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Culture clash: Ex-street children, UK family fight for missionary’s body

By Anne Atieno | July 3rd 2020 at 08:00:00 GMT +0300

A group of former street children match around the streets of Kisumu with the body of Patricia Botwright who died last week. Botwright rehabilitated more than 500 street children. [Anne Atieno, Standard]

Patricia Botwright moved from Britain to Kenya with a noble mission two decades ago.

Through her Hingham Christian Fellowship, she set up a church and a home where street children found refuge.

For years, she offered them what any good parent would -- good education. In her, the children grew to see their only mother and father, all in one. In them, she saw a family.

But the over 500 reformed street families at Covenant Community Orphanage are now grieving. Botwright died last week. Their grief has been exacerbated by her family from the UK, who, understandably, are keen to give their daughter a deserved send-off.

The two groups want the bigger part of her, even in death.

Burial rights

Yesterday, the two sides clashed in Kisumu’s Dunga estate as her UK family fought with the residents for burial rights of the deceased missionary.

Hingham Christian Fellowship started in Uganda before Botwright relocated to Kenya and established Covenant Community Orphanage in 1999. But when donors pulled out in 2014, she transferred the land on which covenant stood to another charity organisation which renamed it Victory Orphanage.

Botwright, 80, is said to have relocated to Mamboleo area and opened another home, calling it Covenant Orphanage.

When the missionary died several days ago, the Dunga family insisted that they would bury her at the orphanage while the deceased’s family, which sent representatives, maintained that she had requested to be cremated.

Her body, which was moved from her home in Mamboleo where she died and taken to Avenue Hospital, had been brought for viewing after several agreements were reached between the parties.

However, chaos erupted when the Dunga family, which consists of adults she rescued from the streets as children, refused to have the body taken from the site where it was being viewed to the hearse.

They stood in front of the hearse, blocking bouncers from taking away the body.

The Dunga family claimed it was too early to have Botwright’s body taken back to the morgue and wanted to view it until evening.

When bouncers attempted to forcefully take the body inside the hearse, some youth overpowered them and grabbed the coffin, placing it on their shoulders and marching with it within the compound while chanting.

The rowdy crowd, who ignored Covid-19 guidelines of social distancing, marched around the compound and placed the body at three different points.

“We can’t allow mama’s body to be taken away this early. It was agreed that we remove her in the evening,” Peter Okumu, a former street child said.

They then left with the coffin and started marching with it along the streets.

Police who were at the scene to ensure Covid-19 guidelines were adhered to, were forced to use teargas to disperse the rowdy crowd.

According to Charles Otieno, one of the leaders of the organisation, the family had been given until 1pm to view the body and take it back to the morgue.

However, they insisted that the body be viewed until 4pm.

Last will 

A grave dug in preparation for the burial had been barricaded with boulders to prevent an abrupt burial.

The Briton’s UK family claimed Botwright had written a will directing that her body be cremated when she dies.

However, the Dunga family held that their mother wanted to be buried within the organisation.

“Mama told us to bury her body here,” Marvins Opande said.

Kisumu Central OCPD Martha Ng’etich said the two groups had agreed to have the body viewed and taken back to the morgue.

“When we got report that things were getting out of control, we had to send police to restore order,” she said.

Ng’etich said the body would be interred as agreed by the two families.

Yesterday, Erick Latet, an official at the orphanage, told The Standard that the missionary’s body was cremated at 11am yesterday.

“Madam Patricia was cremated. Her will was that her body be cremated, and that is what we did,” Latet said.


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