When Pope Francis visits Africa Nov. 25-30, sponsored elder Alice in Kenya will be among the faithful hoping to see him.
“I am overjoyed,” she said. “I just want to see him, at least his face. I was able to see the late pope [Pope John Paul II] during his visit 20 years ago.
“I feel that he is God’s messenger, and I want to tap into the blessings he has come with.”
The pope will travel to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic on his visit in Africa.
Alice is pleased that the pope chose to visit Kangemi, a slum community on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where he will celebrate Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Church on Nov. 27.
“It is so touching that he chose to visit Kangemi,” said Alice, who is a member of St. Mary’s Parish in Rongai. “The fact that he is willing to mingle with the poor is so good.
“It reminds me to be humble and share what I have with my neighbors who might not have anything.”
Alice has very little herself in terms of material wealth. She’s a widow in her 60s with a large family.
“My husband passed on a long time ago,” she said. “God blessed me with nine children, two of whom are deceased. I have 22 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
“I am very blessed.”
Alice counts her Unbound family among her blessings. She especially enjoys spending time with fellow sponsored elders.
“We meet, talk and laugh,” she said. “We share stories about life, how we are raising our grandchildren, those of us who live with them.”
Being part of the Unbound community and interacting with her peers has helped Alice keep a positive outlook.
“I think I would have been one of those miserable old people who are always annoyed with everyone,” she said. “I have made friends at Unbound.
“I feel alive and valued.”
The elders are there for each other in the hard times, too.
“We encourage each other,” Alice said. “When one of us is sick, we go visiting and contribute a small amount of money to buy them milk and bread.”
That’s the solidarity Pope Francis talks about when he calls for mercy and compassion toward others. It’s also the solidarity Alice feels from her sponsor, Carol in Illinois.
“I would like to thank my sponsor for standing with me and loving me,” Alice said. “I do not understand how someone who has never seen me would give me such great love.
“I can only ask God to bless my sponsor. Words are not enough to show my gratitude.”
Alice does beadwork to earn some income and supplement the assistance she gets from sponsorship through Unbound. She makes colorful bags, baskets and jewelry.
“I learned it way back,” she said. “We had some missionaries in the area where I was living. They taught me and other women how to make beautiful jewelry using beads.
“I caught on really fast and in no time I had become an expert.”
Alice works from her house because she can’t afford to rent a shop.
“My clients come to the house to buy what they want,” she said. “However, during the day, I go around the area I live in, hawking my wares.
“People love beaded jewelry, so I am able to make a few coins.”
Alice also makes the traditional stringed prayer beads known as rosaries.
“I often feel God’s presence when I am putting the rosary beads together,” Alice said. “I feel so calm.”
But Alice felt anything but calm before Pope Francis’ visit.
“I am excited,” she said. “As Africans, we believe that a visitor comes with blessings. So we are waiting to welcome him, celebrate with him and treat him well, so that he will always remember us.”
She hopes the pope’s message decrying societal corruption and urging respect for all will get through to the powerful of Kenya.
“I am just glad that the pope loves poor people,” Alice said. “I hope that the rich people in Kenya would love us, too.
“We are human beings just like them.”
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