Area residents raise money to help Kenya residents with water project

The Rev. P. Gregory Oligschlaeger of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Martinsburg will be leading a group of parishioners, ages ranging from 12 to 79, to visit the site of the Mwiyala Community Based Water Project in Kenya, for which the parish has raised more than $33,000 thus far.
"We had no dollar amount as a goal. It was going to be whatever people wanted to contribute," said Oligschla-eger. "This trip has great potential to bring awareness of other peoples and cultures.  I presume we will experience need that our parishes could help with.  Who knows? We may 'pair ourselves' with a parish or village of people that we meet and have mutual exchanges over the coming years. Our Catholic missionary spirit, reinforced consistently by Pope Francis, is that we are called by Christ to 'go out and bring Christ to those we meet each day.'"
The Martinsburg and Wellsville parishes contributed $25,000 from monthly collections spanning over 12 months. The Knights of Columbus Council #1270 of Martinsburg, Wellsville and Laddonia contributed about $4,000 from two years of their Martinsburg, fish stand profits. Immaculate Conception Parish donated $2,000 from its mission fundraising breakfast. The Diocese of Jefferson City also contributed $2,000.
The project is headed by the Rev. Benedict Ayodi, a Franciscan Capuchin priest from Nairobi, known as Father Ben, who formerly served the Martinsburg, Wellsville, Montgomery City and Jonesburg Catholic parishes.
Ayodi recently completed a Masters Degree in World Political Relations at The New School in New York City.  A Religious Franciscan Sister of St. Mary, who he knew in Jefferson City, Sister Evelyn Peterman, invited him to come and serve the Diocese of Jefferson City.
Ayodi will be the group's guide to ministry through the Nairobi slums, the water project in Mwiyala, a rural Kenyan village, and safari days, which the travelers will enjoy as a little tourist activity among their ministerial journey.
Mwilaya is a village located on the northern outskirts of Kakamega. The area residents access water from the Sambwere spring, believed to date back to the 1940s.
"Our concern as a group was how to make (the spring) more accessible and create (water) sanity for good quality and quantity." wrote Fr. Ayodi in his Mwilaya Project phase one report.
There are several problems that concern Ayodi, other than water treatment. The area residents have reported problems with poisonous snakes, bilharzia causing snails and malaria spreading mosquitoes. To solve these issues the surrounding brush was cleared away from the spring, where these creatures tend to converge.
The eroded mud paths the residents use to reach the spring have also been a concern. Two women have reportedly broken their legs en route to the spring. The land around the paths is river catchment, making it swampy.
These concerns and others were solved by phase one of the project, which began in August and was completed in October. Phase one included 20 local volunteer youth converging water away from the path by digging trenches. Concrete was laid over the path, 30 feet of stairs were constructed, drainage was implemented, laundry stations have been installed and chlorine cans have been placed at water purifying stations.
Since phase one was completed the number of people using the spring has risen from 50 to 250. These people are now allowed bicycle, motor bike and wheelbarrow access. The spring is accessible at all times and in all  weather conditions.
Phase two has begun to place 10 water containment tanks around the village to gather rainwater.
Phase three will install a pump and well at the village school.
Throughout the trip the travelers will stay at a Retreat House in Nairobi and where Ayodi's family lives, near Kakamega. His village is an eight hour drive northwest of Nairobi. Nine of the group members will stay in villagers' homes for two nights.  The last three nights will be in two motel lodges while on safari at Lake Nakuru and The Masai- Mara game reserve.
"Conditions will be hot in Kakamega and a bit muggy," said Oligschlaeger. "It will be like a Missouri July with no air conditioning. We are on the equator and it is summertime there in January. We will sleep in mosquito nets and need to be careful of sun exposure. We will have medicine that we take each day to ward off malaria from mosquito bites. We have also taken yellow fever and typhoid vaccinations as well as the hep A & B vaccine."
Oligschlaeger's group will be gathering at the St. Joseph Church parking lot Jan. 4 and hope to reach Kenya Jan. 5. The journey's first two days will include a tour of Nairobi. From there, they will travel to Kakamega for a tour and the official launch of the Mwiyala Water Project. The group will then travel back to Nairobi, where they will attend mass in the Mathare slums, visit the Nairobi Museum and watch traditional African cultural dances. The next day they will visit Nairobi social community programs, such as the school, clinic and peace project. The remaining days will include a safari tour. The group hopes to return to St. Louis Jan. 18.
Oligschlaeger said, "I knew I was going to Kenya after spending a year with Benedict (during his service in mid-missouri). I'm excited about experiencing Kenya through the people we will meet. I look forward to living in their homes and seeing the water project that our parishes helped to finance. With God's guidance, the 14 of us will have a life changing journey."
The group will be making regular Facebook updates on their travels at 1212598 for those who would like to virtually follow along on the journey.
Oligschlaeger urges anyone who would like to contribute to the Mwiyala Community Based Water Project to contact him at St. Joseph Church in Martinsburg, (573) 492-6595.
In a November email to Oligschlaeger, Ayodi wrote, "On behalf of the beneficiaries of the Mwiyala water project, I wish to take this chance to thank you and all those who contributed towards this fund. I thank God for all of you.  May God bless you all for your contributions, prayers and support to make a difference in the lives of the poor and needy in our locality here in Kenya."