Fr. John Webootsa visited 3 schools in the Hexham & Newcastle diocese before rounding off his time with a visit to Durham Cathedral and the Great North Run.
First call was to St. Patrick’s Primary School in Consett, where Fr. John spoke in assembly before taking questions about Kenya, Korogocho slum and the St.John’s Sports Society. The school already knew a little of Korogocho as they donated over 60 pairs of trainers to the St. John’s children in June. They were very pleased to know that the trainers that they had outgrown were having a second life in the sunshine of Kenya. He told the pupils “You are very lucky children, take advantage of the chances you have.” He went on to answer some interesting questions such as “What’s it like in Kenya?” and “Are there lions in Korogocho?”
The afternoon was spent with the pupils at St. Leonard’s School in Durham. Fr. John held 2 groups of pupils spellbound, telling them about the challenges of young people in Korogocho who might drift into crime and an early death if St. John’s wasn’t there to give them an alternative. He reminded them of Abdi, who visited the school earlier in the year and has come from the slum to be a member of the Kenyan Karate Team, recently winning a bronze medal in an international competition in Burundi.
Next day, Fr. John went to St. Mary’s School in Benton, Newcastle, spending the day with a range of pupils from across the school. He was most impressed with the school’s “Just Group”, a team of pupils of all ages who raise awareness of justice, peace and poverty issues. He told the group about one of the six times he was mugged in Korogocho. He warned the group, “Do not fear those who threaten you, fear those who want to take away your good intentions.”
When his International Human Rights Award was mentioned he was typically modest, “I don’t work for awards, I work to change lives.”
The next day, on a rare day off, he took in the splendour of Durham Cathedral World Heritage Site, a far cry from Korogocho with its neighbour, the Nairobi city dumpsite. That evening, Fr. John celebrated Mass and blessed six Great North Runners before attending a “Pasta with The Pastor” party at CAFOD’s Durham office.
An early start on Great North Run day and a chance to celebrate yet another Kenyan victory in the world’s biggest half-marathon. As the Team CAFOD runners crossed the line, Fr. John welcomed them into the CAFOD tent and they were reminded about where their sponsorship monies will be used.
All too soon, he was gone to begin his long journey to Korogocho the people he loves and has dedicated his life to assisting.