fuelling a more positive future for them.
Although life is still hard, the Sisters are helping a great deal. As well as providing nutrition, their presence means the children know that someone is there to help and care for them. The Sisters encourage the children to work hard and be good citizens.
In a three year project, the Knights of St Columba are working with Missio Scotland and Missio England and Wales to support the Thika Feeding Programme and others like it across the world, in dioceses which are too young or too poor to support themselves. Together, we aim to help children of Thika by providing a balanced, nutritious meal, milk or porridge and fruit.
£5 could provide a balanced meal each day for a fortnight
£38 can give all 350 children at the school one drink of milk or porridge
£200 could provide 60 children with a piece of fruit every day for a month
There are thousands of children around the world who through your support can receive the food they need for a better start in life.
For further information about the Thika Feeding Programme and how to make a donation please visit https://www.ksc.org.uk/nation-action-project