The beginning (1997-1999)
In 1997, a priest in the Nyahururu parish was asked to bless a home in a rural village. While blessing the house with its people, animals and property, the priest bumped into Thomas, a man with mental and physical disabilities who was sitting on the dirty floor behind a door. This unexpected encounter became a turning point with far-reaching implications: How was it possible, the priest asked himself, that he had been requested to bless even the animals but not that very needy human being who seemed to have been neglected and forgotten who was considered insignificant in the house. He wondered if, as Christians, they neglected some of the core duties in society.
In response to these questions, a group of volunteer parishioners was mobilized to start a Community Programme for People with Disabilities. Thomas himself would never benefit from the initiative. He died a few weeks after the meeting with the priest. However, Thomas did not die in vain: He inspired this group of volunteers to dedicate themselves to the people with disabilities in the community.
This was the beginning of St. Martin Catholic Social Apostolate (CSA). The committee of volunteers had no idea what they were getting into. They had to learn about disabilities, how these could be managed and which interventions are appropriate for each case. But first, they had to find out how many people with disabilities were actually present in their parish. And surprisingly, after going to the churches on Sundays and creating awareness among the Christians, hundreds of children with disabilities were identified and registered. For many years these children had been hidden so well that nobody knew about their miserable existence.
The same year, a second group of volunteers was mobilized to look into issues of violence in society. Unfortunately, violence had become a familiar phenomenon, a common response to any arising problem or disagreement. Even the volunteers who went for the first seminars about Active Non-Violence had difficulties believing in alternative ways for solving problems.
But soon after the seminar, they enthusiastically embarked on training sessions themselves to target groups within the communities and spread the methods of Active Non-Violence.
Volunteering was a new concept to the people and in the initial phase much emphasis was given to the spiritual formation of the committees, ”the development of the heart”. As a result, those involved showed great readiness to offer their time and even personal resources for the benefit of the needy.
In the early years, all activities were carried out by volunteers. There were no staff members and resources were very minimal. In the course of 1999 several offices of the former Catholic Dispensary became available and an old Landrover was bought to facilitate transport.