Diocesan mission office helps Kenyan Diocese
By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
CANASTOTA — Nakuru, 160 kilometers northwest of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, used to be known as the cleanest town in East Africa. It is famous for Nakuru Lake, one of the world’s most noted flamingo breeding sites and the heartland of the Lake Nakuru National Park, widely regarded as Kenya’s premier game park. Located on the floor of the Rift Valley, Nakuru was founded on volcanic soils and is prone to whirlwinds of dust during the dry season.
Thousands of visitors from around the world visit Nakuru each year, but things are not good for many of the over 400,000 people who live there. Nakuru’s population is increasing at a rate of seven percent per year with many residents living in extreme poverty. They cope with inadequate shelter, sporadic or non-existent electricity and an acute shortage of fresh water. A combination of political unrest, poverty, environmental conditions and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has the area in a severe humanitarian crisis.
Father Cleophas Oseso Tuka, parochial vicar at Holy Family Church in Syracuse, knows first-hand what the conditions are like in Nakuru. He is a native of the area. Father Tuka said that in Kenya the common problem is poverty and that it touches every dimension of life. Those living in poverty, hunger and hopelessness often adopt risky strategies that can lead to HIV/AIDS. The Diocese of Nakuru is working to bring hope to many people by trying to alleviate poverty in the area.
The Syracuse Diocese, through its Catholic Diocese of Nakuru Mission (CDNM), is also helping those who suffer from poverty in the Diocese of Nakuru. “The Nakuru Diocese is roughly the size of the Syracuse Diocese,” said Father Tuka, director of the mission. “Because three-quarters of it is arid, it is prone to drought and there is a lack of clear drinking water. The Syracuse Diocese has been quite supportive.”
The CDNM was incorporated July 2000. CDNM’s mission is to promote pastoral and human development through evangelization and community mobilization. The CDNM office is located in Canastota and the organization has eight board members.
Father Tuka said that CDNM provides educational and intercultural opportunities to learn about Kenya throughout the diocese. The mission has sponsored events at Holy Family in Syracuse, St. Margaret’s in Mattydale, Transfiguration of Our Lord in Syracuse and St. Agatha’s in Canastota in recent years. In its effort to educate parishioners about Nakuru and the needs of the people, the events have featured traditional African foods and crafts.
“Last year we offered a Mass that was spoken in Swahili at Holy Family,” said Father Tuka. “It was very well-received. The people asked if we could do it again.”
Father Tuka said he often speaks to classes at Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family when they are studying about the country of Kenya. He also said he often is invited by various pastors to speak to their parishioners. “Propagation of the Faith also assigns us to places in the summer,” said Father Tuka.
Since its inception, the CDNM, in collaboration with the Syracuse and Rochester Dioceses, has initiated and completed a number of projects to address the desperate needs of the Kenyan people.
The mission constructed St. Peter’s School in Kaptere, Kenya. In addition, due to inadequate clean, safe water in the region, a borehole project was initiated.
The Syracuse Diocese and students at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., made it possible for the Holy Family Orphanage to be constructed in Nakuru. The facility shelters over 50 children who have been affected by virulent disease and the effects of HIV/AIDS. The project provides the children with education, health care, food and supplies.
From 2005 to 2007, the CDNM, working with the diocesan Office of the Propagation of the Faith, raised awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Kenyan society through the Missionary Cooperative Plan. The project provided financial support for those living with the disease in the Diocese of Nakuru.
Father Tuka said the parish of Holy Family in Syracuse helped to rebuild a rectory in Nakuru that had been destroyed by a fire.
The students in Nakuru have also benefited from support from the Syracuse Diocese. In 2007, Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School in Syracuse donated high school textbooks. In addition, a school that was closing in the Rochester area donated over 30 computers to the students.
“Catholic Charities helped us to build six ferro-cement tanks, which is a domestic water reservoir used to harvest rain water,” said Father Tuka.
He explained how the CDNM was able to send desperately-needed medical supplies to Kenya through the efforts of InterVol in Rochester, an organization that connects local hospitals and medical professionals with other countries and care-giving organizations.
The CDNM has also initiated a program in Nakuru to educate and empower rural women. “We envision that our efforts to empower the women will help to contribute to the control of the spread of HIV/AIDS and reduce child mortality and cases of malnutrition,” said Father Tuka. “One in six African children dies before the age of five. Most of these deaths could be prevented. Nearly one-third of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are underweight and measles takes the life of a child nearly every minute of every day. Safe, accessible drinking water is not available to 43 percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa and 64 percent of children in the area do not have adequate sanitation.”
The mission’s future plans include evangelization and securing support for projects designed to reduce poverty in Nakuru. CDNM will be focusing on health, education, food production and clean water.
“The answer to fighting Nakuru’s poverty begins with all of us,” said Father Tuka. “Together, I believe, we can make a difference in the life of a needy person. To fight poverty, therefore, concerted effort of us all is of the essence. Assisting a brother or sister in need is working for a society where all have an opportunity to live their lives fully.”
For more information on the CDNM, call (315) 697-8795.