Responding to Need in East Pokot, Kenya 

Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa
P. O. Box 100 Nakuru, 20100
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19th August 2010

Dear Friends in Christ,

On the 10th July I received the following email from the priest in East Pokot:

I am writing to kindly request you if there is a way in which you can assist us to get relief food!  As much as we have received plenty of rainfall, our situation in East Pokot still remains pathetic.  Our land, as you witnessed is not arable due to its rocky nature. Our people entirely depend on cattle.  Not all of them have cattle.  Those that do not have keep on knocking at the Mission compound asking for food!  This seems to be a perennial problem.  The only way out is educating our people as a long term solution. Recently we rescued an old man from dying due to hunger!  It is for the above reason that we kindly request for your assistance.

At the time I received the email I did not have any funds to help and had to say that at the moment I did not have any money but if I did get some then I would help.  The very next week God heard our prayer and I received word from Ireland that donations had been made and so I was able to arrange to go to Pokot yesterday, 18th August. Some of you who receive our magazine the Daystar or my previous letters, may have read the account of the visit we made to this area at the end of October 2009.  So this time we had a better idea of what road conditions waited for us as we left Nakuru at 6.00 am, just before the sun came up. 

Once again we were in a four-wheel pickup vehicle with Basil driving, and Mary as my companion.  Again the road as far as Maragat was not too bad but once we left that town the road became a dirt road that had deteriorated a lot since our last visit.  Perhaps our memory had faded a bit but it seemed that there were more rocks and the road had a lot of detours to avoid missing huge craters.  It was a rather bumpy/bouncy ride!  Some of the riverbeds that had been dry last time had some water in them this time as August is part of the season of the short rains. But thank God we were able to get through them without too much difficulty. Some women and children were collecting the muddy water for washing and cooking and one wondered how they could survive if this was the only water they had for cooking.  Again there was very little sign of life except for some goats who seem to thrive in these semi-desert conditions.  We also saw some camels in the distance as these animals can as you know go for long periods of time without water or food.

Eventually we arrived at the mission around 11.00 am to find Father Alphonce and some women and men who had travelled for many kilometres in the blazing sun, waiting for us. Father explained to us that some of the people had gone to a special ceremony to celebrate the third birthday of twins! It seems that for children to reach the age of three is an occasion for great rejoicing and tells us something about the infant mortality rate. In fact the twins, a boy and a girl, looked quite healthy.  We were told that the people are slowing coming round to sending their children to school and to going to the local dispensary but it is a very slow process as they are very distrustful of education and religion. 

When I asked why it is that the people are so dependent on receiving donations of food I was told that as we could see the land is not fertile and the rains are unpredictable.  Then I was told that when there is no food the people eat some wild fruits which the women spend a long time preparing.  They gather them and grind/grate the outside skin and then boil the inside part for eight hours using a lot of water from the river, because if they are not cooked well enough they can poison the people.  We were also shown another tree where the fruits looked like runner beans which when they are ripe they open them and eat the inside which must be very little.  You can see them in the photos.  They eat these wild fruits and leaves on their own as there is usually no maize flour to go with them. 

As we were told that there were so many people starving we decided to bring their basic staple food that would last them for some time.  So we gave each person four kgs of maize flour, two kgs of beans and three kgs of maize.  Maize and beans is the main food here and the flour can be made into porridge or ugali.  We were told that there would be about 100 people representing 100 households coming but in fact in the end I would say that there was over 250 people there desperate for food.  They were so anxious to receive the food I thought that if we were giving out free gold the people could not have been more anxious and grateful for what they were receiving.  We also have to pay for the cost of transporting the food and for the fuel which of course added to the day’s expenses.

During our visit I was looking around the mission and once again was struck by the very basic simplicity of the compound.  There is no electricity, apart from solar power; there is no running water except what they can collect from the river and so the toilets are pit latrines and in this age of mobile phones there is little or no network.  I have to admire Father’s commitment to the people as it must be very lonely for him in this remote area, though there are some sisters nearby who run the dispensary. Just before we left we were told that there had been trouble between the Turkana and Pokot people over cattle and we were asking about security.  Father told us that despite the fact that there did not seem to be any people around as we travelled the elders of the tribe would be aware of the fact that there were visitors in the mission but we were quite safe as they knew we were bringing food for the people and so we would not be harmed.  They would have said these are good people!

Once again I would like to thank each one of you very sincerely for your wonderful generosity in helping these starving needy people.  I think you will see for yourselves in the photos that these people were desperate.  I am also very aware that there are so many areas of our world where there are great needs at present, such as Pakistan with all the flood victims, and so there are many calls on you to donate to these suffering people.  As we were passing through Maragat we met the social worker from last year and she said the people were still talking of the gift they received at Christmas last year, and are continuing to pray for you all. So I simply thank you with all my heart for your continued support of my ministry to the needy and suffering people of Kenya.  The people thank me and ask for blessings on me but I try to make it clear that I am only the messenger who is bringing the gifts from you and ask them to pray for each one of you and your families, especially those of you who are sick or have other needs.  We pray that God will touch each one of you in the way that you need most at this time.  God Bless.

Yours sincerely in Christ,
Sr. Ann McAllister FMSA