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Holistic Support for the Vulnerable in Kenya

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

Sr. Elizabeth with a student at the Ruben Center.


Sr. Elizabeth Wambui Gichuki, DHM uses the skills learned in the SLDI program to help over 3,000 children, their parents, as well as others.

Kenya is considered to have shifted from a low-income to a lower-middle-income country1. It is however sad to note that even with the growing wealth, children remain disproportionately represented among the poor, and vulnerable with 41.5% of children living below the national poverty line2. According to a UNICEF study conducted in 2014, low educational attainment of the household head and living in rural areas was the highest indicator that predicted child poverty. Impoverished children still struggle to gain an education, and more than 1.2 million primary school-aged children do not attend school3. Worse still, more vulnerable children and orphans have increased susceptibility to experiencing education disparities.

To address such disparities in the Kenyan education system, Ruben Center serves more than 3,000 poor and vulnerable children. The center was established by the Christian Brothers and it provides a variety of services aimed at empowering not only the children but also individuals in the community through education, health, and social services. Sr. Elizabeth Wambui Gichuki who belongs to the congregation of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary (DHM), a graduate of the SLDI program, works at the center. She joined the brothers in the center with the aim of empowering the less fortunate members of the slums through presence, compassion, and liberation. Her responsibilities include accompanying the children through individual counseling, mentorship of groups, teaching parenting skills, as well as preparing seminars for parents and staff. Sr. Elizabeth also takes care of support groups for special needs parents and youth affected by drugs.

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Sr. Elizabeth serves the most vulnerable children in her community.

Sr. Elizabeth serves the most vulnerable children in her community.

Upon completion of her studies in Counseling Psychology in June 2016, Sr. Elizabeth felt called to work with less fortunate members of society. Since then, Ruben Center has been the right and fitting place for her to fulfill her desire and calling. Sr. Elizabeth says the skills and knowledge she gained through ASEC’s SLDI program have helped her in her mission. She particularly points out that ‘stewardship’ one of the skills taught in the program, has awakened and challenged her to think more of the importance of her call as a religious sister. She further explains that the topic of stewardship stirred up her sense of responsibility, accountability, and integrity as a person chosen by God. The program made her realize that she was called to accomplish a mission and to know that she was an instrument in God’s hands and needed to cooperate with her creator.

Sr. Elizabeth says that she initially felt overwhelmed with the huge task of working with a population of more than 3,000 children, their parents, and many others, including the staff. She adds that she has found strength in the scriptures particularly, Mark 6:30-50, which has encouraged her in her mission as a formator, and a part-time counselor at the center. 

Sr. Elizabeth with several of the students she has impacted.

Sr. Elizabeth with several of the students she has impacted.

Using the skills she acquired through the SLDI program, Sr. Elizabeth took initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic to develop a project that assists underage mothers and vulnerable girls (ages 12-19) with school reentry. She reports that she received full support from her religious congregation and other well-wishers. Currently, the project is supporting 20 girls who are pursuing their secondary education in various boarding and day secondary schools. Sr. Elizabeth says she hopes to respond to the needs of many more girls in the future.

Sr. Elizabeth says, “my clients are children, youths and adults within the center; children from school, staff in need of psychological support, referrals from the health center, social office department and from the community who come to seek for counseling services.” She explains that she deals with various issues ranging from depression, suicidal ideations and attempts, stress, divorce/separation, drugs, and substance abuse. Other issues include teenage pregnancies, truancy and behavioral issues, loss and grief, relationships, abuses, gender-based violence cases, child abandonment, crime, and lack of basic needs jobs among others. The presence of Sr. Elizabeth in the center is a true blessing as she has been able to touch and give hope and meaning to many lives. She is grateful to ASEC for empowering her with the skills that enabled her to be an effective and confident leader, both in her congregation and in the Church. 

  1. https://www.humanium.org/en/kenya/#:~:text=Kenya%20has%20shifted%20from%20a,line%20(UNICEF%2C%202018)
  2. https://www.unicef.org/esaro/2017-UNICEF-Kenya-Child-Poverty.pdf
  3. https://borgenproject.org/vulnerable-children-in-kenya/

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This article is addressing the following UN Sustainable Development Goal(s):

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

Sr. Elizabeth Wambui
Profiled in article
Daughters of the Heart of Mary - Kenya  

Sr. Prisca Phiri, LSMI

Sr. Prisca Phiri, LSMI
Author
HESA Alumna & Former Graduate Assistant, SLDI Program - Zambia  

Megan P. Wescott, BBA

Megan P. Wescott, BBA
Editor
Digital & Social Media Specialist, Mission Advancement  

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