Since 2002, parishioners from St. Monica Catholic Community have traveled to their sister parish, Holy Cross Catholic Community in Dandora, a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, in East Africa. Each year, this relationship has deepened as new bonds of friendship continue to develop and the establishment of programs designed to meet the needs of the community there have been created.Last July, 24 St. Monica pilgrims set out to continue this mission and meet the wonderful people at Holy Cross parish. This group of travelers had a blessed trip and was privileged to meet with the Father Andrew Massawe, the pastor of Holy Cross, and the staff, parish council and parishioners. While there, the travelers learned a great deal about how the programs sponsored by St. Monica are functioning as well as the current challenges faced by Holy Cross.One of the programs the Holy Cross Africa Ministry (HCAM) at St. Monica supports is the Brother Andre Bessette Dispensary. In the summer of 2010, Dr. Lynn Kurata visited the dispensary for the first time and conducted an eye clinic there. Eye diseases and infections are very common in Dandora due to the high level of pollution created by the garbage dump in Dandora, where toxic materials are routinely burned to make room for additional garbage capacity.Recognizing the tremendous need of the people served by the clinic, Dr. Kurata, upon her return to St. Monica, spearheaded a parish Lenten eyeglass drive, requesting that parishioners donate prescription eyeglasses, prescription and non-prescription sunglasses, and reading glasses. These glasses were then read, cleaned, categorized and packed for the trip by volunteers. The travelers carried extra suitcases to Kenya containing 4,013 pairs of these donated glasses.Dr. Kurata, assisted by two St. Monica volunteers, led an eye clinic at the Br. Andre Dispensary over six days. In addition to fitting patients with glasses, they dispensed medications for the various infections, provided handouts on common eye diseases that had been translated into Swahili, and identified patients with serious eye conditions that required further follow-up. Common conditions identified in patients included previously undiagnosed diabetes, glaucoma and high blood pressure.Here is how Dr. Kurata describes her experience:“Early Monday morning our first week in (Kenya) Africa, Arthur Fitzmaurice, Susan Leary and I were picked up by Vincent, our driver from Dandora. It was the beginning of our service week in the Brother Andre Bessette dispensary. When we arrived, the waiting area was overflowing with people awaiting our arrival. We worked feverishly, along with HCAM members and dispensary staff to set up the clinic for those first 70 patients.“It was a fast-paced day. But, at 5:30 p.m., the waiting room was still full. I went into the waiting area with Joseph, a parish council member, and triaged people to return on another day. Many were turned away, and some had been waiting all day. I was hopeful it would be less chaotic the next day. We arrived earlier on subsequent days, and were greeted by a crowd patiently waiting.“Each day our pace got faster. Overwhelmed by their needs, I asked for God’s help. By the end of the week, 215 adults (ages 19-87) and 50 children (ages 6 months to 18 years) had been seen!“It was a busy, powerful and amazing week --- and I can’t wait to go again!”Because of the great need for additional treatment, the HCAM Medical Committee at St. Monica is planning future eye clinics at Holy Cross Parish. They are also following up on additional needs identified during the trip, including the need for additional medications, supplies and equipment.It would take many pages to describe all the ministry and mission work that has taken place as a result of the relationship formed between these two faith communities; to assess everything that the group learned and witnessed; and to explain all the programs. They range from supporting children from elementary school through college with scholarships, to providing food to those infected with HIV/AIDS, to developing a Cyber Café, to raising funds through the sales of handmade Kenyan crafts at St. Monica to support the building of a new church for this vibrant community.In the end, this story is really about seeing the face of Jesus in others, one by one, as Dr. Kurata and her team did during this extraordinary mission trip.This article was submitted by the Holy Cross Africa Ministry at St. Monica Church, Santa Monica.

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