Jennifer Mohan writes in a guest post … Providence. It is the word I give when asked how I connected to Vincentian Lay Missionaries (VLM) and Marillac St. Vincent Family Services (MSVFS). This idea of providence—the protective care of God—was taught to me by the Daughters of Charity and Congregation of the Mission when I was a Gateway Vincentian Volunteer (now Vincentian Mission Corps) in St. Louis. It is a lesson I continue to carry with me today as I am called to live the mission of Marillac St. Vincent Family Services and Vincentian Lay Missionaries, in my professional work and in my life.
MSVFS calls me to be steward of the Vincentian spirit. VLM calls me to share the Vincentian spirit. Both missions call me to foster systemic change in communities by strengthening and empowering those most in need to reach their greatest potential.
My journey with VLM began in August 2011. The first 3-day business workshop held in Chepnyal, Kenya, resulted in over 200 women attending. Education levels ranged from 8th grade through some university. Ten women spoke English. Roughly ¼ of the women spoke Kiswahili. All of the women spoke the tribal dialect, Pokot. We began with questions to understand the women’s hopes and dreams, what they wanted to learn about starting and managing a business, and the current challenges and anticipated ones they identified.
For the past 3 years, VLM has been creating and teaching small business curriculum for the women of Chepnyal and surrounding villages. Each August, VLM has built upon each workshop with an anticipation of being able to empower the women to begin a small business cooperative that will promote and sustain economic development in Chepnyal and contributing to access to education, financial stability, and community development.
Since October 2013, I have served as the Outreach Program Manager at MSVFS. Throughout my tenure so far, I have come to learn that it was providence that brought me to MSVFS. My experiences and learning’s from VLM prepared me to enter into MSVFS services and the Community Services Outreach Department. In approaching our program services, we start at a place of asking questions to understand. We work to identify challenges and barriers and dialogue to find effective solutions. We approach our work with patience knowing change takes time.
This August, I return to Chepnyal for the third time to work side-by-side with the first small business group to support and mentor as we work together to launch the first business of the small business cooperative. As I have moved from a place of having the Vincentian spirit shared with me and sharing it with others, as called by VLM, Marillac St. Vincent Family Services has allowed me to enter into a place of being a steward of the Vincentian spirit in serving those most in need to reach their greatest potential through my professional work and in my personal life.
To learn more about Vincentian Lay Missionaries, visit www.vlmusa.org
To read Jenny’s personal reflections on her time with the Pokot tribe, visit www.jennyvlm2011.blogspot.com