Dear Friends of Nyumbani,

Greetings from all of us in Nyumbani.

I write in the afterglow of the celebration of our 25th Anniversary on 4th February. To our great joy, Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady, graced the occasion with her presence. Having her Excellency as Guest of Honour gave great recognition to our celebrating the Vision and Mission of Fr. Angelo D’Agostino whose courageous response to God’s call to reach out to children living with HIV back in 1992 gave birth over time to our 3 children’s programs and our laboratory.

The day began with our welcoming back Mark James from his Long Walk from Nyumbani Village to Nyumbani Home. We waved him off from the Village on 1st February with children, staff and some International Board members escorting him for the 11.2 kilometers to the main road. His safe arrival 3 ½ days later escorted by young people from Nyumbani Home was marked by cheers, red balloons and a speech from Her Excellency Ms. Susie Kitchens, Deputy British High Commissioner. Their Excellencies Irish Ambassador, Dr. Vincent O’Neill and Spanish Ambassador, García de Viedma Bernaldo de Quirós together with other dignitaries were also present to welcome Mark. Refreshments followed, after which we gathered to welcome Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta and escort her to the Hall where a beautifully prepared Eucharistic Celebration took place. Entertainment from our children followed. I then gave a Power Point Presentation, remembering those early days in 1991 as we prepared to found Nyumbani, the joy of finally accepting 3 babies on Tuesday 8th September, 1992, and how Nyumbani grew until we finally relocated to Karen. Our Chairman, Prof. Dominic Makawiti then spoke to the ensuing development of Nyumbani, followed by alumnus John Mwangi telling his story. Mr. Noah Sanganyi, Director of Children’s Services, representing the Government, spoke next; then he invited her Excellency to address us. We were all very moved by her appreciative words and by her belief that all children deserve the chance to realize their God-given potential. Lunch followed with more than 250 guests and over 180 children being served. What a memorable occasion 4th February was!

International summit

While Mark was doing his ‘Long Walk’, the meeting section of our Annual International Summit took place. This year brought the greatest number of participants: Marcello de Donno, President, and Adriana de Pero from Italy, Charles DeSantis, President, Jan Conway, Tina Cleland and Susan Merrill from USA, Celeste Shirvani, President, from UK; Amor Sola, President, and Izabella Hearn from Spain, Prof. Dominic Makawiti, Chair, Paula Lanco-Mutua, Amb. Denis Afande, Daniel Ndonye, Fr. Francis Rodrigues, Matilda Ockotch, Jane Michuki and myself from Kenya; Heidi Webb, Development Director, USA in attendance. With a change of format requested at the 2017 Summit which allowed for more time for discussion, I believe that all the participants found this Summit the best ever. The theme of the Summit was ‘Strategizing into the Future’. We considered in turn each of the programs in depth, and came up with a way forward for each program, and a list of the developments which need funding was requested. All of us in Nyumbani are eternally grateful to our International Board members who give of their time and generosity to travel to Kenya and be available for at least four days.

Back to December, when, just before Christmas, the results of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education were released. Once again, like in 2016, the 2017 results were lower than previous years because of new stringent directives regarding marking. Challenging though this is for gaining admission to further education, our young people in all three programs are currently working on gaining admission to their chosen courses and five of the fourteen from Nyumbani Home have already started. Students from Lawson High School and Lea Toto are still in the process of revising their applications for Government placing in line with their results.

We celebrated Christmas in Nyumbani Home and Village, with those in the two programs remaining with us, through beautiful liturgies and with special treats. They also had many friends visiting. From USA came our Board member, Karen Robb for her annual visit, with goodies to celebrate the New Year.

Earlier in December we had the annual Nyumbani Home Alumni gathering which all agreed was very beneficial, as it gives them a forum to share their experience of life outside Nyumbani with each other. With the help of facilitators, they were able to discuss hopes and challenges particularly in the areas of ongoing education, medical care and job opportunities.

Very sadly, on 4th February one of our alumnae, Christine Gatwiri passed away leaving a son behind. We also lost a grandmother in Nyumbani Village, Monica Mugwee Muteto. May both now rest in peace with God.

A very significant event happened in Nyumbani Village in January – media coverage of the ProFuturo program in Hotcourses Primary School. Last year, ProFuturo donated 48 tablets to the school, trained our teachers and continue to provide oversight assistance. To your joy, out of all the schools in Kenya who benefit from the ProFuturo program, Hotcourses was one of two chosen for this media coverage. 19 journalists including Amigos de Nyumbani Board member, Marian Alvarez spent a day and overnight filming and interviewing. The later screening in Spain was tremendous. Then, on 8th February we had the groundbreaking ceremony to start the building of our church.

We were, as always, very happy to welcome many visitors to our programs over Christmas and into the New Year. Dr. Tom Thompson, Virginia Tech USA, Lameck Odhiambo, Water for Food, University of Nebraska, Marianne Abo El Kheir and colleague from J & J, Maura McGinn and Joanne Mulligan from University College, Dublin to explore the possibility of volunteers for Nyumbani Village. And now we have a Rotarian group from Scotland for two weeks of Service Above Self.

As the New Year of 2018 unfolds, may it be a time of blessings for each one – the experiencing of God’s love and providence as we seek to live God’s call to us in our lives.

God bless each one,

Sister Mary Owens

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