Mary Oldham

Year Joined MKLM: 2009
Country: Kenya
City: Mombasa
Focus: Education, Healthcare
Project(s): HOPE Helping Orphans Pursue Education
People Served: 110 families

Project Goal(s): To assure that no child orphaned by AIDS in Mombasa West and North Coast is deprived of basic education needs; and to enhance support for orphans and their guardian/family through holistic approach.

Personal Data
Mary joined MKLM in 2009 from Davenport Diocese and Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Her hometown parishes are St. Patrick’s of Ottumwa, IA and Our Lady of Grace of Encino, CA. She earned her BS in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State University in 1996. Mary worked for ten years in process improvement and project management in manufacturing. She also worked as a project coach, assisting teams in problem solving. Mary was able to transfer these skills in a volunteer assignment for Catholic Relief Services in Uganda 2007-2008 where she led a micro-finance project. As part of a volunteer assignment with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2008-2009, Mary worked with parishes and schools in the Archdiocese to educating youth and adults about global solidarityi.

Current Ministry
Mary’s ministry is working with the AIDS Orphans Project in Mombasa, this has now been renamed HOPE – Helping Orphans Pursue Education. The mission of the project is to be a sign of hope to families and especially the children afflicted or affected by HIV/AIDS, showing them that God does care, and has not abandoned them. Through the project, orphans are able to receive a basic education and skills that will help them find employment, live with dignity, and contribute to the enhancement of their communities.

The HOPE Project began in 1999, it has enabled more than 1,657 orphans to attend school. Many students continue within the project for more than one year. In 2009, 30 students completed primary school, four completed secondary school, and two completed vocational courses. In 2010, 112 students are attending school because of this project. The project is paying school fees for 60 orphans to attend secondary school or a vocational program to learn skills for a trade. This year, the project is also providing for 52 additional orphans in primary school the necessary school supplies and uniforms, without which a child is unable to attend school. In 2009, the project supported more than 110 families.

The HOPE Project operates in ten parishes and collaborates with the volunteer services of 400 health workers who belong to the parish small-group faith communities. These community volunteers identify the orphans, bring them to the attention of the project, and assist in the monitoring of the orphans after their acceptance into the project. The program provides school fees, books, uniforms, and supplies as well as transportation, meals, and medical help, when needed.

The project recognizes that it is not enough to provide education and therefore addresses the orphan’s needs in the areas of social and spiritual development. This support is provided through workshops and skills training during the school term breaks. Based on the progress and personal aspirations of each student, placements are arranged for the students in vocational training schools or secondary schools. Students are currently placed in computer training, tailoring, hair styling, welding, and mechanic training programs. A few children in the program are placed in schools for children who are deaf or have mental or physical disabilities.

The project also collaborates with the Archdiocese of Mombasa Community Based Health Care clinics to provide support to the families of the orphans. Many of the guardians are members of a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS. Mary has started meeting with the support groups associated with the ten parishes and will be assisting them with her experience in micro-finance and their incoming-generating activities.

HOPE has a history of collaboration with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Brother Frank TenHoopen, MM, is a board member and adviser. The project collaborates with other Maryknoll priests in the fight against Malaria through malaria nets distribution and sponsorship of some orphans to boarding schools. The project also works closely with the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa, the Community Based Health Care & Aids Relief Project of the Diocese, the Marianist Development Project, APHIA II, Girl-child Network, and the Children’s Office.