In Africa, Catholic sisters are at the forefront of addressing modern Africa’s challenges, and are strategically placed to be key players and problem solvers in Africa. Sisters engage in programs that alleviate the plight of their people by providing human, social and pastoral services. They work in schools, hospitals and dispensaries, dental clinics, rural outreach programs and healthcare facilities. Sisters also create programs to serve HIV/AIDS patients, unwed mothers, youth and orphans, to name just a few.
By conducting site visits to alumnae projects in Africa, ASEC staff are able to see some of these powerful projects in action. Many of these projects are serving individuals affected and infected with HIV/AIDS.
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Sr. Mary Wambui is doing incredible work in supporting those with HIV/AIDS in Kenya. She was mentored by a Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program alumnae, Sr. Wilfrida Adero, who passed along valuable skills that Sr. Mary uses every day. Sr. Mary and her staff work with children and parents as part of a holistic program that addresses HIV/AIDS prevention and care, economic empowerment, nutrition, education and much more. They serve roughly 3000 vulnerable children and their families and engage local community members on the ground to help monitor the children's progress and de-stigmatize the disease. The program is funded by USAID and has been running for about 10 years.
Sr. Eunice Okobia, MMM, is the Matron in charge of the Medical Missionaries of Mary Clinic, ACO Hosing Estate, New Lugbe, Abuja, Nigeria. Cases of HIV/AIDS, cancer, STDs, Hepatitis, Typhoid and even Malaria are, unfortunately, the norm, where Sr. Eunice works. She leads educational activities at the clinic twice per week and include patient screenings and information on pre-natal care, baby delivery, HIV/AIDS and cancer awareness.
Sr. Eunice graduated from ASEC’s SLDI Finance Track in 2009 and is one of the beneficiaries of the SLDI Alumnae Signature Grant through which she received $25,000 USD under a pilot program with the Catholic Sisters Initiative at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to purchase a Cervical Screening machine in June 2015. “ASEC is a life-saving organization”, she stated upon meeting ASEC staff.
The St. Francis Community Hospital in Kasarani, the outskirts of Nairobi is part of a whole range of projects run by the Little sisters of St. Francis in an area that is populated people from low income areas who live in the informal settlements around the hospital. On a site visit, the Conrad. N. Hilton Foundation team was taken through the hospital, a rehabilitation center for street children and listened to narrations of people living with HIV and AIDS who are under the care of the sisters. 7-year-old Emmanuel John Zachary, a member of the child support group at St. Francis Hospital epitomized the work of the sisters,
“I know that I am [HIV] positive, I have learned to live positively, eat a balanced diet, take my drugs, and work hard at school... my life is the hands of the sisters!!!”
Because of the Teresian Sisters in Malawi, those bound in the slavery of poverty through the HIV/AIDS pandemic are now empowered, and they can live a healthy life. The sisters are working with more than 200 HIV/AIDS positive individuals in five support groups throughout their community. They assist in the preparation of nutritious foods from local resources and teach those living with HIV and AIDS how to prepare it and live a healthier life. The Teresian sisters have noted that they are better able to work with the less privileged because of the knowledge they have gained from ASEC's SLDI program. The sisters see themselves as the channels through which ASEC indirectly reaches the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals in Africa.
Because of society’s great need, the majority of Catholic sisters in Africa are put to task without proper training and skills, lacking the essential competencies and degrees that are prerequisites for effective management. The high cost of living and education coupled with sisters working in low-paying or non-paying jobs in parishes, makes it extremely difficult for their communities to invest in sisters’ education. As a result, sisters lack the tools needed for rendering effective services. The Catholic schools and healthcare and social welfare programs now heavily staffed by the sisters in Africa can only survive the challenge of a changing global landscape if these sisters are provided with relevant skills through upgrading and ensuring that they are well educated to handle emerging needs.
Today and throughout the year, we honor those continuing to fight back against this global health epidemic.