Alison Holbrook shares what inspired St James', Southstoke to make a change.
The day Karen Butt came to talk to our church was a Communion Sunday at St. James’, Southstoke, where, as usual as verger, I set up the altar and candles and carried out general housekeeping. Karen had just returned from a trip to Katete, which included an extraordinary visit to St. Francis’ Hospital. Listening to her made me sit up and think about the wider church family, and about our brothers and sisters globally, whose lives do not allow the luxury of checking that both altar candles are much the same size.
Karen was taken to meet the ‘Waiters’, the women and young girls who are expectant mothers, and who needed ante and postnatal medical care and support for themselves and their babies. These women travelled miles across East Africa (and still do), using an infrequent bus service, arriving at the hospital exhausted. The staff were doing their best, but naturally priority of care and funding was for in-patients, so facilities for pregnant women were exceedingly basic, with bed-linen and toiletries being luxuries. And then they waited, sometimes for months, hundreds of miles from friends or families, and with nothing to do.
It occurred to me that I could do what comes fairly naturally – bake and sell. I took orders for Christmas cakes, and the proceeds from those, plus our Christingle, went to St. Francis Hospital in order to help provide essential materials and comforts for the expectant mothers. It also allows for some training in child care following the birth. Karen and I have kept in touch and it is wonderful to hear how things have transformed for the ‘Waiters’ during the last couple of years, through the efforts of several parishes as well as our own. In January this year we donated again, after more baking and private donations.
There are many ways to help Katete hospital. But we are a small parish so it is heartening to know how comparatively small funds can enrich a specific department. The next step for us is an opportunity to sponsor a nurse’s training at St. Francis’ and we love the idea of annually subsidising this. It would be great to hear how it develops, and see an occasional picture of the nurse at work. Fortunately modern technology may allow for this.