, MARSABIT, Kenya, Feb, 10 – She died about 10 years ago, but the Gabbra community believes her spirit lives on and will never disappear for generations to come.
Although not much is known about German lay missionary Hildegard Helmer, she is a woman who the community values and equates to the likes of Mother Teresa.
After winning the hearts of the community Helmer earned the name H’aada Gabbra, as she breathed new life into the marginalised North Horr constituency in Marsabit County when she arrived as a missionary in 1964.
Situated at the border of Kenya and Ethiopia, North Horr, is a sparsely populated area where insecurity and perennial drought persist.
It is a dry area with traces of dry shrubs that can hardly provide shade even to one person.
But Helmer did not mind the excruciating heat, insecurity and the harsh environment without key social amenities.
The place was so alienated some years back that people claimed they did not belong to Kenya.
But Helmer who died at the age of 79 in 2005 braved the hardships to pursue her dreams of helping a society in the most unexpected area.
“When she arrived in North Horr, there were no schools in Marsabit. She was the first to start a school; she was the first teacher and she was the first head teacher. She gave us clothes, she gave us stationery,” Marsabit County Deputy Speaker Sora Guyo recalled.
Among the first people to benefit from her education driven development was North Horr Location Chief Kushi Roba.
“I joined school for the first time at the age of 20. I didn’t see a single girl in my class. It was until in mid 1970s that I saw some few women join school,” Roba recounted.
Her death hit the community very hard.
“We knew Helmer’s dream was an educated community. She did not like to see girls suffer. She wanted girls to go to school,” Guyo explained.