People in and around Stamford support children in Wajir, Kenya through Catholic mission
When Pat Gallagher agreed to support a mission in Africa, she admits she was so nervous about how to raise funds and awareness, she ‘nearly bit her nails off’.
That was 40 years ago, and now, aged 83, she has helped to raise many thousands of pounds for the people of Wajir in North-East Kenya over the years, and has just returned from visiting for the second time in her life.
The picture that Pat paints is one of poverty, but also happiness and hope. The 86 children who attend the mission’s school in Wajir have little, and were genuinely delighted by the gifts donated by people in and around Stamford.
Pat, who lives in Emmanuel Road, said: “Everything that was sent, the children loved. They love music, so were thrilled at the recorders, and take great pleasure from simple things in life, and so enjoyed the bubble blowers.
“The main need, though, is food, so much of our role is to raise money that can be sent out for the nuns who run the mission to buy animals that help to feed the children. They have goats and cows for milk and meat, and chickens too.
“Even the youngest children are able to milk the goats, and apart from their more formal education, from a very young age children learn how to grow their own vegetables and crops in the desert.
“They are so generous, and want to share everything they have, even though they have so little.”
Clothes are also important, especially for babies, and so little outfits were taken out in suitcases by Pat and her 22-year-old granddaughter, Victoria, who accompanied her on the visit. In all, they flew out with eight cases packed with clothes, books, stationery and toys.
Pat said: “Victoria was really touched by what she saw. She couldn’t get over the poverty.
“One baby girl, which she held at only a few minutes old, was named ‘Victoria’ after her.
“The children seem to reach out and touch your hearts, and Victoria is now desperate to go back to Africa.”
Pat took on the role of supporting Wajir in the late 1970s when a friend in Malta, who had started the mission work, became too ill to continue.
“I agreed to do it, but on the plane back home I nearly bit my nails off thinking ‘What have I agreed to?’,” said Pat, who was determined not to let the mission down.
Fortunately, Father Bill Saunders, then priest at St Mary and St Augustine’s Church in Stamford, though it was ‘a wonderful idea’ for the parish to support the mission, and Bishop James McGuinness also gave it his blessing.
From then on, Pat has been holding coffee mornings, raffles, sales, stalls and lunches which have found the support not only of parishioners, but also the wider community.
People can find out more about the Wajir mission’s work by attending a coffee morning at the United Reformed Church Hall from 9.30am to 11.30am on Friday August 23.
People wishing to donate to the mission can do so by making a note in their diary and going along, or by donating directly to the Pat’s fundraising account at Barclays, sort code 20-81-20 account number 90035548.