By Mary Koech
Shalom held a workshop in Marsabit County in the hot and dry town of Maikona, which is located right next to Kenya’s desert; the Chalbi desert. The workshop held there was on “Managing Identity Conflicts” with an aim of having the participants move away from an attitude of “us versus them” attitude to a “we” attitude. The workshop included local administrators, teachers and parish peace committees.
One of the participants, 68-year-old Julita Gutola, attended a workshop in 2014 as well as in March, 2015. Julita is a catechist teacher and is a highly respected woman in the community. This vocal leader has been a catechist teacher for over three decades and she freely shared her experience with the SCCRR team.
Earlier in her life, an Italian missionary moved Julita from her home in Kalacha to Hurri hills where she was baptized and before long became a catechist. She would go out to various Manyattas (local settlements) teaching about the importance of living peacefully with others. Julita would travel more than 15 kilometres on foot in a day, in an aim to reach various Manyattas.
Soon after, together with her colleague Maria Goretti, they were given a camel to use for getting around. This would enable them to travel greater distances; up to 45 kilometres. She went around various communities like North Horr Parish, Balesa, Rage and El-Gade locations teaching to various groups of people who she termed as her students. One of the biggest challenges she has faced has been conflict. Not only has it restricted a lot of her movement, but she would sometimes lose some students to violence while others would permanently relocate. This demoralised her as she had established close bonds with her students.
Drought has also posed a challenge as people would rather go out and look for pasture and water for their animals than listen to the teachings. Today, Julita cannot travel so far anymore as age has caught up with her. She however continues to teach peace to various local communities and people of other religions.
She heard of Shalom through the mobilization process run by the parish priest, Fr. Eugene, in 2014 and wanted to attend to expand her knowledge. “Knowledge is power,” says Julita, who said that the trainings she has received from SCCRR have given her more strength to carry on the gift of teaching. She expressed her gratitude to Shalom for trainings which have equipped her to competently encourage locals to be peace ambassadors at their own levels in society.