Responding to the need in Igoji

Sunday, 02 October 2011


Change is part of a Poor Handmaids life. They go where the Spirit leads. Sr. Esther Dolezal, PHJC spent many years in the dry, warm area of Materi Girls’ School in Kenya where she devoted herself to fulfilling needs of the children at Materi and the Caring Place Home for Boys. Her new mission is very different - the pharmacy at St. Anne Hospital. Sister Esther dispenses medication to the people of Igoji, Kenya.

Igoji (E go Gee) is located in the forested hills east of Mount Kenya. The higher elevation is a bit cooler even though it is near the equator.  Sr. Esther explained that trained medical professionals are scarce in the region. Her mission was born of necessity. St. Anne Mission Hospital is a small facility that provides local health care for conditions like wounds, malaria, and parasitic infections. If the patient has a complex case, they are stabilized and transferred to a larger hospital. The larger hospitals are often severely overcrowded. The smaller St. Anne’s Hospital is a preferred health resource for the local community.


A recently added small surgical suite allows c-sections and other minor surgeries to be performed. There is a new nursery for babies. St. Anne’s is devoted to mother and baby care. Three Poor Handmaids currently serve in the 50 year old hospital.

SCANNED_2“It was a challenge to learn all the Kenya drugs and their generic names.” Said Sr. Esther. Medications are expensive. Donations to buy mediations are always a blessing. Her weekly routine also includes Tuesday trips to the countryside with a mobile dispensary called Mworoga that takes pharmacy, nursing and lab services to those unable to travel.  The Mworoga allows Sister Esther to minister directly to the poor.

Each Sunday, Father Kiruja Alexander of the Igoji Parish performs three Masses. Sr. Esther attends the first Mass and then visits local schools for communion services. Together they serve 34 primary and 17 secondary schools, proceeding through the long list by visiting 3 each Sunday.

St. Anne’s needs are many: surgeons and physicians, ultrasound and x-ray machines, trained medical staff and quarters to house them. A much-needed mortuary would solve problems created by the tradition in Kenya to bury the dead in the shamba (in their home ground.) There is always a delay due to the lack of a funeral home in the area.

kenyaWhen asked about issues affecting the Kenyan people, famine, teacher strikes and the 2012 elections were among Sr. Esther’s concerns.

Host to many, and known for their hospitality, Kenyans are a generous people who are assisting famine victims from neighboring Somalia. “Thousands of refugees are pouring into Kenya because they know they can get help, and that someone will care about their plight,” said Sr. Esther.

Igoji is in the breadbasket of Kenya. Agriculture is the main industry. Growing seasons based on the rains that come in November and April determine crop success. Kenyans pray for good rains, bumper crops and an end to starvation in the north.

Too many students and not enough wages caused teachers to strike the government-run school system. The school term runs through November. Sr. Esther hopes the children can return to their classes soon and that a fair agreement is reached for the educators.

The upcoming 2012 elections are critical to the people of Kenya, known as keepers of peace in the East Africa region. During the 2007 election, violence erupted between competing political parties killing over 1,200 and displacing 500,000 from their homes. The investigation continues with six men accused of orchestrating the carnage. A pretrial by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is in the news and on the minds of the Kenyan people. Their future security and international support depends heavily on the outcome of the 2012 elections.

communion in kenyaIn Africa, Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ serve God through education and care of poor women and children and in healing ministries like the hospital at Igoji. At St. Francis School, Sr. Emily and Sr. Josephine are primary teachers. Three Sisters are stationed at the Caring Place boy’s home. Materi Girls School has seen increased enrollment. “Those missions continue and are doing OK,” Sr. Esther nodded.

At the Formation House in Meru, two Sisters are in college. Sr. Pacilisa is studying business and Sr. Theresia preschool education. Five more aspirants from Igoji Parish will soon join the Formation House. “That mission continues.”

Ever mindful of the health and safety of women and children, Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ respond with caring hearts and helpful hands, wherever the Spirit leads. Lives are changed one at a time, through dedication and faith in God.