“What an amazing twelve days we had as volunteers with the Ray of Sunshine Foundation in Kenya in 2016.”
That’s how Tina O’Mahony set out her stall in describing an action packed spell in Mombasa as building volunteers with the charity to which Kilkenny hurling legend, Henry Shefflin has lent his considerable name.
“After months of preparing, reading, fundraising and team building nothing prepares you for your first trip to Kenya. First thing we noticed as we flew into Mombasa airport were the hundreds of shabby wooden shacks and rugged dirt roads and paths and not a green field in sight, we wondered what was in store for us,” said Tina as she settled into her account of the unforgettable experience on which she embarked with her partner, Charlie Farrelly and their friend, Hannah Curtin.
“We landed early on Monday morning and after getting visas, grabbing our cases and clearing customs we were greeted by our organiser/founder of the Ray of Sunshine foundation, Olive Halpin who was excited at our arrival and she had arranged for two mini buses to take us to the site which was going to be our place of employment for the next ten days.
Sisters of St. Joseph
“Here we were welcomed by some of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and school children who were all dressed in uniform, some tattered and missing buttons and socks and shoes dusty from the roads. No playground, no toys or electronics by the kid’s just hands out stretched to greet us and smiles on their faces. You could feel the sense of joy and peace when you meet them.
“When we went to our hotel we were invited to an introduction meeting that evening where we were told to be up for work at 4.30am the following morning and be on the bus for 5.30am this was going to be our fate for the next ten days.
“It was still dark when we got to work and some of the locals were there before us. Our work varied from doing water rounds every half hour to painting, gardening, cleaning windows, scrubbing floors, putting up ceilings etc.
“The heat was unbearable even at 6am and the sweat ran off us. Work dropped us exhausted into our beds every night. Breakfast was a small roll with jam and butter and a banana – which we had under a tree on the site. Lunch was in the school hall which consists of egg salad roll and banana plus tea or coffee.
“It was an incredible privilege to work with the sisters of Saint Joseph and to witness the dedication of these wonderful nuns.
“The Sisters work where God’s people mostly need them, upraising them in their spiritual and social quest. Thus the sick, children, women, youth, orphans, HIV/AIDS infected and affected, the down trodden and marginalized all find a special place in their apostolic works.
Love of God and Neighbour
“Whether attending to the sick in the hospital, teaching in a classroom, harvesting in their farms, counselling a street child, or involved in administrative work, they do this for love of God and their neighbour in a world so much in need of an active witness of the love of God.
“These nuns were so welcoming and helpful to us and in turn took us all to see how the locals lived life in the nearby village; this was a wonderful and tear jerking experience.
“We met with the locals and they were glad of food and a few sweets we shared with them and they thanked us by singing and dancing.
“They radiated joy and happiness; they have a precious gift which consisted of a contagious smile, tightest warmest hugs and their love for God. Their homes were a one room wooden shack with a foam mattress on the floor and all their belongings hanging from the ceiling so vermin etc… wouldn’t get at them.
No Table or Chairs
“The floor was made of mud. No table or chairs as they all eat on the ground outside the house.
We were very proud to have completed our job in the ten days and were honoured to be there for the official opening of the rescue centre, which was opened by the Irish ambassador to Kenya, Vincent O Neill.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the generous support of individuals who made it possible for us to fulfill our trip to Kenya. We are hugely grateful to the local media who gave us great coverage and never tired of our requests.
“We worked with the nuns who informed us of the most needy and because of the generosity of the people we were able to further our mission and give clothes food etc…to the village people.
Highly Recommend the Experience
“We would highly recommend people to go on a trip like ours as you have not lived until you have experienced that outpouring of love from people that you just met the day before and we hope to spend more time with them in the future.
“As a special thank you we got the local priest to bless you all and he will keep you in his prayers,” – concluded the heartfelt letter from Tina, Charlie and Hannah. For more on the Ray of Sunshine trip by our local volunteers just click on Charlie Farrelly’s Facebook link here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006923178182&fref=ufi&rc=p