With $4,000 a month, sister feeds Nairobi's destitute, disabled elderly

Sr. M. Ivanna B. Ennemoser shows off a well-organized refrigerator. (GSR photo/Melanie Lidman)
Sr. M. Ivanna B. Ennemoser shows off a well-organized refrigerator. (GSR photo/Melanie Lidman)

by Melanie Lidman

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Sr. M. Ivanna B. Ennemoser knows how to make a budget stretch. Ennemoser runs the Kariobangi Cheshire House for the Aged, which serves destitute and disabled elderly people in Nairobi, Kenya. The home is on the edge of an urban slum called Korogocho, where more than 700,000 people live in hastily erected shacks crowded into muddy alleyways. With less than $4,000 per month, Ennemoser cares for 35 heavily disabled live-in residents and provides twice-weekly lunches for 240 more people who suffer from diseases such as leprosy and HIV/AIDS. The 77-year-old Franciscan Missionaries for Africa sister has been on this continent for 52 years -- serving in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. She came to Kenya 17 years ago and has been at the Cheshire House for the whole time. Global Sisters Report visited Ennemoser in January to see more of her work with people who are overlooked by society three different ways -- being elderly, poor and disabled.

How did the Cheshire House start?

When sisters came to this area to see what needed to be done in this parish, they found that there was nothing for the elderly people. They saw people dying in huts, houses, on streets, under trees. They decided to start something for the destitute elderly. When they started they opened under the umbrella of Cheshire Houses [a British charity for the disabled] for fundraising, but now we operate independently.

What kind of people live at the Cheshire House?

We have 35 residents who are destitute elderly men and women who require full-time care. We are not a hospital, but the people are quite feeble. These are people that we cannot trace anyone to be responsible for them. Maybe they have family far away that has disowned them. Everyone is elderly except for one young man who has multiple sclerosis, and his mother threw him out of the house. We also have four orphans, which we're not supposed to since we have no space, but they didn't have anywhere to go. We have two twins here; their mother gave birth at seven months on the table of a hut. Her boyfriend said, "I don't want those rats, throw them in a ditch or in the latrine," and then kicked her out. Her grandmother had been coming here for our feeding program, and she begged me for help. The woman simply couldn't stay with her grandmother, because the grandmother was already supporting three grandchildren, as well as another daughter and two of her children. If we left the twins there, they would die. So we brought them here temporarily. They are so healthy now!

Read the full story at Global Sisters Report.

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