The St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School situated in Ruai – on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya – has a strong connection with Inverness County Cares.
This bond and concern for the 280 children at the school has drawn Inverness County visitors to this little school with big dreams. An adventurous spirit and desire to help others brought Betty Jane Cameron of Mabou back to the Lwanga School for her second visit to the school. In 2016 she spent a month with the children.
This February and March, she returned for six weeks, one of those weeks with Fr. Duncan MacIsaac, and all were impressed with his wisdom and caring. She taught music, delivered health education and provided love and understanding for children desperately in need of a loving grandmother figure.
Betty Jane had an authentic experience. She stayed at the school, slept in a small dorm and ate what the students ate. She experienced first-hand the effects of the devastating famines in Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. Food prices are escalating and the usual multitude of Kenyan food vendors were absent. The students survive on a very basic diet of beans, rice, and vegetables. Even tea, that necessary Cape Breton staple, was unavailable.
Betty Jane worked at the school as a member of the staff. She rejoiced in the successes of students and shed tears for their disappointments. She experienced the lack of teaching aids, scarcity of equipment, stifling heat in over-crowded classrooms, and difficulty keeping good teachers when the budget doesn’t have the means to pay a competitive salary.
Betty Jane travelled toward the western part of Kenya to Homabay where school director Brother Kennedy Oronjo’s mother lives in their family home. She was proud to witness our Lwanga students act as student leaders and mentors for students of schools in other areas. They demonstrated strong leadership skills and were an inspiration to their peers.
Like our teens, SCL students have dreams and goals of their future studies and careers. They are very much aware that all this stops at graduation from Form 4 (Grade 12), unless sponsors and/or scholarships can be made available. Last year, all of them graduated and three earned university entrance scholarships. The rest of these young people are back in their communities or on the streets again and most have not found employment.
Some Inverness County Cares members are individually sponsoring several students, but some of us hope to start a scholarship fund to provide an ongoing source of sustainable money to help graduating students further their studies each year. There are so many needs: a new school with space for sports and recreation, a vocational school, and land for an agricultural program to help them become more sustainable and better fed.
Currently, over 300 staff and students live, sleep and study on about one quarter of an acre! Nevertheless, they are happy, grateful for everything. They know they are truly blessed to be part of the St. Charles Lwanga family.
Betty Jane notes that her experiences with our brothers and sisters in Kenya have emphasized how fortunate we are in Canada, where we have so many home comforts and all the food we need and more.