One of the purest memories a person has is that of childhood. Recollections of playing games with friends, learning the alphabet in school and, most importantly, an ever-present, infectious smile. These innocent times are the foundation for what we grow up to be in adulthood. Even when we start careers and families we remember those times with a fondness. However, not every child has the opportunity to have these experiences.
Across Africa children are being forced to become adults while they are still young. Disease, war and poverty have caused them to redirect their attention to other matters. Instead of worrying about what game to play these children are more concerned about where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep tonight. However, religious Sisters across Africa are using the skills they received through ASEC to sprearhead projects for the youth in Africa, providing hope to the future generation.
In the slums of Nairobi, Kenya the streets are filled with young boys as young as eight years old, who already are trapped in a cycle of poverty and drug addiction. Their days are spent combing the streets hoping to find something to eat. While their nights are spent dreaming of a day were they can find a place to call home. However, Sr. Felistas Chematia Chesire, ASE is working to make their dreams a reality through substance abuse treatment and educational opportunities at the Kenya children's home, Kwetu Home of Peace Rehabilitation Centre for Street Children. As an alumna of ASEC's Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) and Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) programs, Sr. Felistas learned resource mobilization and financial planning skills which enable Kwetu Home to make a bigger impact.
“We take them to school. We change their lives. They become good people and good citizens of the country,” said Sr. Felistas.
Poverty does not discriminate against gender. In Northern Uganda poverty has made it is difficult for parents and guardians to afford a quality education for their children. This issue has caused low enrollment in girls’ schools and for many of them to drop out over time. Without a quality education, girls are not taught the skills they need to become self-sustaining or transformative members of their society. However, Sr. Petronilla Kyomugisha, MSMMC is using the skills she learned from ASEC’s SLDI and HESA programs to help transform the education and lives of these girls. As head teacher at the Asili Girls’ Vocational Senior Secondary School, Sr. Petronilla promotes academic excellence and guidance, to help the girls make a difference in their society by pushing them to reach for the stars. She adds,
“I am very grateful to ASEC which empowered me through SLDI and HESA Programs to be able to carry out this noble task amidst many challenges. I owe them credit for all that they did for me and for my Institute.”
Many programs are concerned with helping to bring access to traditional education to children across Africa. However, there are also programs designed to bring an awareness of job training to Africa’s youth. The Sisters of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro (CDNK) have developed one of these programs. To help bring this awareness to Tanzania’s youth religious Sisters from the congregation have come together to develop ways to promote job opportunities and entrepreneurism. One program is an embroidery and sewing school for girls. This project is aimed at helping to end poverty and promote gender equality by giving priority to girls and woman who have been culturally and traditionally suppressed by society.
Through the hard work and dedication of religious Sisters Africa’s youth is being given a second chance. The children who have endured such hard lives since birth are now able to breathe a sigh of relief. This is all because of religious Sisters who are taking the education they received through ASEC to help better the lives of other children. These religious Sisters are using technology and grant writing skills to help the youngest members of their communities. However, they are not alone. Across Africa there are still more religious Sisters who have the drive to help their communities if provided with the tools. It is our duty to help these religious Sisters learn the skills they need to not only empower a generation but to inspire hope.