I’m still pondering about my time in Nairobi this past summer. Certain experiences defy words. Perhaps there is a fear that feeble attempts at descriptions will take away from the deep truths that are still being processed within the mind and heart? I wanted to write a ‘post- Nairobi’ post, but where to start? This morning, I received a wonderful email from one of my new friends, Ann Kihagi. She is a perfect example of that certain “something” that I find so humbling and inspiring in our Marianist sisters and brothers in Africa.
Ann works for an organization called BasicNeeds in Nairobi. The purpose of BasicNeeds is “That the basic needs of mentally ill people in Kenya are met and their basic rights are respected.” As is the situation in most parts of the world, poverty and mental illness often go hand in hand in Nairobi. Job training is offered as well as treatment to nurture and promote dignity and independence. For Ann, “My work with people with mental illnesses or epilepsy also gives me lots of joy when I see the levels of hope being restored by a touch of love and concern.”
In addition to her work with BasicNeeds, Ann is now working on a new initiative with Lorna Mueni Kilonzo – our past Regional Responsible for Africa. This is a collaborative project among the Marianist Lay Communities of Kenya to address the many needs of youth, especially in the target area of Makadara-Nairobi East. The project has a holistic approach of providing spiritual, educational, and vocational formation for children who are at risk due to the extreme poverty and violence of the area. Lorna is a dear friend of mine. She and I worked together on the past leadership team. We are also members of the cyber-MLC, “Our Lady of the Round Table”. Upon Lorna’s retirement from international work, she told me that she was going to spend more time working with youth. Little did I know the energy and work that was going into this project! Ann gave me a sneak preview into the draft proposal. Wow!
Anastacia Wangari is yet another “Magnificat” woman who gives her time and energy to attack the root cause of poverty. A mother of four, she worked at IMANI (Incentive from Marianists to Assist the Needy to be Independent). IMANI’s Maria House is a job-creation program for women. It teaches skills such as sewing, book-binding, weaving, and knitting. There is on-site child care for young mothers who are learning a trade. Anastacia also helped to found a small school for children who cannot afford the required tuition in the public school system.
These brief descriptions of the works being done by Ann, Lorna and Anastacia are but a small example of the generous spirit we experienced in Nairobi. And, the words are still insufficient to describe the tugging of mind and heart that is taking place as I continue to ponder it all. Our document, Marianist Lay Communities in the Church and in the World, challenges us to bridge the gap between words and action. How do we incarnate the gospel of Jesus into a world so in need of justice, peace, hope and love? How are we, as Marianists, called to do this in our own place and time?