Dear Friends of Nyumbani,

On behalf of all of us in our 4 COGRI – Nyumbani programs – Board Members, Staff and children/adolescents, we wish you the Joy, Peace, and Love of the celebration of Christ born into our world and our hearts this Christmas. May it be a time of further experiencing the love of family and friends.

Children/adolescent events have been very much our experience these past weeks. On 5th December, we held Family Day in Nyumbani Village when relatives were invited for a meeting, and then to take their family member(s) for a vacation over Christmas. We started with Mass which was followed by an updating for the relatives of life in the Village by various members of staff, after which they could make inquiries and ask questions. After refreshments, the relatives were invited to check out at Reception. In the following days, many more relatives came, so that we will only have 143 children and 57 grandparents with us over Christmas.

Christmas parties for Lea Toto children/adolescents have now taken place, 8 in total. The Christmas Party is always the highlight of the year for these children and young people who live in the informal communities surrounding Nairobi. It was lovely to see them come as smartly dressed as possible, enjoy the various fun activities in one of the Fun Parks in Nairobi, have a delicious lunch and then gather for the cutting of a Christmas cake.

On 14th December, five young adults graduated from Nyumbani Home. As always, it was an experience of joy with a sense of loss, wishing them well as they took this significant step in their life. There was a very moving moment when each spoke to their time in Nyumbani Home and how they now feel ready to graduate.

The 32 children/adolescents remaining in Nyumbani Home for Christmas are enjoying many fun activities and outings. One of the many highlights for them was a fun day in the Irish Embassy on 16th December, courtesy of H.E. Fionnuala Quinlan. Entertainers kept the fun moving through a variety of activities, culminating in a lovely lunch followed by the arrival of Santa Claus. After Santa greeted everyone and sat down each one was called by name to to receive a personal gift.

This time of year is Aumni/ae time. Nyumbani Home graduates will gather for a seminar from 19th to 22nd December here in the Home and have planned the content of the program themselves. ‘Giving back’ is beginning to mark Alumni/ae activities. On 8th December, Ignatius hosted a Cake-cutting event in Nyumbani Home in appreciation of how Nyumbani Home nurtured his growing up to the point that he is now employed. On 15th December, a group of over 30 Alumni/ae from Nyumbani Village came from various areas in Kenya for a Reunion in the Village planned by themselves.

In attendance were the 140 children/adolescents remaining behind with 57 grandparents and staff. Following prayer, each one introduced themselves by name, by time in the Village, name of their Village home and grandparent many of whom were still there, their profession and current employment. This was a very moving experience. Following welcome and remarks by staff, and the cutting of a cake and distribution, the Alumni/ae presented the children with slippers and clothing, the grandparents with shukas, and I was given a painting of myself and a warm shuka with the Nyumbani Logo on it. The celebration ended with the planting of 3 trees; one in memory of Fr. Angelo D’Agostino, one for me and one for the Alumni/ae, followed by their hosting a lovely lunch for all.

Christmas Parties for staff are now taking place, which were preceded by the Annual COGRI Board Dinner on 6th December.

Christmas time always brings many visitors laden with gifts. Together with the many local people who bring multiple gifts in kind, we were delighted to welcome a group of Jesuit Refugee students to Nyumbani Home as well as a group of students from St. Kevin’s College Toorak, Australia led by Vincent Toohey with other staff. This group had the novel experience of participating in a concert by a local Youth Musical Group who came in the afternoon. Lea Toto Kawangware were privileged to host H.E. Aline Kuster-Menager, French Ambassador to Kenya and Marisol Touraine, Chair of the UNITAID Board, together with local DNDi staff. This visit was subsequent to our participating in a DNDi clinical trial. December 9th brought John Sheffy for his second visit this year to appraise the progress of our sustainability project, Trees4Children. The heavy rains we have had fostered the growth of trees but to the detriment of our roads!

United with you in spirit and prayer as we make the final preparations to celebrate the Christmas Feast and start the New Year of 2020,

Sister Mary Owens Executive Director IBVM

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