News from Sister Mary following the International Summit

Dear Friends of Nyumbani,

Greetings as the year 2020 unfolds. May it be for each one a year of many blessings – of fruitfulness in work, love and peace in family and community, and we hope that together we can make our world a home where equality, justice, peace and care of the environment can prevail. Let us together ask God to move our world leaders to embrace the promoting of union of mind and heart in their countries and may we all equally respond to this call.

With Christmas celebrations over, early January is a time when the focus is on preparing our children/adolescents to return to school to start a new stage in their education. Special is the preparation of those who are starting secondary education. Admission to Form One is done centrally by the Ministry of Education, so there is always a time of waiting for admission letters. Our 6 Nyumbani Home children are now settled, some quite far away from Nyumbani. Equally, 156 in Lea Toto have been placed. In Nyumbani Village, 76 were admitted to Lawson High School and 23 to COGRI Vocational Training Centre, CVTC.

January 17th was a special day in Nyumbani Village when our new Church, Mary Mother of Christ opened. We were delighted that nine representatives of our donor, Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Washington State were able to join us for the celebration: Fr. Frank Schuster, Parish Priest, Ken & Carol Fabrizio and Nicole, and the wife and family of the late donor Patrick Koepling. The Opening Mass was celebrated by our Chaplain Fr. Charles Matia, Fr. Frank Schuster and Fr. Denis Geng, with a beautiful liturgy enacted by the children. It was lovely to see the Church completely full with our nearly 1000 children, grandparents, Ursuline Sisters, staff and members from the outside community together with the Chairperson of our COGRI Board, Paula Nzisa Lanco and our architect, Patrick Ngetho whose joy was unbound.

The next high-level event was the Annual International Board Summit. We are ever appreciative and grateful that members of our International Boards take time out of their busy lives and at their own cost to come to Kenya to attend the 4-day meeting. The COGRF USA Board was represented by the new President, Martin Schreiber, Tina Cleland, Douglas Leavens and MaryLynn Qurnell. Celeste Shirvani, President represented Nyumbani UK and the Hotcourses Foundation Board. Amor Sola Menendez, President, Izabella Hearn & Angela De Hoyos represented Amigos de Nyumbani, the Spanish Board. The theme of the 2020 Summit was: Towards Trends into the Future: The Evolving World of HIV. With 2030 as goal for the containment of the HIV pandemic, all of us in HIV ministry are being seriously challenged to ensure this happens. The motto now is ‘undetectable equals untransmutable, U=U, so suppression of the virus to an undetectable level is the priority, with the accompanying goal of having all persons living with HIV on treatment. On the first day of the Summit, the 2019 Annual Reports from COGRI and the International Boards were presented, with the second day devoted to discussions on the way forward for the 4 programs in the light of the Summit theme. Integrated into the meeting were memorable visits to Lea Toto, Nyumbani Village and Nyumbani Home and Laboratory. This being our 14th Summit, I believe that our experience this year was that, over time, the collaboration of COGRI with the International Boards has been deepened, with the ensuing strengthening in the performance of our 4 programs.

A significant development in the governance of COGRI – Nyumbani will happen on 1st March when Protus Lumiti will take on the new position of Deputy Executive Director. With over 25 years service in Nyumbani Home as well as his deputizing for me when I am out of the country, Protus is eminently suited for this new responsibility. Sr. Tresa Palakudy SABS will take over as Programme Manager in Nyumbani Home, again very suitable as she is now in her 25th year of service. We ask God’s blessing on both Protus Lumiti and Sr. Tresa.

On 31st December, 2019 the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, SABS celebrated the 25th Anniversary of their coming to Kenya on mission. Nyumbani Home was one of their first ministries, starting in 1996 with Sr. Tresa Palakudy and one other companion. We are truly grateful that Nyumbani and Lea Toto continue to benefit from the dedicated service of the SABS Sisters. We were delighted to join with them for the celebration of their Silver Jubilee.

Another feature of January – February is the arriving of various groups of volunteers and visitors. First, in early January, we welcomed from Ireland Clare Lennon O’Reilly with 16 students and five of their family adults. Words are inadequate to thank them for renovating the 38 large murals on the outside walls in Hotcourses Primary, as well as

leaving their own mural in memory. From 4th – 8th February,

Roger Gill returned with his wife, and three teachers Dawn, Anna and Sonya who together with Wallace Garland helped our teachers in Hotcourses Primary, Lawson High School and CVTC with teaching mixed ability classes. I believe that the workshop on the last day was very valuable for our teachers. At present, we have a group of six Rotarian Associates, Beth, Frances, Gerdie, Lynn, Emily and Peter with us for their annual ‘Service above Self. The renovations in our buildings they carry out each year contribute tremendously to maintenance of facilities for our programs. We are also delighted to have Alison Stedman, together with her son, Hamish visiting us for a few days. For 16 years Alison led the Annual Rotarian Group. Currently too, a group of six from Matimex, who have been supporting our CVTC micro-credit program, are spending some days in Nyumbani Village and will visit two of the businesses run by a CVTC graduate who benefited from a micro-credit loan. And in the Village as well is our first 2020 volunteer, John Elmenhurst from Washington State, another great link with Nyumbani Village Church donors .

A priority at present is the implementation of the Lea Toto extension to take in the needy siblings of children who are living with HIV. Currently, we have a total of 8,453 children and adolescents in Lea Toto, 2,933 living with HIV, 510 babies born negative under care for 2 years, and 5,520 siblings. We have the challenge of reaching another 8,000 by the end of the year. We thank God that we can now reach more needy children and ensure that their human rights are met. Please keep us in your prayers.

God be with you

Sister Mary Owens IBVM Executive Director

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