Martin de Porres Vocational Training Center, Kiserian, Kenya

One of the biggest tragedies here in Nairobi is the huge number of children living on the streets, with no homes, families, food or schools. There are estimated to be between twenty to forty thousand children living this way in Nairobi, some orphaned by the spread of AIDS, others by grinding poverty tearing apart families, and some running away from abusive homes.

Most of these children will not live much into adulthood. One group working to give these children a future is the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi. They have established an orphanage in the heart of the slums to give a home and stability to 800 boys and girls, allowing them to go to school and have a childhood.

They support 600 more with daycare, allowing them to stay with their own families who can provide a home and love, but are too poor to feed them or buy their school supplies.

Public funded education ends at eighth grade in Kenya. Secondary education (high school) requires fees and passing an entrance exam. Unfortunately, given their background, many of these children cannot pass the exam. Many of the teenage boys are therefore lured away by the promise of easy money selling drugs or living a life of crime back on the streets of Nairobi. They run away from the orphanage and die back on the streets.

To counter this, the sisters bought land outside of town in Kiserian and have there started a boarding school for boys teaching vocational training: automotive repair, woodworking, masonry, agriculture and animal husbandry. The boys live outside the city in a healthier environment, away from the violence of the slums and more able to focus on their studies and their future.

What struck me most about the school was the joy of the boys, they were happy to be in school and interested in what they studying. They loved showing me their dormitory and the garden and the animals. They were very proud of their place and their work. The boys seemed to really appreciate the fact that because of this school, they had a chance of having a good life and escaping the poverty into which they were born.

Through working with the sisters, their teachers and counselors, they also learn that they are loved and that it matters what happens to them in their lives. Someone cares.

The boys also loved to sing. Before lunch they put on a short concert for us. Their favorite song (and mine) was called "Dunia Hii" ("This World") about how tough life is, so many troubles and problems.

 But rather than a lament or a dirge, it is a song of joy and laughter with it's own line dance that everyone joined in. Having a safe haven, they could laugh at their troubles, and perhaps this is the best miracle of all.

Here, Sr. Francisca Kivindyo ASN and Rev. Br. Martin Ndegwa OP in the center's shamba.

Here, Br. Paul Myawir OP councils one of the boys.


Fr. Kieran Healy OP
(St. Martin de Porres Vocational School, Kiserian)
c/o Bro. TA Dolan, OP
Dominican Foreign Missions
141 E. 65th ST.
New York, NY 10021
phone: (212)744-2080 x171