ITALIANS IN KENYA
09-07-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
A story of love and total dedication in the arid and poor heart of Kenya.
It is the story of 29-year-old Italian Matteo Bonato, who has been living and working as a volunteer for ten years in Emali, a cluster of houses and shacks overlooking the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, about 120 km from the capital.
Amidst the rumbling of the articulated lorries that raise earth and dust, making the landscape ghostly on the edge of Kajiado, one of Kenya's thirstiest regions, the Veneto-based Betania Onlus association decided in 2005 to extend its mercy work, active in Italy and Albania, to Kenya as well. The foundations for the new mission on African soil date back to July of that year, following a trip to Kenya by the founder Antonietta Vitale and some volunteers to assess the population's needs.
I was practically born into solidarity and Christian charity," Matteo told Malindikenya.net. "My parents were personally involved in the Italian centre that took in non-EU citizens in desperate situations. Even as a child I spent most of my time with them. When I was 15, I asked my father if I could spend some of the time I stole from studying and playing football to help out. When I was 19, after graduating from high school and with a good chance of playing football, I decided to go to Africa.
Yes, because in the meantime Betania Onlus has opened the centre in Emali. The association's choice of the place was not accidental: in previous years, one of the most devastating droughts in Kenya in the last twenty years had struck there and throughout Kajiado, and the number of infants abandoned by mothers who had no resources to raise them had grown disproportionately. In 2006, the first two lay missionaries, Paola (consecrated) and Enrico, left to manage the food emergency caused by the severe drought, and in 2007, under their leadership, the mission in Emali began in earnest.
Among the first volunteers to help build the school and the accommodation for the first orphans was Matteo's older brother. A family dedicated to the good of others
In 2011 I arrived in Nairobi and I realised that something extraordinary was happening in my life," says the young volunteer. "As I left the metropolis, crossed the degraded suburbs, drove along the road to Emali and penetrated more and more into an arid Africa where the earth rose up like talcum powder and the plants looked like skeletons, I felt a pang in my heart and wondered where I was going and whether I could have endured so much misery, thinking that it meant as much unhappiness and resignation. Instead, when I arrived at the mission, I saw the eyes of dozens of children, their smiles, loud cries of joy and the desire to consider me one of them, to embrace me and establish a relationship of spontaneous affection. After a few days, I was already one of their relatives, and I thought that this was the highest meaning you can give to life, and that I would never leave there again.
All the more so because the life of those who open their hearts to others, even without giving themselves completely to God, can reserve other wonderful surprises. This is how Emali Godlove came to be.
"She is an Italian girl of Ghanaian origin who grew up in the Italian reception centre. We had met before my departure and a friendship was developing,' says Matteo. 'In 2015, she also decided to do an experience in Africa, also to return to her roots. Working together, seeing each other day after day, we fell in love. She decided to stay in Emali as a life choice, to return all the good she had received in Italy from Bethany. Three years later we got married and in 2019 Giacomo was born who, like me and Godlove will grow up in a big family that gives and receives love".
The mission in Emali raises 100 children, almost all of them orphans and some of them HIV-positive, in a salvific and more than dignified way, and a total population of 260 students, between the orphanage and the school, which includes two kindergarten classes and eight primary school classes, with adjoining dormitories. Under the direction of the mission leaders, Matteo and his wife work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
So from education and food support, which would be impossible without the network of generosity activated by the Veronese association, the Emali centre, with the support of the Diocese of Ngong, has been able to start important assistance projects for the local population, for example building stone houses for the neediest families.
We have already created 35 and we want to go on," explains Matteo. "These people have nothing and are continually afflicted by the climate, in an area where the land is struggling to bear fruit. For us, it is fundamental to be able to give continuity to our work. After the primary schools, we try to provide everyone with secondary education, which is much more expensive in Kenya and which not all long-distance adoptions are able to support. But our efforts are often rewarded: twenty or so of the first orphans we brought up have just graduated and are finding jobs that will give them a decent life: one is a mechanic, another a hairdresser. It's a hard time, made worse by the pandemic, but over the years I have seen that the solidarity of the Italians is great and those who learn about this reality and the passion with which we carry out the Emali project, support us as much as they can. I will always thank God for all the love I have received, for the great gift He has given me by giving me the opportunity to become His hands through Bethany, to the Foundress who has supported and encouraged me in this mission, but above all I thank all the people and friends who help us in our mission by making all this possible".
Matteo has devoted himself to these people and to the hope of a better future for those who are not considered by a humanity that passes as fast as trucks on the motorway, covers misery with dust and does not look back.
To know how to help the association Betania Onlus and Emali's mission, please visit https://www.associazionebetaniaonlus.org
Or contact Matteo at the e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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