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Sunday, March 26, 2017
Pensioner leaves London to work on African mission
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¬†A north London parish is holding a farewell party with a difference this Saturday. Our Lady Help of Christians in Kentish Town will be saying goodbye to one of the longest-serving members of the community. But Peggy Campbell, aged 70, isn't retiring to a bungalow on the south coast. She is giving up her council flat in leafy Regents Park to work on a mission in north western Kenya. Peggy has already spent several long visits with the missionary community of St Paul in Nariokotomo - on the edge of the Turkana desert - running handicraft and sewing classes and teaching English. She has now decided to live there permanently. Peggy said: "Although Turkana is a very remote harsh place to live, I have found my home there and have decided to dedicate the rest of my life to working with the Turkana people in whatever way I can. For a long time I have felt this is where I belong, that is where I can offer my best. I have made many friends there and am looking forward to carrying on my work with the local women." A retired seamstress, Peggy made her first trip to Africa in 1996, soon after her husband died. For years she had been working with the homeless in London, and fundraising for the Catholic charity New Ways, which supports the St Paul's community - who run a school, health programmes, medical centres and many other projects on Nairobi and out-stations around the country. "After reading and hearing so much about it I wanted to see things for myself," she said. Once she got there she took to the people immediately. "I think they liked me too," she said. "Most volunteers are much younger but I think it's nice, especially for the children and elderly, to see someone my age taking an interest in them." Peggy also realised that her years of experience running her own business as a curtain-maker meant that she had many useful skills to offer. Conditions are very primitive. But Peggy is able to teach sewing and handicraft skills with the most basic equipment - including manual sewing machines. In the villages Peggy said people live in dirt huts. At the mission centre limited electricity is supplied from solar panels and batteries. There are outside latrines. Water comes from deep wells and is rationed. "The climate is hot but wonderful," Peggy said. "I love to get up early and watch the desert sunrise. Situations can change so suddenly. On the way to the mission there's a dirt track crossing a dried-up riverbed. One day thunder began to roll and the ground shook. Suddenly there was this roaring sound and we saw a silver line snaking towards us. It was the river! Within minutes the bed had filled up and we couldn't drive over for days." Living in Africa has made Peggy see life differently. "Things we take for granted like buttons or tin cans are really valuable there, " she said. Perhaps that is why Peggy is happy to give up her comfortable life in London with a car, television and all mod cons. "In Turkana, people walk miles a day just to buy basics. Children at school treasure their one jotter and pencil, " she explained. "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 party at Our Lady's Hall in Falkland Road, is this Saturday, 7 June. It begins at 8pm. There will be food and drink, live music and entertainment for all the family. Tickets are £3. If you are unable to come but would like to support the project, please send donations to: Peggy Campbell, New Ways, 2 Clarendon Street, London SW1V 2EJ (reg charity: 1035688)
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