Seán McGovern C.S.Sp.*
The Spiritans are in East Pokot since the 1980s. After much preparatory work, a permanent mission began in Rotu in 2011 when I moved to this very under-developed and inaccessible part of the region.
An early priority was to open a primary school since almost nobody in the parish could read or write or had a good knowledge of the Kiswahili language. In 2020 the school will have a Standard 7 for the very first time. The mission provides a morning meal of millet porridge with sugar and camel’s milk, and, to provide a daily lunch for the total of about 100 students. it supplements supplies, e.g. maize and beans, from government. Adult education classes run for a small group three times a week. With food security – and general security – an ongoing concern, up to 100 people engage in ‘food for work’ at least once a week while those who are unable to work can access weekly food supplies on Tuesdays.
A drought-led emergency saw Misean Cara intervene earlier this year to stabilise the food situation.
Nakuru Catholic Diocese is actively involved with the traditional and pastoralist Pokot people including through mobile clinics which provide health advice and basic treatments. Infant mortality has been reduced and school attendance has increased. While a nurse and a laboratory technician were recently recruited, retaining staff in an area with poor access and facilities remains a challenge.
Work on the construction of Rotu’s first permanent church is well-advanced thanks in large part to a generous donation to the mission from a past visitor. The concrete block and stone structure now has a corrugated iron roof, and building work is expected to be completed next year. 2019 Christmas celebrations will take place in the old church. A highlight will be the baptism of some 20 infants born into the parish community. About 200 people are expected to partake of Christmas lunch after Mass.
*Fr. Seán has served in Kenya since the mid-1960s and spent more than 50 Christmases there. Initially in Mbitini, Kilungu and Mwala, he was in East Pokot from 1980 – 2000. Spiritan Superior in Kenya for 8 years, he ministered in a Mombasa parish for a period before returning to East Pokot.+