Kenya Ireland Collaboration
Practical application of our dreams through our spiritual signature song!
Our signature song sings of Christ’s “oneness” that everything is connected, as Pope Francis writes in ‘Laudate Si’. Composed in collaboration by St. Vincent and Louise for You and Me, our charism is a joyful, collaborative, hopeful song!
March monthly prayer intention;
“That the efforts of the Vincentian Family and our collaborators bear fruit through our efforts to end global homelessness in all its forms.”
Paraphrasing Fr. Denis Holtschneider’s seminal speech rousing us to create future plans for our Vincentian Family’s work, at the 400th Anniversary Symposium in Rome, “From Here to Where,” I tracked my experiences which parallel our “Family’s” recent evolution in service of the poor.
During my eye popping flight back from Kitale to Nairobi, Kenya a few weeks ago, in a plane the size of a mini-van, I kept my mind from fear by reflecting smilingly on the thread of events that led me from “there;” the Vincentian Family Executive Committee (VFEC) meeting in Philadelphia in 2017 to the street children Upendo project in Kitale, Kenya 2020.
“There” we dared “to dream” as Fr. Tomaz Mavric, CM said to gather in Rome in October 2017 and celebrate, plan and collaborate on a “mega-project” of systemic change. On the steps of St Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of Pope Francis, Mark McGreevy, Depaul Chief CEO launched the FAMVIN Homeless Alliance.
The 13 Houses Campaign in the Kitale Street Children Project is one such practical application.
Run by the Daughters of Charity Kenyan Sister Winnie JoseMarie, the Kitale Street Children Upendo (Swahili for charity) project is housed in a reclaimed dairy, and is thriving as a center of hope, nourishment and systemic change for 79, 15-18 year old boys. Further collaboration with the Vincentian Family Solidarity Fund and Kiroho International will strengthen the project.
Why only boys? The cultural imperative which means initiation circumcision requiring a boy to live separately from the main family home has created a housing problem for poor families.
Compounded by substance abuse of illegal brewing “changa’a” and glue sniffing leading to domestic and street violence, it is safer for these boys and 34 under 15 year olds to live on the streets.
Safer! If running the gauntlet of sexual abuse, violence, unsanitary conditions, hunger and lack of education is safer than returning home, it indicates how desperate these boys are. There are solutions, and the change and finances will have to happen systemically for culture to adjust to the boys right to live a life that enables them to thrive.
“There” was with Saints Vincent and Louise. Vincent advising that in service of the poor we must be “affective and effective” CCD:IX:467. “There” and then in 17th Century France, “almost ten thousand children were rescued from certain death. Hundreds of thousands of poor people were helped” (Dodin, 1993, p.47).
“Here” in Kitale, the social workers and support staff collaborate with Sr Winnie’s strategic plan, in conjunction with the 13 Houses Campaign, as she lives out what Sr. Margaret John Kelly, DC(1) describes St. Louise de Marillac working to “lengthen and strengthen her shadow of feminine compassion and productive creativity.”
“There” too in the rule that St. Vincent wrote in 1617 for the first Confraternity of Charity in Chatillon (CCD:X111b:40,) the attention to detail including the “seeing and serving Christ in the homeless” was paramount in ensuring quality care that meets professional standards. “Here” in Kitale, the professional level of nutrition, hygiene facilities and ability to wash their clothing is highlighted by the small shelf with each boy’s name. Here they have a spare set of clothes while they wash. It is the only personal, private space they own in the world.
1 Saint Louise de Marillac: The ‘Gentle Power of Liberation, “Vincentian Heritage Journal, Vol.10, No.1,1989.31-32)
Dee Mansi is a lay member of AIC, Vincentian Collaboration Commission & Depaul Assembly; a retired School Principal, Schools Inspector and Leadership in Education Lecturer. Dee is Irish, living in London with her husband and son, she travels in Europe and beyond.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views.