All she ever wanted to do was to give the young girls she
worked with their dignity back, make them feel loved and cared
"Pray for them," she tells me.
While Sister Trifa did most of her work in the office, the
children were never out of her mind, her thoughts or constant
She also wore the mantle of a feisty fundraiser and made
regularly safaris to the UK to twist a few ex-Dr Ribeiro
students’ arms at various fund raisers.
And she is very good at it.
She has convinced the Nairobi Indian community to provide
items of food including flour, sugar, rice etc, once every two
months or so.
"Education, especially, secondary schools are very expensive
and we need all the help we can get," she told me on the phone.
"She is off to England on another pesa for Mama maskini
safari in a week or two.
However, don’t let her fool you.
There was always a little bit of God in her.
"She told me that before her races and hockey matches she
used to have regular conversations with Him.
What is also true, she told me, she used to regularly "fight"
with Him, when something pretty awful happened to someone she
These days, she has even longer talks with him.
She said the other day:
"So you thought I needed a short holiday and you dislocated
"That’s OK, I could do with a break."
She says: "God created me to enjoy life, so I am enjoying
The single most unforgettable thing about Sister Trifa is
that she is almost cheeky, yet sometimes naughty, but there is
always an innocent twinkle in her eyes.
As a child she got up to all sorts of mischief.
Once when I wrote that she looked "serene" in a photograph,
she was quick to chide me with "I am anything but serene".
Her school chums would say that she was something of a
While at school she fell in love with athletics:
"At the age of 13, I ran 100 and 200 yards sprints and the
long Jump and won.
"The winners usually received clothing items like socks,
"This gave me the urge to do well not for the prizes but to
get to the top.
"When I finished school, a group of us (formed the famous
Spartans athletics club) who were interested in running got
together decided to run the relays.
We travelled to Mombasa every Easter to run at the annual
races there and enjoyed our success.
In Nairobi, we took part in the annual Goan Institute Sports
Day that took place every December 26 and it meant that we could
not eat the wonderful Goan Christmas sweets and chocolates until
after the races.
"On one of my first trips to Mombasa, I won the Godgodo
Challenge Cup (for a winning a sprint race three years in a
"That gave me the urge to continue in athletics and the
winning streak went on for years.
"I didn't give up until I joined religious Life.
"Over the years I received many cups and big trophies and
over 500 small trophies, all solid silver."
One year, a few former Goan School students formed what was
to be the most successful women’s hockey club: The unbeatable
Trifa was a little scared of being injured but eventually
took to the sport after her sister Nifa pestered her to join the
"The Collegians did very well with the support of many people
of many shades.
"We played against the National Team consisting of all
Europeans at the time and defeated them on a few occasions.
"As we came closer to Independence, Bertha Fernandes and I
were selected to play for Kenya.
"During my time as a member of Collegians Hockey Club, I was
chosen as Captain of the Collegians and I decided, with the help
of other senior players, to take the team to Uganda where we did
not lose a single game.
"A few years later, we took a junior and a senior team to
Tanganyika and Zanzibar where again we drew one game and won the
Trifa loves all sports "but my favourite was Athletics and
"I am still interested in all sports.
"My favourite international team is Manchester United (from
that fateful day in February 1958 when 43 people including
players, officials and journalists lost their lives), my local
Team is Gor Mahia (because they are special).
"At the moment my favourite sport is Rugby and my Team Kenya
Sevens is doing fairly well."
Her only regret is that these days, she rarely gets to see
live sport unless someone takes her there.
Uhuru came on December 12, 1963, followed by Madaraka the
"The celebrations were full of life with all people living in
Kenya celebrating their freedom.
"The way I looked at freedom was that I was no longer a
second class citizen because of my colour.
"There were other difficulties after independence when all
jobs were Africanized and so those in Government jobs were
forced to retire.
"I was given the opportunity by my friends the Kenyans who
were in charge to remain but chose to retire from the Post
Office with a pension of 10 Kenya shillings a month.
"I worked in various clerical positions.
"The Post Office at the time was Semi-Government.
"The salary I received when I started in 1950 was 100
shillings a month with an increment of Shs.20 each year ."
She was a joker at work, too. The twins combined to fool