Kisumu is located in the south-west of Kenya, approximately 4 - 5 hours coach drive from Nairobi. It is next to Lake Victoria and right on the equator. Kisumu is the third largest place in Kenya with a population of 1 million and has large rural outlying areas. The latest report in April 1996 placed the number of children either living on the street or coming from slum areas daily in search of food at approximately 20,000 in the Kisumu area and suburbs.
All education in Kenya has to be paid for, consequently children from poor families get little or no education. Those who are fortunate enough to go to school start at 7.45 am until 4.30 pm, although nurseries do mornings only. Those children bright enough to reach GCSE and A level standard, must start at 6.30 am and finish at 6.30 pm, with 1 hour for lunch. Pat gets them up at 5.30 am and they leave for school at 6.10 am - she will not see them again until 7.00 pm. As well as paying all their fees, Pat has to find money for books and uniforms.
Corporal punishment tends to be more common in public schools so Pat tries to place children in private schools whenever possible. She says, "These kids have been through so much, beaten, abused, rejected, treated as rubbish, that I don't want it to continue and I'm sure the Lord doesn't either."
There is no free medical service in Kenya, so poverty prevents many people getting the medical help they desparately need. Medical fees account for a large proportion of Pat's monthly expenditure.
If parents die, the oldest child takes over the parental role
and becomes totally responsible for the younger ones, often to the detriment of
their own families when they marry, and unless they hold well paid jobs, it
keeps them poor. Many boys are sent away when they get too big to feed and end
up on the streets, involved in begging, crime and glue sniffing. Glue sniffing
is one of the biggest problems and will pull some boys away from Covenant House
and back onto the streets many times before they can overcome the addiction.
Girls will often be sold for marriage at the age of 14 for a few cows and Pat has taken in several girls who otherwise would have suffered this fate.
Pat is well-known in the area and is often called to the rural areas to help people who are suffering from malnutrition. Although very limited in space and finance, she will regularly take in mothers and children who are on the verge of death from sickness and starvation - very often there is no-one else to help. Pat says, "Costs are just soaring, but we just look to the Lord and I cannot turn away a starving child. I've cut back to the bare minimum, yet compared to how most people live, we are totally blessed."
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