Kathleen (Kathy) Flatoff

Year Joined MKLM: 2017
Country: Kenya
City: Mombasa
Focus: Healthcare
Project(s): St. Patrick’s Dispensary
People Served: 40,000-50,000 people living at poverty level in the slum settlement known as Bangladesh.   The dispensary provides 4,000 visits for babies & toddlers to receive immunizations each year and an additional 3,000-4,000 visits for routine outpatient services.

Project Goals:
To provide holistic healthcare to the poorest of the poor – those living in marginal conditions and experiencing diseases of extreme poverty.

“I am exactly where God wants me to be at this stage in my life”

Ministry:
Kathy is a nurse at St. Patrick’s Dispensary, the only facility providing quality and caring health services in the midst of Bangladesh. She is currently serving in an administrative role as she strives to get the dispensary accredited to accept national health insurance coverage to promote self-sustainability.

In addition, Kathy has an interest in working with people with disabilities. In Kenya, people with disabilities are frequently viewed as “cursed.” Infants with disabilities may be abandoned and children are often hidden away in their homes due to the stigma from the local community. Kathy and the social worker from the dispensary have visited two homes where a child with cerebral palsy is being cared for by a parent with no outside support. One child, Esther, is 10 years old, requires total care, and has never had a wheelchair. Her mother carries her. The other is Rachel, who has a very old wheelchair that is rusted and no longer mobile. Kathy is getting wheelchairs for both of them.

She is also working with an organization called Wezesha, which is new to the Bangladesh area. Wezesha works with people with disabities and strives to mainstream them into the community by providing education, therapy services, nutritional support, counseling etc. Both Rachel and Esther will be referred to Wezesha when they begin their program.

Personal:
Kathy grew up with the Maryknoll magazine in her home. As she was getting ready to graduate from nursing school, she felt the call to become a Maryknoll missioner. She applied but before the process was finished, she changed her mind. The time was not right and Kathy opted instead to remain closer to her aging parents and gain experience as a nurse. She began her nursing career with the Department of Veterans Affairs, working in a hospital that provided care to veterans.

During this time she also obtained her master’s degree in nursing and started going on shor- term mission trips – two to Haiti, one to Tanzania and two to Ethiopia. At the end of each trip, thoughts of long-term mission service lingered.

In 2012, having more than 32 years of federal service, Kathy retired. She enjoyed retirement, but the pull to long-term mission was still there. After checking out Peace Corps and other organizations, she always came back to Maryknoll. Finally, after five years of retirement, she decided it was now or never, and she applied to Maryknoll again — 34 years after her first application. Kathy says, “The time now was right. All the gates have been opened for me to do this. I am exactly where God wants me to be at this stage in my life.”

Kathy was born and raised in Wisconsin. After high school, she joined the U.S. Navy and served as a hospital corpsman. Following that enlistment, she worked at an Indian boarding school in Chamberlain, South Dakota, which was run by the Sacred Heart Fathers. She then returned to Wisconsin and worked as an oral surgery assistant before deciding to pursue higher education as a registered nurse.