Sister Gill Horsfield in Korogocho
Sister Gill is one of 650 Medical Mission Sisters in 19 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer. Born and raised in England, Sister Gill, a public health nurse midwife, joined the Medical Mission Sisters at age 33, after serving as a lay missionary in Uganda. She has been in mission in Kenya since 1968. For the past 19 years, her ministry has been in Korogocho, a slum area of Nairobi. 160,000 desperately poor people live in this slum; it is estimated that 50% to 75% of the adults are HIV-positive.
Sister Gill coordinates a program that now includes 5 nurses, a counselor, and 80 volunteer health care workers who help the sick and dying. "The aim was to start a community-based health care program working with the small Christian communities," she recalls. "It developed into a home-based AIDS care program."
"The project seems to have a momentum of its own," reflects Sister Gill. "It is growing constantly: more patients, more clinics, and more children of the patients needing to be prepared for life without parents, and more activities for them." 150 children attend weekly peer support meetings; deaf and handicapped children receive special care.
"The picture of AIDS does not improve," Sister Gill says. "There is no sign of decreased incidence, but there is more hope now that the program provides anti-retroviral drugs and natural treatment using nutritional supplements."
"The enlarged hospice, which can receive 8 patients at a time, is always busy and full of life," Sister Gill adds. "Health workers learn more home care; the pastoral workers see and learn from the dying; the nurses learn the possibilities of dying in peace with good care; and the patients experience that they are loved!" Sister Gill, who is now 72, was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2004 for her work in community health in Kenya.
"If the program now has a momentum of its own, it is because the people … are taking responsibility for it," she explains. "The people of the slums have great faith in God and a tremendous strength and courage, which enables them to survive. The programs of Korogocho have given them the scope to use and develop their strengths, and to see themselves as children of God who have a place in the world."