Dear Friends of Nyumbani,

Greetings to each one during this time of final examinations for our Primary and Secondary School leavers as well as our COGRI Vocational Training Centre, CVTC students. Our Primary candidates have just finished their examination: 8 from Nyumbani Home, 102 from Lea Toto and 104 in the Village. They can now at last relax after the demanding preparation period. The Secondary School examination starts today, 5th November and will continue over 3 weeks. Nyumbani Home has 5 candidates, Lea Toto 87 and Nyumbani Village 82. Currently CVTC 2nd years and 4th years are taking their certificate I and Certificate II examinations. Please keep all these young people in your thoughts and prayers.

It is now 3 weeks since I returned from my annual fundraising and PR visits to USA, UK and Ireland. I am still in awe at the tremendous commitment of our Boards in these countries as they continue to raise funds for our now over 4,700 children. The Annual Gala in the USA, this year on 21st September, held in the spacious and decorative Fairmont Hotel, Washington DC was as always the highlight of my visit and was especially successful. I marvel at how the USA Board members collaborate to combine in one event a delicious meal, motivational speakers, silent and live auctions and presentation of awards. Our Nyumbani Home graduate Ignatius Daudi stole the show with his telling of his personal life story. I was delighted that the former USA President George W. Bush who initiated the PEPFAR program 15 years ago, and family were honoured as well as our late COGRI Chairman, Professor Dominic Makawiti whose award was received by his widow, Beatrice Makawiti. I am ever grateful for the great schedule of visits prepared for me to enable my meeting with USA Government representatives, long-time friends of Nyumbani and other donors so that I can express our gratitude for their ongoing support. A meeting with the USA Board is always a priority as well as personal meetings with Board members.

I arrived in London on 26th September and was delighted to visit with Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt’s family that evening with Jeremy joining us by video call. September 27th was the highlight of my UK visit with Nyumbani UK and Hotcourses Foundation Gala Dinner hosted in the historic venue, Middle Temple. I was delighted that Storm Trentham, Founder of Lacrosse in Kenya was Guest of Honour, especially as she had visited Nyumbani Home beforehand. The meal was delicious, intertwined with entertaining program events and a total of 25 attractive items for the silent and live auctions. I was delighted that the proceeds this year were rewarding. Again a significant schedule of meetings had been prepared for me by the Chairperson, Celeste Shirvani.

Finally, then, I went to Ireland which provided me with an opportunity to meet with our Irish Board, Kenya Orphan Aid and thank them for significant funding they had raised. Children of Nyumbani Kenya Aid has also been active in fundraising and are bringing a group of young people to visit in January. I was delighted to be invited to give a presentation to senior students in my Alma Mater, Loreto St. Stephen’s Green, and of course, enjoy visiting with family.

While I was away the big event was awaiting the arrival of a container of medical supplies and equipment from World Medical Relief, USA facilitated by Sara De Carlo and her father, Jack King. The container has arrived safe in Mombasa, but we still await delivery to Nyumbani. Another special event was our Nyumbani Home children participating in the Kenya Climate Change Art and Essay Competition with two of them, Nicholas and Simon receiving awards. For 11 of our Lea Toto children and 3 staff an invitation to attend a live cultural performance in the Nairobi National Theatre with US First Lady Melania Trump escorted by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, was the experience of a lifetime. The US and Kenya First Ladies have a special interest in helping children. Great news from the Village was that Tanathi Water Services Board, Kitui had donated the digging and equipping of a borehole which had already started. We are close to having 7 water pans completed.

One of the first events on my return was attending the graduation ceremony of 13 Peer Educators from Lea Toto who had completed a one-week training on how to be available to their peers in Lea Toto who are having challenges living with HIV after they exit from our program. The Peer Educators group has been in existence for some time and the results of their service have been very effective.

A significant event in Nyumbani Village has been the visit of Roger Gill from 24th -27th October escorted by UK Chairperson Celeste Shirvani and facilitated by COGRI Board Member Mr. Wallace Garland. In collaboration with our COGRI Board, our UK Board is carrying out a Self-Evaluation exercise by the three schools in the Village, Hotcourses Primary, Lawson High School and COGRI Vocational Training Centre. Roger and team facilitated a preparatory process through meetings with school staff and students as well as having questionnaires completed. Roger Gill and his wife will return in mid-December to facilitate the Self-Evaluation exercise. We were delighted to have Chairperson, Celeste Shirvani with us for a few days, as well as the Chairperson of the USA Board, Charles DeSantis who was in Kenya for the opening of an exhibition of the Art Work of children in the Kibera informal community. This was the fruit of an initiative which Charles and his colleague, Margaret Halpin started in 2009.

Other visitors/volunteers include Inigo Armada, Virginia Galvez, Rocio Vidal, Gonzalo Arana, Marta Garcia and Patricia Susan from Spain, Isobel Cunningham from Ireland, Federica Elena from Italy, Jack Taylor and Ella Campbell from UK and our ever-faithful and devoted Brian Lenehan who came from Ireland the 7th year running to tutor our candidates in COGRI Vocational Training Centre.

Our Strategic Plan for the next 5 years is now available. The reality that our Nyumbani Programs are now parenting more adolescents than small children will mark the challenge of our service in the coming years. This new scenario will not only mark our style of caring, but also has considerable new funding requirements. While we trust in God’s Providence, the challenges of tertiary education as well as supporting our graduates as they reintegrate back into the wider society will mark our fundraising in the future. We are ever grateful to all our donors.

Wishing each one and family God’s special blessing.

Sister Mary Owens IBVM

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