Students in a class at Rongai.
Brothers Dennis Lee and John McMahon from the District of Eastern North America ventured far from home in May 2011 to visit twin schools in Kenya. For Bro. Dennis, it was a return to his second home while it was a new, eye-opening experience for Bro. John.
“It was kind of a life-altering journey,” said Bro. John. “It was kind of a pilgrimage that I think is going to continue to work on me and to change me.”
After serving for nine years as campus minister at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, NY and collecting donations for Saint Mary’s Boys Secondary School, Bro. John wanted to see the school first-hand. He was so committed to twinning, he continued collecting donations even after leaving Loughlin. “I didn’t have any expectations other than to go over and see the ministries and meet the Brothers and the students,” he said.
Bro. Dennis made sure Bro. John accomplished those goals. Bro. Dennis served twice in Kenya from 2002-2004 and 2007-2009 where he worked in Nairobi on the novitiate or scholasticate staffs. He wanted to return to Kenya to reunite with the Brothers and those he taught.
Bringing Bro. John gave Bro. Dennis a fresh perspective on the schools he knew so well and helped him not take things for granted. “I think being with John was a reminder to me that the schools are simpler,” said Bro. Dennis.
The Brothers spent two days at Saint Mary’s which started with Sunday Mass. “Our initial introduction to the poor ministries was around the Eucharist, and just beautiful participation and presence by the 700 students who range from 4-years-old to 19-years-old,” said Bro. Dennis.
Bro. John was amazed by how seriously students take their education even though they are cramped into classrooms with 60 students. “Despite the fact they don’t have all the comforts of home, they’re teaching. They’re learning,” he said.
Aside from Saint Mary’s, they also visited Child Discovery Centre, Mwangaza College, Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School, and Christ the Teacher Institute of Education (CTIE). CTIE is not a twin school, but it is Lasallian.
CTIE students took the Brothers to their homes in a Nairobi slum where they each lived with multiple family members in one-room mud shacks with tin roofs and no running water or electricity. “Just upbeat, positive people who really want to be teachers because they see that this is the way to influence other people,” said Bro. John. “This is the way to bring other people along to a better life.”
The visits showed Bro. John how much the schools need help. “They’re very vulnerable. They’re very fragile,” he said. “They definitely need whatever the twinning schools in this part of the world can give them. I think we need to raise the consciousness of our students and faculty in our schools here about the specific places.”