After a few years of not traveling, ASEC U.S. staff had the opportunity to visit Kenya in October of 2022. Senior Program Manager Dr. Rosemary Shaver and Finance Manager Betsy Hartshorn met with ASEC Regional Director of West Africa, Sr. Francisca Damoah, SIJ, to visit ASEC sites and to attend the Conrad N. Hilton Convening, a conference held for women religious. The trip took place from October 24 to November 3, 2022.
During the convening, Rosemary had the experience of learning more about the Hilton Foundation and their goals for the upcoming years. Between sessions, attendees experienced live entertainment, including bands local to the area.
On October 28, Betsy Hartshorn attended the graduation ceremony for Catholic University of Eastern Africa with Sr. Joyce Kwamboka Nyakwama, SSND, the ASEC Country Director from Kenya. One hundred HESA participants graduated that day with 24 receiving first-class honors. They were very excited that the U.S. staff could join the ceremony. Videos sent from the event include degrees being awarded, family and friends cheering, music… and a whole lot of dancing! Our staff commented that they’ve never experienced a celebration quite like it and were very honored to be able to attend.
The first site visit of the trip was to the Reuben Center in Mukuru, Kenya, on October 31, 2022. The Rueben Center is a faith-based nonprofit organization that empowers the community through education, health, financial and social services. A pre-school, primary school and secondary school are also on site. The school sees more than 3,000 children regularly, and was created with the intention of helping alleviate poverty, provide valuable education and to build sustainable cities and communities.
SLDI alumna Sr. Elizabeth Wambui, Daughters of the Heart of Mary, is in charge of the counseling services offered at the center, providing services to staff and community members alike. She also leads support groups and training for parents with kids who have undeveloped skills or have disabilities, which is valuable to the surrounding populations struggling with poverty and lack of education. With skills obtained from the ASEC program, she was able to secure funding for the center as well as hold a leadership position, overseeing positive changes and transformations to the site.
ASEC U.S. staff underwent their second site visit of the trip, visiting the Madonna Women’s Resource Centre, in Thika, Kenya, on November 1, 2022. This site was created with the intention of empowering all women, and specialized in empowering women with children that have disabilities. HESA alumna Sr. Lilian Gatai MaryClark Njuguna, IHM, who graduated in 2020, holds a leadership role for the ministry. She explained that the center holds classes for women to learn tailoring and other marketable job skills, training about coping mechanisms when caring for kids with disabilities, and teaching women about important health-related information. The center was created with the intentions of alleviating poverty, creating opportunities for economic growth, and reducing inequalities in the community.
The impact of this center has allowed women to overcome the stigma of caring for children with disabilities, as well as provided them with tools needed to properly advocate for their kids. According to data sent by the center, 150 mothers have acquired skills allowing them to take part in small business ventures, with 50 specializing in tailoring and beadwork. The program has reached more than 400 women through community interventions.
Both site visits were incredibly eye-opening for staff who learned a lot about the important work ASEC sisters are carrying out in Kenya, and Africa at large. They mentioned feeling moved and changed by their experiences in the communities, understanding more deeply the impact of these special services.
Before closing out the trip, on the last day, Rosemary and Betsy took time to visit with current HESA and PhD students. It was a successful trip by all! Thank you to all of the sisters who are going above and beyond in their communities to give opportunities to populations in need. We are so grateful for what you do.