Monday, January 05, 2009

Helping a young women's school in Nairobi

A Catholic Church in California has ties to Nairobi, and uses those connections to help a girls school there. The relationship across borders began in 2002, since then the church has been raising money for the school and the young women who attend it. A nun from Nairobi is currently visiting the church in California to show the parishioners how their fund raising has helped.

Kerana Todorov from the Napa Valley Register writes of how the relationship started and gives us more details on the school. The story of the school can also be found on it's blog. The school needs $600 for each child per year.

The Rev. Pat Stephenson, leader of Holy Family Parish, began to raise money for Kenya’s children in 2002. He visited the country to go on a safari, but was moved by what he saw on Nairobi streets: hundreds of children, including pregnant teens and young mothers, begging in the streets.

When Stephenson told Schneiders of his experience, Schneiders offered to help raise money for Sister Christine. He also agreed to come along on three fact-finding trips to Kenya to find out what the parish could do to help Kenya’s abandoned children.

The trips were not for the faint of heart.

Post-election violence erupted in Kenya shortly before they landed in Nairobi on their most recent trip together, in December 2007. Despite the danger and uncertainty, they returned safely and plan to go back in a year.

The Cardinal Maurice Otunga Empowerment Center for Girls opened in mid-2004 on a property donated by Kenya’s Catholic church, a few months after the Schneiders and Stephenson presented a $5,000 donation from parish members to the Archbishop of Nairobi, Rafael Ndingi.

Stephenson asked that the money be used to help needy children.

About three months later, Sister Christine, a member of the order of the Sisters of the Assumption and a high school teacher by training, proposed to use Holy Family Parish’s donation to open the center for girls.

About 80 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 live at the school for two years. Some arrive suffering from AIDS after turning to prostitution to support their families. Many have been beaten or raped or suffered from homelessness.

At the school, the teens receive counseling and medical care and learn how to sew, cook and knit. They also train in how to use computers and make arts and crafts. The students work in shifts to feed staff and colleagues and maintain the property.

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