The greatest among all is the one who serves

She wanted to be a servant from early times in her life and she was much touched by Jesus’ words in Luke 6:16


According to Erick Ngala, Sister Marianna Hulshof was born on 12th April 1921 in a family of 11 in Ootmarsum village in the Eastern part of Netherlands where generous people are born for Sister Marianna admitted that they immensely contributed towards her project in Kenya. Her nephew was a cardinal and was a source of encouragement for her to start working for the disadvantaged quite early in life. 

The call to serve others was thus ingrained in her during her formative years such that she made a decision to make a difference in the lives of many people and shape their destiny. This she achieved resoundingly.  “She changed fortunes for many. They are today high placed in society”, confirms Hon Mudenyo.

As a nun, she knew from the beginning that she would not have children of her own, not have a family but she would take care of children nonetheless. 

Erick recounts, “When I asked her to describe herself in one word, she replied, ‘a healer’- indeed to heal the broken hearted. When I asked her how she joined the Ministry, she said that the suffering particularly of the children in the war camps where she had volunteered to work really fired her heart. She wanted to be a servant from early times in her life and she was very much touched by Jesus’ words in Luke 6:16 that the greatest among all is the one who serves”.

At 25 years, she was posted to Jordan where she worked for five years under the Medical Mission Sisters in a hospital as a food adviser. 

During her work in Jordan, she encountered the King who actually acknowledged her work. According to Erick, one day Sister Marriana and her colleagues were driving only to be stopped by traffic police because the King was also traveling the same road and no one was allowed to proceed with his/her journey until after the King has passed.

 While waiting for the King to pass as ordered by the police, the King stopped his car, walked out and went to the car where the Sister was. Together with his wife and children they talked to sister confirming that they had heard of her work and they were all happy the way she was serving in the Medical Mission of Jordan. 

This was obviously humbling.


After Jordan, Sister Marriana headed to Africa in Malawi, Blantyre where she served as the supervisor of a new hospital for 3 years (1961-1964). 

From Malawi the Lord led her to Kenya and to Nangina Hospital where she became an administratorand then blossomed into a phenomenal social worker, a great human being with devolution template in her heart, head and hands.

Return to Holland 

She suddenly became sick while in Kenya and was treated in a hospital in Nairobi, but the medical doctor there advised that she be taken back home due to the advanced medical facilities in Holland and general medical care. 

Erick Ngala visited her during this period and confirmed that she was confined at Beukenstein House in Driebergen in the Netherlands, a very good facility for the care of the aged. 

The room was fitted with modern equipments such that if the occupant had a problem, the alarm went off and the medic on call always brought medicine at the required intervals. Erick narrates that she wished such a facility were in Kenya, so that she did not need to be flown back to Holland.

According to Erick, Sister Marianna’s real home was Kenya where she spent 30 years serving the Lord through serving His people by meeting their spiritual as well as the physical needs.

She went to be with the Lord on Friday 11th January 2008 and was laid to rest on 17th January 2008 in Holland; very disappointed, because her wish was, to be buried on the compound of the convent of Nangina Catholic mission.

Project Continuity

Shortly thereafter, the noble cause came to a naught and the project collapsed in 2010. However, the spirit of Sister Marianna did not disappear completely since she left many admirers and children.

The election of Hon Dr Wilberforce Mudenyo as area MP in 2017 sparked the embers of this previously illustrious project from extinction to life once more. “The project now has a MOU with the Funyula CDF for support,”confirms Hon Mudenyo  adding that “Mzee, His Excellence Moody Awori is also very keen on its revival and he has offered to do everything possible for its success”.

Hon Mudenyo’s vision is to have the polytechnic section of the project be a constituent college of Bumbe Technical College and specialize in textile and construction aspects. According to the MP, this is in line with the Big 4 agenda of the national government and that it will enable Funyula to have sufficient well trained human resources in these areas. It is Dr Mudenyo’s vision that the textile approach is aligned with Rivatex and has uniforms for all schools in western region produced at the institution.

Dr Mudenyo’s dream is for this institution being renamed after the great lady from Holland, Sister Marianna Hulshof Institute of Technology and Innovation. He hopes to get support and funding from the National Government especially for licensing, equipment and tutors.

The healer that pioneered Devolution in Busia County

To the sick, she healed. To the hungry, she fed. To the homeless, she sheltered. To the thirsty, she quenched. To those in need of education, she flung the golden gates to infinite academic highway. Her unlimited compassion extended to the landless who found pieces of land from Sister Marriana’s massive acres of charitable nature.

To the dead, she not only gave decent burials but also ensured that their loved ones lacked nothing. The hopeless found hope at her mere presence. Those seeking religious nourishment got their palatable diet from her rich menu. The environment could not escape her generosity such that she turned the rocky barren hills of Nangina into thick forests with beautiful flowers and distributed tree seedlings to many for planting. The orphans found complete parents in Sister Marianna while the widows were guaranteed refreshing
 solace at her doorstep.

Sister Marriana Hulshof was an early template for devolved system of government to the people of Funyula long before the advent of Devolution in Kenya. She built and supported schools, hospitals, churches, roads and much more. To the people of Samia in Busia County, Sister Marianna symbolized hope, care, vision, astute management; a true symbol of God’s gift to them such that they fondly called her daktari, Mama, Nakhulo (a female version of the community’s largest clan), Sister with reverence.

Sister Marianna Hulshof, the jewel import from Netherlands to Kenya, the healing dosage from Ootmarsum Village to the World indeed symbolized Devolution in Samia, Busia County long before actually devolution in Kenya.  

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