Mama Peggy has left us

Peggy Campbell

Margaret Mary Campbell was born on 21st July 1932 in Ireland. She died on 26th April 2012 at St John the Evangelist the Catholic Mission (Lobur) in Turkana (Kenya), after being bitten by a scorpion.

In her mid-twenties, she decided to look for greener pastures in London. There she became a talented seamstress, producing high quality curtains for well-to-do families. Eventually, she set up her own business. A daily mass-goer, she became involved in the new homeless project in 1992.

Peggy and her husband John loved each other very much. In 1993 John died of lung cancer. Then Peggy became engaged with the charity, New Ways, recruiting supporters for its sponsorship programme, first in Bolivia and then in Turkana.

In 1996, when she heard that Cardinal Hume had granted Fr. Albert Salvans’ ( a priest in her church) permission to work in the missions in Turkana, Peggy told him: “Now, Father, I can either remain here the rest of my days, feeling lonely and miserable; or, if you accept me, I can still make use of my skills in the missions”. In 1997 they left together for Kenya. At the beginning, Peggy went to Turkana for 3 to 6 months at a time, and then returned to Camden in order to maintain her Council flat. In the end she decided to give it all up and remain in the church in Lokitaung. There she successfully ran their guesthouse and organized a sewing workshop for local ladies to make uniforms  and other clothes.

“The workshop that we have established enable women to become self-sufficient and earn their own living,” she explained. 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.

Peggy became very much a part of the Turkana fabric when she “adopted” two young boys, Simon and John, to live in her house. John was from Lowarengak and had lost his entire family in a single shoot-out, when Merille gunmen from Ethiopia assaulted their compound at night. Peggy said these were the children she always dreamt of, given by God in her old age.

Another vivid image she has left behind is elegance: in the middle of a semi-arid and remote area that lacked the bare essentials, Peggy would put on her best gown and make an occasion out of a chapatti and a cup of tea! She would then dance to any tune with anyone as partner, and enjoy everyone’s company till the end of the evening.

“When I left London 15 years ago and Peggy joined us in Turkana, she became my missionary mother on the ground. She is deeply engraved in my heart, taking up a space that nobody will ever occupy. We have been together in life, and my last will is to be interred next to her at St. John the Evangelist Mission in Lobur.” Wrote Fr. Albert Salvans.




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