In the Kitchen with: Deacon Phil Thiurip

| 29 Sep 2011 | 01:37

West Milford - Deacon Phil Thiurip’s was born in a small village in Kenya called Othaya, just 40 miles from the equatorial site of Mount Kenya. After boarding school in the village of Karima and Saint Paul’s Seminary in Nyeri, where he began studying for the priesthood at age 11, he moved far from his tropical origins. Awarded a full scholarship at Saint Michael’s in Burlington, Vermont, he decided to direct his studies to economics and business management. He received his masters at Cornell in agriculture economics and his Ph.D. at Syracuse. In 1967, he married Bernedette, who was also from Kenya. Deacon Phil’s teaching career began at the State of New York University at Syracuse at Morrisville and Rockport, teaching Geography and Economics. In 1978, he and his wife decided to move back to Kenya to allow their two daughters to be exposed to the culture of their home country. It had been 16 years since his return and felt extreme differences from his life in the USA. The family stayed until the girls were almost through high school when at their request they moved back to the states. Deacon Phil was a visiting professor at Vasser for 3 years and since 1992 has been teaching at William Paterson University, which is a position he still holds. In 2001 became a Deacon at Saint John’s Cathedral and as he states, “my life has never been the same.” He bought a house in West Milford and, originally because of Father Bill Scully, has made his Church Our Lady Queen of Peace. For years, Bernedette and Phil contemplated the notion of doing something for the good of the people of Kenya. As far back as they can remember, they wanted to make a difference in a way that didn’t anger or have a destructive impact with the government. The thought of opening reading centers seemed like the perfect plan. “Who would fight us about opening a library?” In the rural villages of Kenya, very few children have a chance to be educated. The poverty and lack of opportunity is vast, and the few schools that exist have two major exams to determine who moves on to the next level. The exams are after the eighth grade to pass to high school and high school to pass to college. Less than 10 percent make it to college. Opportunities are for the children of politicians and the wealthy. “Poor kids don’t stand a chance.” Since the beginning of their project, Bernedette and Phil have opened six reading centers in the rural villages of Mairi, Othaya, Ngong, Kisii, Mwea and Kathiani. With the help of volunteers, they have made their house on Macopin Road a drop off of books and monetary donations to pack up and send to Kenya. The books are packed in boxes, loaded in ocean containers, and received by Bernedette in Kenya. They are sorted at their home then distributed to the six centers. Bernedette and Phil have hired librarians who are paid out of their own pockets. Recently, through a collection at Our Lady Queen of Peace, charitable came in to help offset some of the cost. The entire communities of these villages in Kenya have utilized these reading centers. Children use them as they strive to better themselves with education and even the people who don’t read frequent the centers out of their respect for education. Currently there are 12 more villages waiting for books and colleges and seminaries asking for books. Recently, Deacon Phil received a letter from a little girl saying “You don’t know me but I am thanking you for these books.” Deacon Phil opened his garage to show off the stacked and packed boxes waiting for the next shipment to Africa. The children of OLQP also donated books with an inscription inside for the next child to enjoy reading. Deacon Phil’s vision for the future is for some type of permanent funding to keep the centers alive and flourishing. It only takes $70 to provide curricula texts for two children sharing books from grade first through eighth grade. Anyone wanting to help with donated used books and educational games, especially encyclopedias and dictionaries or help with shipping a 20’ container which costs approximately $4000 can drop off the books or money at: RURAL READING CENTERS-AFRICA, 1990 Macopin Road, West Milford, New Jersey 07480. Deacon Phil and Bernadette can be reached at 973-506-4436 or Plantains (must be ripe and soft) Cut in half lengthwise. Bake face down in oven at 350 for 3 minutes. Remove skins and bake for 1 to 1- 1/2 minutes more. Remove and add a little good brandy, and a touch of ice cream