Fr. James Kairu has high hopes that soon ANCOP will grow and impact the lives of the many poor in Kenya, the country where he was born and grew up.
The pastor first came to Canada as a visiting priest. He was at St. Monica Parish and St. Joseph Parish in Richmond, St. Francis de Sales Parish in Burnaby, and other parishes in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia. It did not take long for the parishioners to warm up to this charismatic priest especially after listening to his homilies – simple, yet full of wisdom and life’s lessons, and conveyed with great sense of humor!
Now, as assistant pastor in St. Joseph Parish in Langley, he is turning out to be an avid leader of his flock helping Fr. Lawrence Donnelly in the day-to-day affairs of the parish. He is also becoming a favorite resource speaker especially for retreats among church and lay organizations.
Fr. Kairu is from Eldoret, a principal city in West Kenya, 300 km away and 4-5 hours drive from Nairobi the capital city of Kenya.
“I used to be the vocation director at the diocese of Eldoret,” he shared. “However, this changed when I was called for a different assignment. Prior to Canada I was sent by our bishop to the US to study and to help in the Kenyan mission.”
The pastor first knew about ANCOP when Jun and Malou Clarito, CFC ANCOP Canada missionaries to Kenya, sought his help in coordinating with the clergy in Kenya for ANCOP’s child sponsorship program. This was April 2015. He facilitated that the ANCOP mission team meet up with various clergy especially the bishops: Bishop Cornelius Korir of Eldoret, Archbishop Kivuvu of Mombasa, Bishop David Kamau of Nairobi, Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homabay, and his former classmate Bishop Maurice Muhatya of Nakuru.
When Fr. Kairu last visited Kenya in 2015, he personally introduced the ANCOP team to the clergy including his brother in Eldoret, Fr. Frederick Kairu.
Soon after, ANCOP Canada has entered into agreement with various parishes and schools for children to be under ANCOP’s CSP program. This includes the children under the care of St. Clare Sisters in Homabay, those in the school managed by the Franciscan Capuchins, and the seminarians in Nakuru.
Fr. Kairu with Sr. Alice sorting clothes for distribution to the poor families in Eldoret
“ANCOP has an enormous potential to help the poor in Kenya especially the children,” said Fr. Kairu.
“With its program for children’s education and community involvement, it will have a huge impact in Kenya especially in the villages where more than 50% of the people live in dire poverty. Most kids do not get education and are forced to be in the streets or do manual labor even at a very young age. Many, especially girls, find themselves in dangerous situations such as sexual exploitation ending up in teenage prostitution. With the huge number of street children, came a growing street families.”
“Helping the seminarians means helping the Church and the people, ensuring a continued line of clergy for the Catholic Church in this part of the world. Many kids are interested to become a priest, although traditionally, Kenyan families don’t want their children to enter priesthood.”
A seminarian in Kenya undergoes formation in an 8-year program. The annual support that he receives covers for his education and allowance as he pursues a degree in Theology or Philosophy until his ordination.
The pastor shared that the Kenyan government do provide children free education in the public schools, but only a few could avail of this. If they do, staying in school is extremely difficult. Most families could not even support the children’s basic needs like school supplies, food, and clothing; a reality in the rural areas at the dioceses of Eldoret, Homabay, and Nakuru.
Fr. Kairu believes that ANCOP can reach out to the thousands of Kenyan families who are desperately in need.
“It will be an effective tool to bring the poor to a new way of life – a better life, not only materially, but also spiritually through the values formation that comes with its CSP program.”
“It is my hope that through ANCOP many deserving children will be able to avail of better education in the private schools run by the dioceses.”
The pastor also hopes that ANCOP would be able to help kids with special needs. They are children rejected, left in small homes in the village, and receiving the least support in Kenya. Their best chance to education is through a learning program in small education centers run by volunteer groups.
“Because of their physical and mental disabilities, they are considered as bad luck,” the pastor shared.
In the past while in the US, Fr. Kairu organized a campaign for wheelchair donation to handicapped people in Kenya. He partnered with the American Wheelchair Association and KofC in his parish, and was able to bring to Kenya 300 wheelchairs – 150 went to kids with disabilities. For these kids, it meant a whole life to them.
“I didn’t know that there are still good people in the world!” expressed one.
Fr. Kairu helping kids with physical disabilities to the wheelchair
Recently the pastor also initiated a fundraising project in his parish, St. Joseph in Langley. The funds raised built a concrete school building that replaced the mud structure serving as classroom in Eldoret. He got an overwhelming response from the parishioners and was able to raise the needed $28K in a one-week campaign.
For Fr. Kairu, the good that is being done by ANCOP is a powerful witnessing of Christian faith in action. He is willing to help in any way he can to make the CSP program succeed in Kenya, and to rally people in Canada to support the work.
According to him, the church leadership in Kenya especially the bishops are in full support of ANCOP. They would provide help in identifying and monitoring the progress of the scholars, and in ensuring accountability and transparency in the use of funds.
Fr. James Kairu with Bishop Philip Anyolo of the diocese of Homabay
Come April 2016, Fr. Kairu will be back in Kenya. He will be there in time for the CFC national conference that gathers CFC and ANCOP leaders together with the clergy. He greatly anticipates this opportunity to bring ANCOP to more of his people, and to help lay down the preparation for the work.
By: Edna Garrucho, ANCOP Canada