Sister Margaret Jedrzejczak welcomes me in her office at the Catholic Secretariat in Malindi, Kenya. She has been working here since 2007. This used to be the development office, “the Episcopal conference requested to change it into a Caritas office”, she says. The local Caritas is responsible for all the projects and social services of the diocese.
Sister, what is your role in the diocese?
We have many projects going on, covering agriculture, livelihood, sanitation, microfinance, child protection, and gender. We just ended a SILC programme, a programme of self-financing which worked throughout the diocese. People were invited to save their own money; we offered only the skills needed to manage savings. This money was then used to cover daily needs. In our programmes we serve the communities, without looking to their religious affiliation. Unfortunately, this project now lacks funding to support a second phase. However, the people we trained are continuing even without our support. Some of the groups we started with are now capable to pay the wages of a person in charge of their little outfit. They will give a few hundred shillings a month, and that is enough income for someone working part-time. So the project was successful and its effects will be felt for time to come.
What are the areas you see as a priority?
There are many situations that need our attention. The most important are those relating directly to the life of people. With other Churches and Muslim clerics, we are running a project called DAP. DAP stands for Dialogue and Action Project. It is a girl centred project and the main aim is to contribute in delaying the age of marriage and promote girls’ rights to education in the Malindi, Tana Delta and Lamu regions.
DAP is a programme dealing directly with persons, it is a difficult project because breaking long seated traditions is not easy. DAP has been running for three years, a short time, not enough to make a real impact in the community. We did not start with the right foot. Later we were able to establish peace groups in schools, and we realized that this helps. We need to continue working on these issues, helping young girls out of early marriage, keeping them in schools, allow them to grow before taking lifelong commitments.
We are also working in the area of child protections. Some of these children are the victims of their own families. There are parent who literally push the children to the beach. Boys and girls are equally abused. Girls are more vulnerable.
Your slogan claims of letting people live life in fullness …
We are working to fulfil our motto. We are trying our best to reach each human being in the diocese through our programmes. Each person should see that his/her basic needs are taken care of. When I visit the field and check how programs are running, I realize that there are small miracles happening out there. One thing that struck me lately is that people do not beg for food any longer. Most communities either found the way to become more self-reliant or realize that they are responsible for their own life, there is a different perspective building up.
In the past five years I saw changes, nothing dramatic, not reaching everyone yet, but yes, there are changes. Since I came to the diocese, I had a desire to make a difference in the area of livelihood, water procurement and to do something for the youth. The youth are our future, without proper training they will be second class citizens, left at the margin of society. This is why we started many training opportunities here at the pastoral centre of the diocese.