Many Westminster priests can get around their parishes on foot - but for one diocesan priest - going to celebrate Mass or making pastoral visits involves day-long journeys on unpaved desert tracks. Fr Albert Salvans, who has been visiting London this week, has worked with the Missionary Community of St Paul the Apostle, (MCSPA) in Lokitaung - on the edge of the Turkana desert in northwest Kenya, since 1997.
Prior to that he served in St Thomas' in Fulham, and Our Lady Help of Christians in Kentish Town. Cardinal Hume asked Fr Albert in 1996 to take up the assignment, in response to an appeal from the Pope for diocesan priests to work on the missions, at the start of the Decade of Evangelisation. The MCSPA runs many projects for the nomadic people that live in the region, including a school, health programmes, medical centres and agricultural and water programmes. This year they have started building a new community in the Sudan.
"This has become possible now that the war seems to be coming to an end." Fr Albert said. Fr Albert has been accompanied on his visit to London by two other community members: Fr Steven Ochieng, and Peggy Campbell, who teaches sewing to the women at Lokitaung. Peggy, who is now 75, made several visits to Kenya before deciding to give up her home in north London and live there for good.
Conditions in Turkana were very primitive, she said. "Things like old tins cans and glass jars are treasured. People have to walk miles each day to get basic supplies. "Teaching the women to learn a trade and set up business means they will be able to improve the standard of living for themselves and their children in the future." The Missionary Community of St Paul the Apostle is supported by the charity New Ways, a charity run by volunteers. They recently staged a 260-mile sponsored cycle ride from the base of Mt Kenya, to Kisumu on Lake Victoria, raising £150,000 for the health and development projects which the MCSPA implement, including nutritional nursery units.
This year New Ways needs to find £300,000 to reach their annual budget. For more information and pictures, or to make a donation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website: www.newways.org.uk