MARGATE, P.E.I. - Pilgrims from the United Church of Canada boarded a plane to Nairobi in Kenya to embark on a 10-day mission last year to see exactly how the church dollars were being spent.
But little did they know how much of an eye-opening experience it would be for them while travelling through the slums.
Ross Sherwood, a resident of Grand Bay-Westfield, N.B., recently came to share his experience as a representative of the Maritime Conference (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.) with the congregation of Southwest River United Church in Margate.
“Javen Ayie was just 11 years old when he lost both his parents to HIV,” he said, while talking about his trip with the Mission and Service of the United Church of Canada in March 2017.
“He was left with his younger brother, so he had to leave school to raise him. Javen sold mangoes and oranges by the roadside to fund his brother through school, but during this time he learned of child’s rights advocacy and quickly enrolled.”
The Kenya Alliance for the Advancement of Children’s Rights (KAACR) is a partner of the United Church of Canada, and it protects all the rights of children and youth to survive, develop, and participate in all matters concerning them.
“As a result, Javen soon found himself back in school and able to understand that he has a voice. He has managed to finish his education and still raise funds for his brother, so our church dollars have helped him with this accomplishment,” said Sherwood.
Pilgrims from across Canada, 17 in total, travelled to different parts of Kenya.
“Our group toured Kisumu and learned about children’s rights, but a group went to Kakuma and learned about the refugee camp, a group went to Tharaka-Nithi to learn about the conservation of agriculture, there was the Huruma Clinic in Nairobi…” he listed them off.
“One thing I learned about Kisumu is that there is a big sugar cane industry there, but unfortunately due to the demand for cheaper processed food from other countries this industry has slowed down and put a lot of people out of work.”
Sherwood says with “hope and perseverance,” along with the support of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (a Mission and Service global partner of the United Church of Canada) and the United Church of Canada’s Mission and Service Fund, many more Kenyan’s will have a brighter future.
Rev. Pix Butt says the mission is a “great connection with people and real issues”.
“This is a group that we raise money for from all our churches across the country, and we share it in countries around the world with ministry partners so that people like Ross can actually go and see what our money is doing.”
The group was sponsored by the Kensington United Church, Prince Town United in Malpeque, and Southwest River in Margate.