At the end of March this year we were told, all of a sudden, that we – Sr. Lucia, Sr. Dorothea, Sr. Zeituni and I – had to leave Kenya as soon as possible. The Corona Pandemic had spread unexpectedly quickly. The news took the four of us by surprise. Sr. Zeituni, Sr. Dorothea and Sr. Lucia were in Ngong at this time, and I was spending time with the Benedictine Sisters in Karen/Nairobi to improve my English skills.
I immediately began to pack whilst feeling the adrenaline and whilst living through an emotional rollercoaster. A short time later, I took a taxi to meet my fellow Sisters in Ngong. We could simply not believe it; it felt so “unreal”. We all had dinner together for one last time – knowing that it would be a long time before we could be together again.
Very early the next morning we said our goodbyes to Sr. Zeituni and Sr. Dorothea who flew from Nairobi to their native Tanzania. Meanwhile, Sr. Lucia and I set about packing the bare essentials – even now, a large part of our luggage remains stored in Kenya. Eventually, we heard that there were no more flights from Nairobi to Europe, but that there might be a few more flights from Mombasa to Germany. Nothing was certain. A slight feeling of panic briefly emerged; but we started organising with the support of our Missions Procure. It was also great to see the solidarity within the Vincentian Family who supported us to establish contacts in Kenya.
We managed to get to Mombasa by plane. At first, we seemed to be “stranded” there. The search for accommodation turned out to be quite difficult due to the current situation. But finally we found shelter with the Consolata Fathers who, even though they had discontinued their hospitality services and closed their building to visitors due to Corona, placed our plight above their caution and welcomed us. We owe so much to them. May God reward them for all of this! I was deeply impressed by their commitment.
On the way to the Fathers’ accommodation, we were called “Corona” by the population a few times – people with light skin were no longer welcomed there.
We spent tense days in the guesthouse there, waiting for news from the German embassy. Finally, very late one evening, we received confirmation that we could fly to Frankfurt, Germany, the next day. At that time there was already a curfew from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am put in place.
An employee of the Fathers accompanied us for support and we all left the house at 6:00 am. With a TukTuk (motorcycle taxi) we made our way to the ferry. It was unbelievable. Big crowds all huddled together, all wanting to get on to the ferry. There was jostling and shoving and all of the Corona protective measures were only complied with sporadically. But in the end, we were very lucky as this turned out to be the last ferry to the mainland. After that, all operations were stopped.
Ben, the employee of the Consolata Fathers, organised a ride to the airport for us and then our ways parted. At the airport the adventure continued, many Germans gradually arrived. It was tight and hectic there, too. Finally, we all got a place on the plane and landed safely in Frankfurt. Germany had us back again!
“Diaries of a Vincentian” takes a closer look at some of the more personal experiences of Vincentians working with homeless people, slum dwellers and refugees. They shine a light on the moments that inspired us, the situations that left us speechless and shocked, and the people that crossed our paths and showed us that more must be done.
What connects them is that Vincentian commitment to the poorest of the poor; and the hope that as a Family, we can do more.