Dear Friends of Nyumbani,

Greetings to each one from all of us in Nyumbani at a time of great activity between extra-curricular competitions and events in schools, to significant conferences and meetings, and summer in the western world bringing many visitors, volunteers and student interns.

The second school term, May to August, features inter-school co-curricular competitions in sport and music. Both Hotcourses Primary and Lawson High School participated in these events coming top at zonal level through Sub-County to County levels, with some items/players reaching regional level. To our great delight one music item from Hotcourses is now proceeding to National level. We congratulate our students and staff for bringing our schools to these high standards. Sadly, our Patroness Rt. Hon. Carole Lawson did not live to witness these great achievements in Lawson High School as she passed away on 18th June. May she now rest in peace with God.

Once again, with over 100 entries, Nyumbani Home COGRI Art Club was awarded one of the best 6 schools in the Mobile Art School in Kenya competition – MASK. This was an especially great achievement given that the competition had now reached out to 7 other African countries. Another great event was the in-house Nyumbani Home Miss Etiquette competition prepared, organized, judged and sponsored by the adult group Miss Etiquette which took place on 17th June. 11 participants entered for the competition and paraded five times displaying homemade attires. To the great excitement of all, last year’s winner, Rose handed over the crown ceremoniously to the 2018 winner, Hannah, with the two runners up and another category, Mr. and Ms. Manners receiving prizes.

Then, Nyumbani Home was chosen to make a presentation at the 1st National Symposium in Kenya on Child Care and Protection,16 – 18 May. They had prepared very moving verses detailing in poignant words the great care children need which they receive in Nyumbani. And, recently, we were delighted to accept 5 children into the Home, 3 girls and two boys, the youngest 9 months. On 11th August we will graduate 10 young adults into the wider community.

The priority in the challenge to bring HIV under control is having all persons living with HIV have a suppressed viral load. With the greatest number of our children in the Lea Toto Program, and given their living conditions, this is a great challenge. However, with the new approach of monthly accountability meetings the 8 Lea Toto centres are meeting the challenge. We hope to present this success with adolescents through a presentation at the upcoming 2018 HIV Prevention, Care & Treatment Scientific Conference in September.

Nyumbani’s overall high standards came to the fore in recent conferences and events. Our collaboration with UNITAID has been especially valuable over many years. This year UNITAID sponsored the 8th International Convention on Peer Education, Sexuality, HIV and AIDS here in Nairobi on 13th – 15th June. I was privileged to be invited to speak at the Session “What has UNITAID’S work meant for Kenya” as representative of Faith Based Organisations. I was very happy to include in my remarks our great gratitude to UNITAID who facilitated our getting a GeneXpert machine which enabled our TB laboratory to begin operating. Then, on 12th July, I was invited by KELiN, Kenya Ethical and Legal Network, for the Launch of its report, “Enhancing the Legal Environment for an Effective HIV Response in Kenya”. Part of this report covered in print and video a successful Children’s Rights Court Case which KELiN facilitated, representing COGRI Nyumbani among others.

Other significant meetings included one hosted by NASCOP, National Aids and STI Control Programme where it was communicated that, at the moment, girls/women 15 – 49 years may not be prescribed the new, greatly enhanced ARV, dolutegravir DTG as research in Botswana has identified that it can cause damage to a newly-conceived baby. All my advocacy recently has been on getting access to DTG especially for our adolescents. This is very disappointing, but I am hoping that further research will clarify if this is indeed the situation. On 13th July the organization, The Change Trust gathered representatives from Strathmore University, The Children’s Department and Nyumbani with other Children’s outreaches at Strathmore University to initiate research on ‘Ethical Aging-Out of children from Homes’. This is now a priority for the Government of Kenya. Nyumbani will be a pilot site for this research, recognizing our efforts in reintegrating children into family.

On 9th June we had a special group visit Nyumbani Home. This was a group of Nairobi University students from the Biochemistry Department who came to volunteer in memory of their lecturer, Prof. Dominic Makawiti. It was a very poignant moment for us all. Currently, we have a group of four students from Columbia University, New York carrying out a project on oral health in Lea Toto. In the Village we have 7 students and a lecturer from Comillas University, Madrid, with two students doing their internship and the other five volunteering by helping repair and renovate the family outside kitchens. Visitors included Inside Kenya participants from Spain led by our former staff, Angie de Hoyos, friends of Angie, Ann and Sara, my cousin Nuala from Ireland with her two children and friend Mrgaret, Keen and John with their friends Shelley and son Sam and recently Asis, nephew of Pepe and Carlota. As always John Sheffy (with his daughter Indigo) spent time in the Village to oversee the progress of the Tree4Children project. We still have two water pans filled with water and will have three more ready for the next rains in October/November.

To our great surprise and joy, World Bank Kenya communicated with us in May that once again COGRI-Nyumbani has been nominated to participate in the World Bank Group Community Campaign 2018. From the 2017 Campaign we have benefited with a donation of almost Shs 2 million which has helped us with the ongoing tertiary education for our 14 Nyumbani Home students who started their courses this year. In June, we had a visit from the representative of another donor organization which funds tertiary education so we are hoping that we will be considered for funding in 2019. We still need considerable funding for Nyumbani Village students who are starting certificate courses in September.

For those of you on holiday in the western world, we wish you a relaxing and warm break. Here we are experiencing cold as never before, but the sun can break through sometimes.

Blessings to each one

Sister Mary Owens IBVM

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