NAPLES — Members of the six parishes that make up the Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community have pulled together as one to support a children’s home in Kenya.
Located in Subukia, Kenya, St. John’s Small Home provides housing, nourishment, education and medication for 26 needy and disabled children in the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru. Supporters of St. John’s Small Home Outreach say they’re always glad to help those in need, but this project is special for another reason — Subukia is the home town of Father John Gathenya, a parochial vicar and sacramental minister for Our Lady of the Lakes.
“For a family (in Kenya) to have a child who is handicapped in any way is kind of a bad omen. Most of their medical needs are in a sense neglected, not because the parents wish to do so, but because there are no funds to do so,” Father Gathenya explained to a group of parishioners gathered at St. Januarius Church in Naples Sept. 29. Father Gathenya also played a video documentary he’d made of the home while he was in Kenya over the summer.
In 1985 the Diocese of Nakuru founded St. John’s Small Home, which is largely supported by St. John’s Parish in Subukia. The church is only about 60 feet from the home, Father Gathenya said. The home is also located next to Our Lady of Victory School, which has 881 students enrolled in first through eighth grades. Because there are no buses to bring disabled children to school, those who can’t walk to school often don’t receive an education, Father Gathenya said. For this reason, St. John’s Small Home, and the six other small homes in the diocese, are located next to Catholic schools.
Although the home has the capacity to house 40 children, it currently only has the financial ability to house 26. In the video, Father Martin Murimi, pastor of St. John’s Parish, explained how drought and difficult economic times have made it difficult for the parish to support and complete the home. Father Murimi hopes to eventually have enough money to complete the home and offer secondary schooling and vocational training to its residents.
In late spring, St. Januarius Parish and the rest of the Our Lady of the Lakes community were looking for a new outreach project, said Peggy Ruscio, social-ministry coordinator at St. Januarius. After learning about the home and its connection to Father Gathenya, the community launched St. John’s Small Home Outreach on June 27, said Katie Robinson, coordinator of the outreach.
By the time Father Gathenya traveled to Kenya in August, more than $10,000 had been raised, she said. Diocesan, school and home officials in Kenya were very glad to receive the money, Father Gathenya added.
“It was just like a miracle had come from heaven. It really meant a lot to them, and the bishop was so happy,” he said.
The community hopes to continue raising money for the home through one-time, monthly, yearly and memorial donations. Parishioners can also receive profiles of and sponsor individual children, Robinson said.
“I thank God for giving us this opportunity to interact with Father John and his home and just make the world smaller,” Robinson said. “The whole thing is so beautiful to me. Once you get going with it, it captures you.”
“I am so grateful to all our parishioners at Our Lady of the Lakes. Out of the many communities all over the world, you have chosen Subukia, my home place and a place that is so dear to me,” Father Gathenya said at the end of the video documentary. “The hope of these wonderful kids lies entirely on St. John’s Home, so that they will be able to live a life worth living, so that they will feel they are being accepted, they are being loved and they are being uplifted.”