Story by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Russ Brine.
I am assigned to the St. John Bosco Children’s Centre in the East African country of Kenya, where I have served as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner since 2001. The Centre is a project for street children.
When the Centre celebrated its twentieth anniversary, it was quite an event. The Bishop of the local Catholic diocese came to the Centre to celebrate the Mass. Two hundred guests from the community were in attendance as well, many from the nearby Kibomet Parish.
We also invited our former students. Most of them now work in the trades, and several have graduated from college and work as teachers, nurses, clinical officers, etc. These are all young men and women who were rescued from the streets by the Centre when they were children. They worked hard to overcome their impoverished backgrounds and seized the educational opportunities that we provided to them. They serve as excellent role models to the current children in the program.
In Kenya, school alumni are referred to as “Old Boys” and “Old Girls”. This phrase comes from the influence of the British during the colonial era in Africa. Kenya obtained its national independence in 1963. The St. John Bosco Old Boys and Old Girls in attendance were each recognized individually, congratulated by the Bishop and acknowledged with applause by the guests.
We took the opportunity of the twentieth anniversary event to encourage the Old Boys and Old Girls to serve as mentors for the students currently in our program. They seemed flattered to be asked and were enthusiastic to give back to those following in their footsteps.
One example is a young man named Maurice Emuria. Following his completion of primary school, which is the eighth grade in Kenya, we placed Maurice in a vocational training program. He works as a mason constructing houses and other buildings. He is now married with children of his own. He says that he never lacks for work and is pleased to be able to provide so well for his family. We now assign young men who are interested in masonry to apprentice with Maurice. He is an excellent mentor and teacher.