POKOT Diary updated 22nd February 2017

Hello All

By way of update I thought you might like to see this appeal by the Bishop of Nakuru, which includes East Pokot, to the churches and religious in the Diocese for help in dealing with the severe drought in the region. You will also be pleased to hear that, thanks to your incredible generosity, I shall be arranging a further transfer of funds to Fr Conway at the Barpello Mission and Fr Sean at Rotu. At present I have £8500 on hand and am awaiting some further donations of the order of £1200 this weekend for school fees. The total of £9,700 will be divided as follows.

£2,000 to Fr Sean at Rotu for his emergency food and drought projects.

£3,320 to Fr Conway for school and university fees

£4,380 to Fr Conway for his emergency food and drought projects. Fr Conway told me that so great is the immediate need for food and water that he had to borrow one million Kenyan Shillings form the school fund (about £8,300) to buy provisions. He said that what we are sending will enable him to repay the fund almost all the borrowing and that he remains eternally grateful to the pound a Week Group for our support at this dreadful time.

Best wishes

Eugene

10th February 2017 – Pokot Drought Appeal Update

 The drought appeal over the weekend of 28th and 29th January resulted in donations of an incredible £3002.35 (including £417 for school fees). And last weekend, 4th and 5th February, saw further donations of an amazing £2,080.37 (including £400 for school fees). But that’s not all, I have received cheques amounting to £1075 these last few days. As the PR people, would put it, “Due to the unprecedented interest and demand, the drought appeal remains open for a few days yet. So, hurry, you don’t want to miss this life-giving opportunity”. And please don’t forget Win Bracking’s Pokot lunch next Wednesday, 15th February in the Cranleigh Room.
On behalf of Fr Conway and Fr McGovern and the people they serve in East Pokot, thank you all for this truly wonderful generosity.  Eugene McGivern. Tel 01483-893379 or at emcgivern@btinternet.com

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 Here is a report from Fr Sean McGovern at Rotu and some photos which I thought you might like to see.
“Good morning Eugene on this warm St. Stephen’s day.
I write to inform you that we had a wonderful Christmas day. And I trust you had the same.
We had a very  nice morning Mass followed by a distribution of shoes to the young children who were in the church. 29 in all received shoes courtesy of the Pound a Week Group’s year of mercy kindness. I have my niece Cliona visiting from Dublin and she took some pictures of the occasion which she will forward to you later today (now attached).
After that excitement we had dinner for well over 100 people. While there was no turkey all expressed their great satisfaction with the cuisine. It was ‘organized chaos’ at times but that’s par for the course here.
Then there  was games for the children and a football match in which Queensberry rather then FA rules prevailed and red cards would definitely have been distributed liberally if we were in Old Trafford. But the excitement was wonderful and fresh air swipes frequent. 
It was a great day Eugene but quite an exhausting one too. 
God bless for now.
Fr Sean “

The building you see is Fr Sean’s existing church. Work has now begun on a new church at Rotu.
Finally, I have two young people starting secondary school at Fr Conway’s Mission in Barpello. They are both from broken homes with one parent in each case an alcoholic. The families are completely destitute and do not have the money to pay even the small requirements students bring or buy at the school.  Fr Conway tells me that when pupils are sponsored he would normally require the families to pay for the requirements, plus the  transport  costs to and from school at the end of each term but if he does that the boy and girl in question would have to forego the opportunity of a secondary education. For the first year the fees are £418, the requirements £82.50 and the transport £57.60.  If anyone not already sponsoring a student would be interested in sponsoring Rosa or Geoffrey, please drop me an email for more information. Part sponsorship would be very welcome.
Best wishes
Eugene

28 June 2015

Great news for Pokot.

Following Fr David Conway’s appeal for help with payment of school fees for the families badly affected by the drought and security operation, last week I was able to send him, on your behalf, the unbelievable sum of £16,000 (yes, sixteen thousand pounds!). This was made up of approximately £3,750 on hand from other donations and £12,500 received in response to the appeal. This is an incredible amount and Fr Conway has asked me to pass on to the Pound a Week Group his most sincere thanks for such continuing generosity. He is on holiday in Ireland at the moment and when the appeal had reached £10,000 and I told him this, he immediately emailed the school’s head teacher and asked him to select sixty students from the poorest families and credit each of their school accounts with 20,000 Kenya Shillings, i.e. the fees for a half year. That will leave him approximately £7,000 and he said he would let me know how he used that when he returns to the Mission in mid-July. I will report further in due course. Eugene McGivern (01483-893379 or emcgivern@btinternet.com).

20 April 2015

On Monday I received some good news from Fr Sean.  Here is an extract of what he said.

“You will be pleased to hear that we have had two good showers this month after our longest drought and, more recently, 124 days without a single drop.  The first brought 34mms in less than an hour, which is very high intensity.  It was badly needed but did huge damage to our roads.  Travel in the wet season is a lottery in Pokot.

Thank you God, but a little less at a time will do!”

Fr Sean celebrates the golden anniversary of his ordination this year and will be back in Ireland for what he said would be a “small” celebration over 5th and 6th June with the rest of his class of which 16 remain from the original 24.  He has spent 49 of the 50 years in the Missions in Kenya.  Hopefully the celebration over two days will be small in the Irish sense of that word!

The last we heard from Fr David Conway the rains had not reached Barpello and the Mission had continued with its emergency food programmes.

19 April 2015

After my annual report to the Parish in January, a member of the Pound a Week Group suggested I might apply to a charitable trust for funding for a Pokot project.  As a result, I was given last week a grant of £8,000 for Fr Sean McGovern to build and equip a new classroom at the Mission Primary school at Rotu.  The school is oversubscribed, has four classes and a nursery but only three classrooms.  I will report further in due course on progress.

I also submitted to the trust an application for funding for Fr David Conway at Barpello to buy and provide for a breeding herd of special cattle with a high and nutritious milk yield.  The intention is that the milk would be given to pupils at the secondary school and nearby nursery and primary schools, a total of 1,099 children.  The trust found this an attractive project but was unable to commit to the £11,000 cost this year and have asked me to come back to them in the New Year.  I shall certainly do so.

However, there was good news also for Fr Conway.  I received a recent and very generous donation of £2,500 which brought the Pound a Week Group funds on hand to £6,000.  Of this £350 is a parishioner’s sponsorship for a child for 2015 and the balance is for Fr Conway to use where he thinks the need is greatest.  I will let you know what he decides.

Sadly there is also some bad news.  The long rains expected some weeks ago still have not come and the longest drought in Pokot memory continues.  The local pastoral economy is being slowly devastated and many families are suffering severe hardship.  As usual the Mission has been playing an important role in running emergency food programmes; and Fr. Conway has used funds sent by the Pound a Week Group to pay whole or part fees for the students whose families have lost their animals and income to the drought.

11 March 2015

Fr Conway sent me the results for the 85 students from the Mission school who sat the Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education in November last year.

Two achieved an A- grade.

Nine achieved B+

Eighteen B

Eighteen B-

Twenty eight C+

Six C

One C-

The Passmark is grade D.

Results are pending in the three other cases.

The mean score for the school on a scale of 1 to 10 was 8; and the mean grade was B-.

Fr Conway tells me that these were the best results ever for the school since the students first sat the KCSE exams in 2010.

The boy Lomadi Cleophas, who received the Fr Ken Memorial Scholarship which paid for his four years at the school, achieved a C+ grade.

You may recall the boy Dennis Rippo who with his sister took work to look after their two siblings when their parents died and who survived outside term time by eating the food left over by the family the sister worked for.  We sent the little family £200 to celebrate Christmas together and a member of the Pound a Week Group paid Dennis’ fees for his final year at the school.  He achieved an overall B grade.

Fr Conway will let me know if any of the students we sponsored are called to college or university.

4 February 2015

Last week we sent Fr Conway at the Barpello Mission the magnificent sum of £6,500 from the Pound a Week Group.  £4,200 of this was from parishioners who are sponsoring children at the Barpello Mission’s secondary school and £1,000 was for Fr Sean McGovern at the Rotu Mission to use as he thinks best.  The remainder of £1,300 was used by Fr Conway to award part scholarships to eight children whose parents were badly affected by the drought and are unable to pay the full fees.  I am working with Fr Sean and Fr David to see if we might be able to obtain a grant from a Christian charity to support a development project at one or both Missions.

27 January 2015

Great News from Rotu, East Pokot

Fr Sean McGovern who opened a new Mission in Rotu three years ago sent me this message:-

“You will remember that just over three years ago we started this, the remotest mission in East Pokot.  No one could read or write.  On Christmas day this year two small girls and a boy read the gospel stories at Mass.  That was the first time any Pokot from Rotu read in public.  We were all as proud as punch!  And that was achieved precisely as a result of our education programme.  The major factor for positive change in society is education.  It was never more true then it is in Rotu.

God bless for now.

Sean”

The Pound a Week Group paid for the new kitchen and dining room at the Mission in 2013.  We are sending Fr Sean a further £1,000 this week for drought relief.

1 January 2015

Greetings from a very hot and dry East Pokot.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year. The School officially re-opens on January 5th 2015.

We are very worried as to our future, we are still in a drought just over a year now, only a few erratic showers can be counted over the past 12 months.

People’s livelihoods have suffered as many lost their animals to the hot sun and little or no fodder.  For the pastoralist community this spells disaster as the animals are the back bone of the economy.

This drought, severe, was followed by a Police Operation and during this violent activity shops were destroyed, cattle were shot dead in the field and many other unpleasant things happened.  It was almost as if the Security Forces wanted to finish the already suffering economy.

Our County is Baringo, our sub-county is East Pokot.  Baringo County was among a number of Counties which returned vast sums of money to the Treasury this year 2014.  In the height of famine, money had not been budgeted for the disaster and therefore had to be returned.  This is very frustrating for donors, people of good will and for us/me as missionaries who live under harsh conditions.

It is my prayer that children will return to Barpello High School on 5/1/15.  We have been hit badly.

Hoping 2015 will bring blessings to you all and to us.

God Bless.

Sincerely, Fr David.”

Fr David tells me that the immediate need is for sponsorship for students’ fees.  I will be in touch shortly with those members of the Pound a Week Group who are already sponsoring a student about their 2015 fees, but if anyone would like to start sponsoring a student please get in touch with me.  The 2015 fees are £350 for the year but if that is more than you can afford, perhaps you might join with another member of the Pound a Week Group to sponsor a student.  Alternatively you might like to make a donation of whatever you can afford to help Fr David with school fees.


POUND A WEEK GROUP

POKOT 2014 REPORT

In the year to 31st December 2014 our Parish Pound a Week Group sent the magnificent sum of £36,050 to the Missions in East Pokot, Kenya.  This was by far the largest donation the Group has made since it was set up in September 1996 to help relieve poverty and spread the Gospel of God’s love to people in the Third World.  We had on hand at year-end a further £3727.

Breakdown of £36,050

£5,762 came from the tax refunds on donations made under the Gift Aid scheme (partly in 2013).  £4,159 was donated specifically to pay the fees of thirteen students being sponsored by individual members of the Pound a Week Group at the Barpello Mission’s secondary school.  A further £12,000 was received over the year in oneoff donationsfollowing Fr David Conway’s reports of the harrowing effects of the worst drought in living memory.  The greater part of the balance of £14,129 came from the weekly and monthly donations in the little orange Pokot envelopes, but it also includes some £600 in donations from Open Gardens, donations made in memory of deceased relatives and money raised by parishioners who asked family and friends to make a donation instead of buying birthday or anniversary presents.

How was the money spent?

In addition to the £4,159 mentioned above for school fees, Fr David Conway used a further £3,250 to award part scholarships to ten students whose parents could no longer pay their fees because of the effects of the drought.  Another £6,000 went to Fr Sean McGovern at the Mission in Rotu, East Pokot for emergency food relief.  The remainder of £22,641 was also used by Fr David Conway to buy emergency food rations, including £6,000 spent on a special food programme for young children distributed at eleven outstations from the Barpello Mission.

Expenses 

These came to a total of £120 in respect of four lots of bank fees for the transfer of funds to Pokot.  The only other expense was the cost of the Pound a Week Group envelopes which a member of the Group paid.

A Closing Message

“I have said it before that I regard the Pound a Week Group as my partner in our Missionary work here in East Pokot.  It is that partnership which makes the eradication of poverty here through works of charity a very great possibility.  You are all remembered in my prayers at Mass.  Please remember us all here in your prayers.  May God bless you all.   Fr David Conway CSSp.”

17 November 2014

Fr David Conway told me that considerable damage was caused to the homes and businesses in the Mission area following a major security operation by an armed police force.  This is his report.

“Here in East Pokot we are having a lot of security problems.  We had to close the school a few days early but thankfully we were able to complete the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations successfully.  The police operation still goes on and at times is very violent with houses, shops and businesses being burned down or badly damaged.  The local economy was seriously affected during and after the prolonged drought and has been plunged into deeper decline and poverty as a result of the security operation.  The violence is going to have a great effect on our school as I can see parents taking their children to a safer location.  However, we have to keep going, accept the hardship and continue to give our students a quality education.  Thank you all in the Pound a Week Group for all you have done for us.  Please remember us in your prayers and I pray that you will be able to continue your wonderful support in 2015.”

I asked Fr David if he needed some emergency funding to help those who lost homes and business, but he told me that such help could be seen as political with the Mission helping the Pokot people against the authorities and that at such a time of heightened tension it was important to let things calm down.  I will report further when next I hear from Fr David.

8 October 2014

Last week we sent Fr David £3,250 from the Pound A Week Group.

29 September 2014

Here is an update from Fr David in Barpello about the effects of the drought in East Pokot

“September 29th 2014.

To: All our Supporters, people of good will and friends.

Re: Prolonged Drought and Famine.

Inspiration:

Today, I have just arrived back from Claude Academy; Claude Academy is a Holy Ghost Primary School which falls under the administration of Barpello High School.  It is a mixed day primary and nursery school with 296 pupils.  The boy/girl ratio is 55% girls and 45% boys.  Girls are getting a chance that they would normally not get.

The temperature from Chemolingot  back to Barpello is 45C outside and 35C in the shade.  There is dust everywhere.  Everything of metal substance is untouchable because of the heat, the seat of the car would give you third degree burns, making it uncomfortable to sit for a week.

Drought:

This year has had the most severe drought in the history of the Pokot.  We thought that about three weeks ago that the rains had come after we received five days with heavy showers, since then we are back to intense heat and dust with no vegetation for animals.  Many people come to the mission and to the High School in search of food and to meet with people of good will.  The situation of severe hunger still persists; old people have died along with their animals.

About 2015:

This year with a severe drought and crops failing throughout the country and including East Pokot at this time spells a further disaster for the coming year.  The short rains have failed and we don’t expect rains until March/April 2015.  (If they come)?

The whole economy of East Pokot has been affected.  This is a Pastoralist Community and have suffered great losses in their animals which are the back-bone of this economy.

Education:

Education has suffered greatly, parents are, and were, unable to pay fees.  This has affected the future of education, teachers have to be paid and food bought, resources are diminishing rapidly.

Restocking:

Restocking of goats cannot happen yet due to this present drought, but in time it will be essential as part of drought recovery.

This ends my update:

I wish to thank all of you who have been so generous, please don’t be annoyed if we are forced to come to you again.

______________________________________________

(Fr.) David Conway, C.S.Sp

P. Priest Barpello Catholic Mission.

Manager, Barpello High School.

Projects Coordinator.”

16 July 2014

Overwhelming response from Pound a Week Group

The response from the members of the Pound a Week Group to the Newsletter reports in recent weeks about the effects of the continuing drought in East Pokot has been truly overwhelming.  Since the beginning of June you have donated the magnificent sum of £9,600, yes nine thousand, six hundred pounds.  Isn’t that wonderful.  On 3 July we sent Fr David in Barpello £7,000 from this; and we will be making a further transfer in the next few days.

The June report from the Kenyan authority responsible for drought management recorded some light and sporadic rains in some areas but forecast that the situation in East Pokot was expected to worsen and spread to other areas.  Sadly the drought, which has continued since December last year, has resulted in serious conflict over water and pasture in parts of the country.

Fr David has told me that he will be using some of our donations for special feeding for children.  He will send a fuller report in due course, but in the meantime has asked me to convey his sincere thanks for the most generous support he receives from our Parish for his mission to the Pokot people, particularly at this difficult and distressing time.

January 2014

Greetings and good wishes from East Pokot.

East Pokot is known as Tiyati Constituency.  East Pokot is a sub-county of the Greater Baringo County.  This January East Pokot has had No Rains, Temperatures have been over 40 C.  There is just dust.  No vegetation what so ever.  Animals are suffering, people are in a very vulnerable situation, especially for the old and young.   Drought and famine has already claimed the lives of three residents as in The Nation Newspaper today 03.02.2014.

Primary schools have not received sufficient food this term, this has led to large drop-out numbers from schools as pupils have to find food elsewhere.  As secondary schools open this week parents struggle to find basic fees.

People in the communities have resorted to Toxic Wild Fruits which have to be boiled for hours so as to make them safely edible.

East Pokot needs emergency food relief food now to try to alleviate a situation of disaster.   Catholic Missionaries who have been in East Pokot for over 30 years are ready to help in the distribution of food relief, should it become available.

(Fr.) David Conway, C.S.Sp.

Post script – The £10,000 donated by a family earlier in January has been sent to Pokot urgently to help with this emergency situation.  Hopefully it will go some way to helping those in need through the Barpello and Rotu missions.  Thank God for the generosity of the Pound a Week Group in our Parish.

POKOT School Fees

The 2014 fees are now payable.  £300 will pay for a student for a full year.  The Fr Ken Freeman Memorial Scholarship was awarded to a student named Lopakan Kasigho Jackline and the Group will continue to pay his fees through all of his 4 years at the school.  Please contact Eugene McGivern if you would like to sponsor a student for a year or pay fees for part of a year.

Excellent News from POKOT

Last week a family in the Parish gave me a fantastic donation of £10,000, yes ten thousand pounds, for the Missions at Barpello and Rotu.  Fr David Conway and Fr Sean McGovern tell me that the money will be used for much needed food relief as the January rains have failed and daily temperatures are around 40C

Fr Sean added, “We in Rotu are in continuing need of food assistance for people.  Much of it is distributed as food for work programmes.  This includes keeping the almost impassable roads reasonably well open; bringing water for building; and collecting hard core and gravel.  And much more.  We also have a very important primary school feeding programme.  The children now get a morning meal and lunch.  And the destitute are always with us.”

Both priests have told me that the generosity and continuing support of our parish Pound a Week Group is a tremendous help in their Catholic missionary work in East Pokot.

Just before Christmas I was able to send Fr David £2,000.  This was made up of the usual weekly donations and a few specific donations to help particular families in distress; to help pay for emergency surgery for a TB patient and to pay the fees of a couple of students from very poor families.  The balance of some £800 was to be used as Fr David felt best.  Here is his report.

“I propose to help ten Form 1 children with 10,000 Kenya Shillings each to buy the extra requirements for their schooling.  Normally we look to the families to contribute to these requirements, i.e.uniforms, a box for possessions, toiletries, pullover, shoes etc, but so many of our children and families just cannot afford even the basic requirements.  I have also used the donation of £350 from a member of the Pound a Week Group to help two very needy boys with their fees.  Their families cannot even afford their requirements let alone their fees.  By helping these students the Pound a Week donor is helping some of the poorest and most marginalised families.”


Christmas 2013

Greetings and good wishes from a hot and dry East Pokot, Kenya

“Barpello Catholic Mission is located in Koloa Division, in the sub-county of East Pokot, Baringo County.  The climate of East Pokot is typical of arid and semi-arid conditions; the land is of volcanic origin.  The annual rainfall is unreliable, poorly distributed and erratic.  The daily temperature range between 30 C and 45 C, the evaporation rate is high.  East Pokot is regularly prone to drought and famine, most people are illiterate this adds to the difficulties when it comes to development and addressing basic needs.  The infrastructure is very poor. the climate is harsh and the mortality rate is high.  Water borne diseases are common.

East Pokot has a population of 127,000 people.  68,000 is the population of the vast area of covered by Barpello Catholic Mission.  The Christian Community represents approximately 2%.  The other 98% are of no particular denomination but have their own traditional religion, a religion rich in culture and tradition.  My furthest out-station where we have a church, made of sticks, mud and grass is 52 kms from Barpello, because of the poor road infrastructure this is about a two and a half hour drive.  Needless to say the community of this station does not see me too often.

The activities of the Mission include, Barpello High School, East Pokot Medical Project, Honey Processing House, two nursery schools, one Government Primary School, one dispensary and laboratory.  A pastoral Team, Food security programmes, (both emergency and long-term programme), the camel project is a dairy project and is a long-term food security programme.

My main areas of concentration are Barpello High School with 412 students, most of who cannot pay modest fees and the other areas are in Food Security and in livelihoods.

Christmas for most of the Pokot will last about three hours (the time that we will be at Mass on 24th night).  It will be a real celebration with singing and dancing.  The next day, its back to normal, trying to find food for evening and carrying water a long distance.

On behalf of our mission to the Pokot I wish you a very happy Christmas and wish to thank you sincerely for your ongoing support.  May 2014 bring you health and happiness.

David”

November 2013

The story of Lazarus

Last week Fr David sent me a copy of a letter from a Third Form student at the school, Dennis Ripoo.  Here are some extracts from the letter …

“My mother died from an unknown disease in 2003 leaving my father to look after six children.  In 2004 my youngest sister died of malnutrition and in 2007 cholera killed my father, leaving a gap in our lives which has never been filled.  My eldest sister and I then dropped out of school to look after our younger brothers and sisters.  I got a job in a small hotel paying 50 pence a day which I used to buy flour and vegetables and my sister helped a woman to nurse her baby.  A man from Baringo saw me doing my chores and threatened to stop me as it was child labour but when I told him my case he allowed me to continue.  That same man got me a place in a primary school and after I passed my Kenya Certificate of Education he organised a collection for me in Lomut Centre and raised 12,000 Kenya Shillings (about £100) and I was able to join Barpello (the Mission’s) High School.  I am depending on only God’s grace to stay at the school as I don’t have otherwise.”

I circulated the letter to those members of the Pound a Week Group whose addresses I have and one member immediately sent me a cheque for £340 to pay for all Dennis’ fees for 2014, his final year.  Another sent me £350 to pay for another student.  When the headmaster told Dennis his fees for next year had been paid he broke down in tears.  Here is what Fr David Conway told me about Dennis conversation with his headmaster.

“Dennis told Nakuma that when not at school he and his sister slept in the street and corridors and eat the scraps from the rich man’s table for whom she works.  Just like Lazarus in Luke’s Gospel.  This is truth.”

Since that last report a parishioner has given me £100 to send to Dennis to help his sister and family at Christmas; and another has said he would like to help the sister to return to school if that were possible and Fr David is looking into this.

What a privilege it is to be the Pound a Week Group organiser.  Eugene McGivern

October 2013 

The usefulness of the Pound a Week donations

We recently sent from the Pound a Week Group the really wonderful sum of £2,400 to Fr David Conway at the Barpello Mission in East Pokot.  Of this, £300 was from a parishioner to pay the fees for a student at the secondary school for a year.  A further £220 was from two other parishioners to help the family of Patrick Lomalimal who was so tragically killed on his way home to his village.  I told Fr David that he was free to use the remainder of the money where he believed the need was greatest and he has now told me that he has divided it between 12 very needy students from poor families to help pay their school fees and other expenses.

Yet another parishioner offered to buy an animal for Patrick’s family and the £200 she donated will be used to buy 3 or 4 milking goats.  This is a great gift for the family who will benefit not just from the milk (and of course the surplus can be sold) but they will also now have the beginnings of a small breeding herd.

In his last email message, Fr David said that he was so very grateful for the kindness and generous support from the Pound a Week Group for the work of his Mission amongst the Pokot people.

Progress on the kitchen and dining hall at the Rotu Mission

Last week we sent £3,450 went to Fr Sean McGovern at the Rotu Mission representing the net Gift Aid Tax refund on the £15,000 donation from a parish family earlier this year to build the kitchen and dining hall at the primary school which is now nearing completion.  Fr Sean immediately bought a welding machine and all the necessary bits which he said would be a great help in further work at the school and Mission.  It will be used immediately to make the frames for the dining hall tables.

In his message Fr Sean said, “It was great news to read your email message about the £3,450 donation, clear evidence of the Pound a Week’s extraordinary generosity and concern for the less well off in the world.  The Pokot people are certainly in that category.  The kindness of the Group to our Mission projects over the last 17 years continues to amaze me.  God bless you all.”

September 2013

Sad news from Pokot

Fr David Conway told me that two weeks ago the Head Prefect at the Mission secondary school was killed in a tragic accident.  Patrick Kukat Lomalimal, aged 17 and a boy of great promise, was on holiday from school and jumped from the back of the lorry which was giving him a lift to a spot near his home village.  He caught his clothing on a hook and was dragged along at night out of sight of the driver.  He was found on the road next morning.

Fr David went immediately to the boy’s village some 35 miles away to console the family.  He told me he was used to seeing the hardship families faced in East Pokot but that he was shocked at the poverty Patrick’s family were living in and their great distress, made worse by the fact that they had no money to pay for their son’s funeral.

On that at least Fr David was able to help them by using £150 of the money we sent him from the Pound a Week Group to meet all the funeral and transport expenses.

Fr David has asked for our prayers for Patrick and his distraught family.

August 2013

Making a difference through University education

On Monday of last week we sent Fr David at the Barpello Mission the fantastic sum of £4,500.  Just over £1,600 was to pay for the fees of two students at the Mission secondary school, including £1,355 from a family no longer in the Parish which will pay all the fees and costs of a student for his full four years at the school.  His parents are very poor and would never have been able to find their son’s fees and he would have thus been denied the excellent education he will now receive.

I told Fr David he was free to use the balance of the £4,500 wherever he felt the need was greatest and he has told me that he will use the money to help pay part of the university fees of some of the fifty past pupils of the Mission school who have obtained qualifying grades but have not been given a place by the Admissions Board.  There are currently twenty nine past pupils attending university who have almost all their fees paid by the Government (they have to find approx. £180 per year).  The remaining 50 have to find the full cost of a degree course themselves which amounts to approximately £1,900 per year so the demands on Fr David are very great.

Here is what he said in a recent note to me,

“Barpello High School opened its doors on 27 January 2007.  For the five year period 2010 to 2014, the school will send 262 past pupils back into their community.  Most will proceed to university and compete equally for top jobs and careers in Kenya.  The effect on the communities and families will be great.  Education will up-lift livelihoods in East Pokot.  The economy will be broadened and enhanced.  Education will eradicate poverty.”


A cholera-like illness has left over 30 people dead in the area and 50 seriously ill in the District hospital.  The authorities expect the death toll to rise when they find out what has happened in isolated homes in the interior.

The Red Cross and the Kenya Army have arrived and are bringing in food, water and medicine.  Mobile teams from the Barpello and Kositei Catholic Missions and the East Pokot Medical Project (from the Barpello Mission) are going into the remote areas with emergency food, water and medicines.  Sufficient relief supplies are not reaching these areas.  The roads are dust tracks, some so deep in dust that even the Mission’s land-cruisers were finding difficulty getting through.

The teams have found people and animals dead from malnutrition and disease.  In one village they had to make the heartbreaking decision not to help bury the dead for fear of carrying infection to the people they are treating.  In one small hospital they found 5 people in isolation, all on drips.  One was in the hospital itself, two in an old garage, a little boy in the shade of an old shed and one under the base of an empty water tank.  All patients are showing the symptoms of cholera but the results of lab tests are still awaited.

In one area tribal conflict has made the position even worse such that Lomelo is now a deserted centre.  It used to have a nursery and primary school, both now empty because people have fled due to clashes between the Pokot and Turkana.  The environment is hostile, desolate, isolated, hot and dusty.  No bush, no water and few people.  The teams found two young boys with guns guarding their three surviving cows.

The Mission is buying and grinding uni-mix (emergency food) and maize and providing medicines.  The preparation and transport of these is proving very expensive but of course there is no alternative for a Christian Mission.  We have made an emergency appeal to the charities and groups which support the Mission and the work of the East Pokot Medical Project which is now sorely stretched.  Thank you very much for the cheque you sent for £1,500.

Please pray for the Mission and the Pokot people.

Fr David

September 2009

Malaria medicines and uni-mix

Greetings from a very hot and dry East Pokot.  We have had very little rain since November 2008.  Many thanks to members of the Pound a Week Group for the £1,500.  I spent the money on malaria medicines for use in our dispensary with small children.  I also bought medicines for temperature control which are difficult to get for children and many of them die from the high temperatures they get with malaria.

October 2012

Scholarship for five students

Fr David Conway has told me that he has decided to use £3,000 of the money we sent him in October to give a one year scholarship to five students who are most deserving and whose parents are extremely poor and cannot pay anything towards their fees for.

There will still be money left over after that and Fr David has said “I will use the remaining balance to show solidarity with students who have a crisis at home such as illness or death of loved ones”.

Eugene McGivern

October 2012

Thank you to the Pound a Week Group

A few weeks ago I included in the Newsletter some extracts from a letter from the boy, Cleophas, Krop Lomadi, who was awarded the Fr Ken Memorial Scholarship that pays his fees for the full four years at the Mission Secondary School.  In his letter, Cleophas spoke of the hope that this given him and his family and how he and they struggle to buy food and meet the costs of the essential extras he has to find at the school.

There has been an absolutely fabulous response from Pound a Week Group members.  A total of £2,500 has been donated over and above the usual weekly donations.  One parishioner has paid the fees plus all the extras for a student for the full four years at the school.  Another has done the same for a year; and yet another has given £1,000 to the Mission for Fr David to use where he considers the need is greatest.

I have told Fr David that as a result of these extra donations, plus the tax refund recently received in respect of Gift Aided donations last year (over £2,300) and other funds on hand, I would shortly be sending him a total of £5,500.  He told me he was overcome by the continuing generosity of the Parish that he regards as his partner in the work of the Mission.  I have also said that the Pound a Week Group would pay all Cleophas’ extras for the next school year.

He thanks us all most sincerely and asks us to remember him in our prayers.

If anyone would like more information about the Pound a Week Group, please contact me.  Eugene McGivern

October 2012

Student requirements

Here are some extracts from a letter from Cleophas Krop Lomadi, the young boy who was awarded the first Fr Ken memorial Scholarship that has paid his fees for the full four years at the Mission Secondary School.  Another student, a girl by the name of Lopakan Kasigho Jackline, is the second recipient of the scholarship and we are paying her fees annually.

“I thank you all for your support which for me is immeasurable.  You have pulled me from poverty to a more stable and promising position and I appreciate that very much.  Owing to the Fr Ken Freeman Memorial Scholarship my parents’ lives have been a bit more stable, but as my brother has emerged from primary school and got a place in Form 1 they have faced great difficulties.  They struggle so much to satisfy their daily needs and it was only due to my mother’s hardworking that they were able to pay my brother’s fees for the first two terms this year.  I don’t know the way forward but I believe in God everything is possible.

For me to get money for my requirements, I struggle in the holidays looking for work.  Once I get something I send some money home and the rest I save for my requirements.

I wish you all well and send my greetings to your Church.  In my Church I am a Sunday School teacher and like spending time helping the younger children.  I love God and know Jesus is my Saviour so bye and God bless you all.

Cleophas                      Krop              Lomadi

(Christian name)         (Rain)             (Bull). “

Cleophas’ reference to his “requirements” is the money he needs to feed himself during holidays and pay for those things every student has to provide e.g. uniform, mattress, exercise books, toiletries, shoe polish and haircutting etc.  These school costs amount to approximately 6,000 Kenyan Shillings (about £50).  If anyone would like more information about sponsoring a student by paying the school tuition and boarding fees (£250 last year), or these extra costs, please get in touch.  Eugene McGivern

May 2012

Sad news from one of our students

Thank you for the very generous donation from the Pound a Week Group of £2,800.  I can assure you this will be well used at the Mission and the school.

The rains have come at last, but we are never happy.  The downpour was so heavy the roads suffered badly and are treacherous.  This is the first time in two weeks I have had email due to the dense cloud overcast.

The student I have selected to receive the second of the Fr Ken Freeman Memorial Scholarships is a girl by the name of Lopakan Kasigho Jackline and she will write to you shortly.

I have the very sad news that the mother of a student a Pound a Week Group member is sponsoring died of TB a few days ago.  His father died of the disease a year ago.  We collected some food from the Mission for the family and took the boy back to the family house that was deserted as the people tend to abandon a place where a death occurred.  His mother had been buried that morning and his older brother and sister and former neighbours begged him to return to school to complete his studies as they had little food and few prospects.  I am glad to say he did come back with us.  A sad story which is a result of the extreme poverty many people suffer here.

Thank you all for your kindness and support for the Mission.

Fr David Conway

April 2012

Thanks from Fr Sean at Rotu

Very many thanks for your most generous donation on £2,520 to the Mission at Rotu.  This will be a great help with my work here for the camels for the people, plus the little school which is just getting going.

In the school we have divided the children into two classes, the very small ones in nursery and the “more advanced” in Standard One.  Literacy is a great problem for the people here as not one can read or write.  I give the children a meal every day and at the moment it is being cooked under a tree. I hope to get a small kitchen built with the help of your kind donation.

Camels are of course the main livelihood of the people and I was able to give away 21 recently and hope to give more in the next few months.  They are the most prized animals especially for their milk.  A thousand thanks to the Pound a Week Group.  What a remarkable success story the Group is. God bless you all.

Fr Sean McGovern

As the paper says, “Sadly, government has seemed incapable of finding a solution but educating students from warring pastoralist communities under one roof is seen as a winning solution to ending the incessant fighting over pasture and water for their animals.”

In the article Fr David Conway put it like this. “We strongly believe that children who share the same dormitory and grow up and study together for four years, will not fight each other when they go back into their communities.”

Barpello High School

A few donations were made specifically to pay for the annual school fees (£200) for a child at the secondary school, otherwise Fr David will use the money where he believes the need is greatest.

I believe that he is planning to use some of it to give milking camels to those families who lost parents during the cholera epidemic last November.  More on this when I hear from him.

In the meantime, may I on behalf of Fr David thank all the supporters of his work in the Barpello Mission for their wonderful generosity.

You really do make a difference.

Eugene McGivern

There has been no rain since November last year.  What water there is to be found is contaminated and people are travelling long distances to find potable water.

People and animals are dying from dehydration, starvation and disease.

I was also able to contribute to the purchase of uni-mix food (used to ward off starvation) which we distribute to young children and pregnant mothers when they attend our rural mobile clinics for immunization and ante-natal care.

I also used some of the funds to renovate a hand dug well which provides clean water and you will be glad to hear that this was very successful.

Barpello High School has just begun its third year.  We have 85 students in Forms 2 and 3.  On 24 January 45 new students will enter Form 1.  The school is going through an unstable time as students are not able to afford even modest fees, let alone the £184 annual fees we need.

An important milestone was reached this year for the East Pokot Medical Project when I was able to hand over my work as Project Co-ordinator to one of the local personnel, Sr Esther Mwaniki.  This is part of Mission policy of devolving responsibility to local people when they feel confident enough to take it on.”

Fr David

However, in the last couple of weeks we got an offer of a large herd of 200 camels, all from good stock.  We did all in our power not to lose this offer and gathered up bits and pieces of cash where we could.  Your generous donation could not have come at a better time.

Again Fr David sends his thanks for our support for the work of his Mission.

If you would to know more about Pokot or the Pound a Week Group, do get in touch.

Eugene McGivern

June 2011

The price of maize has almost doubled

I see the Pound a Week Group as our partners in our mission to the marginalised, trying to make Pokot a better place for its people.  Progress in development has been wonderful over the last 31 years.  It has been difficult, sometimes slow and sometimes with a certain amount of frustration.  But the Pound a Week Group through their kindness have been wonderful people who really have shown an option for the poor.

The drought continues.  This year the rivers did not flow and food is scarce and very expensive.  Maize (90kgs) which I bought three months ago for 2,600 Kenya shillings (about £22) today delivered to Barpello the same maize is costing 4,100 shillings, almost twice the price.  Please convey my thanks to the people in the parish for their continuing generous support and prayers.

Fr David

May 2011

Scholarship awarded to Lomadi Krop Cleophas

Fr David Conway and the Principal of the Mission secondary school have awarded the Fr Ken Freeman Memorial Scholarship to Lomadi Krop Cleophas, the 15 year old son of a very poor family who could not afford the fees.  The scholarship means that Lopadi now has his fees paid in full for the four years he will be at the school.  They will cover the cost of his tuition and board.

Here is an extract from a letter he wrote at the school’s request to say why he should receive the scholarship.  “I am eager to be at school and if you can assist me and I complete my studies, I believe in God’s presence I can pass my exams and sometime I will do for others who are not able to pay school fees what you have done for me.  For doing so may God bless you.”

Eugene McGivern

May 2011

Living behind God’s back

The severe drought is continuing and people and animals are now dying.  I have led assessment groups into some remote villages to establish the needs of the people.  We found women boiling toxic fruits to remove the poison.  They then taste the water to see if the fruits are safe to eat.  The result is severe vomiting and severe diarrhea.  Three times the fruits have to be boiled and tested.

There are no cows or animals to be seen in this pastoralist community.  They have either died or have been taken by the menfolk to the hills in search of grazing and water.  One of the teams arrived as an elderly man who died from starvation was being taken out for burial.  A small school child collapsed in front of them from hunger.  He had not eaten in three days.

The people in these remote areas say the Pokot live “behind God’s back”, in other words they feel they feel they are a forgotten people.  Temperatures vary between 30C and 40C. This is the worst drought in living memory and there are no signs of rain.

Thank you to the Pound a Week Group for the £1,750 you have sent.  £500 will be used for the two students who are being sponsored.  We will use the remaining £1,250 to buy food for the hungry.

Please remember the Pokot people in your prayers.

Fr David

November 2010

Fr Ken Freeman Memorial Scholarship

On Monday I was able to send Fr David Conway the sum of £1500 for his work at the Barpello Mission in East Pokot, Kenya.  It was made up of £700 from donations from members of the Pound a Week Group and £800 from the Fr Ken Memorial Fund.

The £800 is being used to create a Fr Ken Freeman Memorial Scholarship which will pay the fees for a student for the full four years at the Mission’s secondary school which Fr David built.  Fr David will award the scholarship to a boy or girl whom he considers most deserving and will let us know the name of the student in due course.  In addition, from next year onwards and God willing, I will send £200 (plus any price increase) from the Pound a Week donations so that the scholarship can be awarded each year to another student, again in memory of Fr Ken. The scholarship was agreed by the Parish Pastoral Team as a continuing memorial to our late and much loved priest.

I will update the parish when I have news from Fr David.

Eugene McGivern

October 2010

Baby Plimo and Theopilas Nakapel

Please accept my warm thanks to the parish for your continuing and generous support for the work of his Mission.  The generosity of the kind people in the parish makes our lives so much easier.

The baby Plimo whose operation we helped pay for to remove a very large tumour on his skull continues to do well, but sadly he was born with only one eye which will affect him as he gets older.  His father has abandoned him and his mother.

The headmaster of the secondary school had the sad duty to report the departure of a second year student, Theopilas Nakapel, as he was loosing his eyesight and could no longer study.  As he left, Theopilas told the headmaster “I am a useless man, I’ll be blind soon”.  A doctor had told him the lens in his eyes were detaching from the suspensory ligaments, resulting in blindness.

On recently receiving the £3,500 from the Pound a Week Group, I immediately thought of Theopilas and am arranging for him to see an eye specialist to conduct a full assessment of the problem and advise what, if anything, can be done.  We do not know the total cost of the consultation and, hopefully, corrective surgery, but have been told it will be expensive.  We will be using the money you sent to make a start on the consultation, travelling and treatment.  It is really a blessing that the Pound a Week money came at this time.  Theopilas could not have earlier treatment because of his extreme poverty.  We can now make a start and hope we can find the funds to meet all the costs.

Thank you to everyone who sent money to pay for the fees of a student at the school.  I would like to keep one of the donations for Theopilas if treatment enables him to return to school.

Fr David

September 2010

News from Pokot

I am delighted to be able to tell you that earlier this week I was able to send Fr David Conway the magnificent sum of £3500 on behalf of the Pound a Week Group.  This was possible because of some extremely generous donations, the proceeds of the Open Garden scheme, the tax refund of £885 from those donations which were Gift Aided and, of course, the usual generous pound a week donations.

Some of the money came from parishioners who asked friends and family to donate something rather than buy them presents for a birthday or anniversary.

February 2012

New Mission in Rotu in East Pokot

When we started the Pound a Week Group in 1997, the first Mission we supported was at Kositei in East Pokot where the priest in charge was Fr Sean McGovern, a Holy Ghost Father.  It was he who started the camel project there to help achieve an effective long-term food programme.  He subsequently became Regional Superior of the Order in Kenya, but is now back once more in the Mission field.

He has opened a new Mission at Rotu, which is about 55 Kms from Fr David Conway in Barpello but over some pretty rough country.  Apparently it is a five hours drive to the Post Office.  Fr Sean tells me that he has recently started the first school in Rotu as not a single person in that area has ever been to school.

Eugene McGivern

July 2011

Thanks from scholarship student, Cleophas Krop Lomadi

“I am greeting you in the name of God our father and thank you. My parents and my siblings are OK and are excited about the scholarship.  They send their greetings and thanks to you all.  This season we have encountered many difficulties.  One is the economy of our country where price rises have led to poverty and a low supply of food.  Another is the drought and famine which has led to poor crops, animals die and this is very bad as the animals are the source of food and pay for school fees.

My parents are very pleased for your support as without it I would have to drop out of school due to lack of fees.  Thank you and may the Almighty bless you. Fr Ken Freeman was a great and good man and is with the great saints in heaven.”

July 2011

Praise for multi-ethnic education

Fr David Conway has sent me a copy of an article from a local paper which praises the school for its multi-ethnic policy of educating the children of the different tribes which sadly are often engaged in inter-tribal fighting resulting in death and serious injuries.

July 2010

34 candidates for the Kenya certificate of secondary education

It is very hot and dry here at the moment but I am feeling very well.  The school now has 177 pupils and progress is good.  This is the first year to have our Form IV sit the national exam for the leaving certificate known as The Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education.  We have 34 candidates for the exam and are hoping that they will excel.  They have all put in long hours in their studies.

It is with deep gratitude to the many people in the Pound a Week Group that we have got this far and are able to see our first Form IV through to the exam. I hope we have done them well and that after October of this year they will be able to return to their respective communities and be influential in relieving poverty, beginning in their own homes.

With many thanks to you all, Fr David

July 2010

Baby Plimo

I am delighted to tell you that baby Plimo, the child of Jerop, who had the massive growth on his skull is doing well after his operation in Nairobi where the growth was removed.  The operation cost in the region of £670 and this great humanitarian work was enabled by the generous donations which came from your parish.  As the swelling was not on the brain, the doctors are hopeful that Plimo will make a full recovery and lead a normal life.  The Pound a Week Group and friends continue to provide humanitarian assistance and save lives here in East Pokot.

With many thanks to you all, Fr David

November 2009

Drought news from Pokot

We put the whole of the donation towards the purchase of the herd and the good news is that we managed to buy it all.  Fr Gerry Foley at the new mission station (for which you recently had a special appeal in the parish) will benefit from the project as we will distribute the herd over the two missions.

Thank you for your ongoing and generous support.

God bless you all.

Fr David Conway

August 2008

News from Fr David in the East Pokot Mission

Greetings from East Pokot.  I hope you are all well.  I am keeping OK myself.

Many thanks to the Cranleigh and Bramley community for your ongoing and most generous support.  Thank you especially for the recent cheque for £2,500. I will invest part of it in another solar panel and battery.

We are kept very busy as there is a severe shortage of food here at the moment due mainly to the prolonged drought since the end of 2007.  A contributing factor to the food shortage is the problems following the election in December last.  Thank God it has started to rain in the last 10 days.  It is very welcome for the people we serve, the Mission and the school, but sadly will not make much difference to the food situation.  We are now delivering food supplies to the most remote communities.

The camel project is going very well but is expensive to maintain due to the cost of medicine, salt and herdsmen wages.  I was able to buy 154 camels recently from a man who was leaving the country.  They came as a bulk lot so we had to take the bulls we did not want.  Fortunately there was a pure bred Pakistan bull in the herd so we will keep him and try to start our own breeding herd as camels are sometimes very hard to get.  Camels are important as they provide a lot of milk for the community and the school.  Milk is particularly welcome at the moment as times are very hard.

The school is closed for August.  The students are doing very well although the school is proving very expensive to run, especially as families cannot afford much in the way of fees and the Government gives us little help.  However, we struggle on and I will never give up on the project as education is the answer to many social problems and the problems of terrible poverty.

My greetings and prayers for you all.

Fr David

April 2008

A new herd of camels

Greetings to all in Cranleigh and Bramley parish.  Many thanks for your wonderful recent donation of £1,820.  Kenya has gone through a very difficult time but hopefully there will now be lasting peace.

We have been finding it difficult to purchase camels.  First, during last year we had an animal disease called Rift Valley Fever and while it did not affect animals in East Pokot, many districts were put under quarantine and it was impossible to move animals any distance.  Then followed the build up to the elections and the violent aftermath.

Sometimes I feel ashamed asking them to bring at least a little money as we have to buy them food and pay the teachers, especially when I know that at home they often have to go without food.

I am determined to strive ahead with God’s help as this school, the first in this vast area of Pokot, will provide an education which I am convinced will help to eradicate poverty here.

In 2010 we shall be sending out 40 Form 4 students with a full education.  In 10 years that 40 will be 400, with 40 added every year after that.  They will certainly make a great difference to society and the standard of living of all.

We are taking the education of girls very seriously as they normally do not get a chance to go to school in the history of the Pokot.  We currently have 25 girls in Forms 2 and 3 and we are hoping another 12 will join Form 1 next week.  At the very least the weaker ones will leave the school with a voice to be heard in their society.  All these girls need our support if they are to stay at the school as they get no school fees paid from home.

We have had big problems this last year with lights, especially in the dormitories.  Children went to bed in the dark and got up in the dark but with your help this time we were able to put lights in the dorms.  There are so many demands on our resources that many of our projects could simply not be realised without your ongoing support and generosity. We are indeed most grateful.

Fr David Conway CSSp

November 2008

News from the East Pokot Mission

Greetings from East Pokot.  I hope you all are well.  Life here is difficult at the moment.

Due to the long drought we are going through a serious time of hunger in the communities we serve.  The drought and the food shortage, resulting mainly from the extended period of violence after the elections, have made things quite bad.  Inflation is running at 25% to 30% and so everything has gone up in price, diesel, foodstuffs and indeed everything else.  Famine relief food is scarce and getting more expensive by the day.

The new school is doing fairly well and we are getting ready to take Form 3 in January.  To date we have 85 students in Forms 1 and 2 and we hope the January intake will bring a further 45 to 50 boys and girls.  However, the students really struggle for support.  The fees for next year will be £184 which includes a year’s boarding.  On top of this the school (via the Mission) provides blankets, bed sheets, mattresses, mosquito netting, and toiletries every month.  This is an added expense on the Mission but we try to meet it.  We also subsidise items of uniform, try to keep the fees as low as possible for families and where we can we further subsidise some poorer students.

The camel project is going well and the milk it provides for the community is a great help at this difficult time.  As I think you know, the project also produces the school milk every morning.

Thank you all in Cranleigh and Bramley for your continuing support.

October 2008

Milestone for the East Pokot Medical Project

I was delighted to learn from Eugene’s email that a further £1,700 was on its way.  Wonderful news which has really come at the right time as I need to buy books for Form lV, the final year in the school.  They need special books to prepare for their final exam, the Kenya Certificate in Secondary Education.  And I am hoping that I shall be able to buy some more much needed uni-mix food for the children out of the remaining balance.

Thank you all so much for your generous support.

Fr David Conway CSSp

May 2009

Help for those needing medical treatment

Greetings to all in Cranleigh and Bramley Parish and a very big thank you for the £1,500 you sent me recently.  I got 171,500 Kenyan Shillings for that, not the best rate but not too bad.

I used KShs 50,000 to buy medicines for children in our dispensary.  From the rest, I used some towards the cost of a referral of a patient who had badly broken her leg to the hospital in Kabarnet, which is a journey of some five hours by our very poor roads.  We were also able to pay for a second referral a week later of a woman who was in labour.  The remainder went to the school to help our poorer students.

On behalf of all those we were able to help, I would like to thank the members of the Pound a Week Group for their very kind generosity and continuing support for our Mission in Barpello.

Fr David Conway

January 2009

Barpello High School begins its third year

Greetings to you all from a very dry and hot East Pokot.  I wish to express my sincere gratitude to your parish communities for your kind and generous cheque for £3,000.

From June 2008 we have been involved in the distribution of famine relief food.  Our people have really suffered as this current drought has brought widespread hunger.  Food is scarce and very expensive all over the country.  We are still going through the effects of the post election violence of December 2007.  The current problems in Zimbabwe, the bread basket of Africa, have not helped.  Inflation here is over 30%.