A Mercy nun from Phibsboro, near Dublin, who has worked in Kenya since 1976, has been presented with a Presidential Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her humanitarian work with the poor and marginalised in the East African country.
Sister Mary Killeen was among ten recipients presented with the award from President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain.
Receiving the award, Sister Mary said she was accepting it not for herself, but on behalf of all the people who have worked with her along with the donors and volunteers who have made her work possible “for the marginalised and poorest of the poor.”
“The greatest reward is to see deprived children being given an opportunity to explore their God-given talents and to live with dignity and respect,” she added.
After entering the Mercy convent in Blackrock aged 20, Sister Mary trained as a teacher at Carysfort College. She studied theology at Milltown Park while teaching at primary schools in Dublin during the 1970’s.
It was while working as a primary teacher that Sister Mary travelled to Kenya in 1976 to join the staff of Our Lady of Mercy school in Nairobi.
Before long she became involved in helping the residents living in the large slum settlements of Mukuru and initiated a diverse programme of education, health and community services.
In an attempt to address the huge problem of thousands of children being unable to go to school, she developed the Mukuru Promotion Centre (MPC) which now comprises four primary schools with 5,600 pupils, plus skills training in masonry, carpentry, plumbing, art, crafts, hairdressing, beauty, cookery, hygiene and vegetable growing.
She has also helped provide a school for children with special needs, a secondary school for 660 students, health clinics that have treated 800,000 people, social work services, street children rehabilitation, a support group for HIV/AIDS and business training.
In total, she has helped to provide over 170,000 people with an education, focusing on personal empowerment. Many of the ex-students are now self-sustainable.
In 2016, Sister Mary was chosen to represent the slum populations of Nairobi during Pope Francis’ visit, and thanks to her commitment and leadership, MPC attracts a constant stream of visitors including the President of Slovakia in 2015 and President Mary McAleese in 2001.
If you would like to learn more about Sister Mary’s work or contribute to the running costs of the Mukuru Promotion Centre, you can do so via this website.