MY KENYAN EXPERIENCE
WRITTEN BY SR. KIM XUAN THI NGUYEN
Habari Sisters! A greeting from the Sisters and the people of Kenya sent to all of you. “Habari” is one of Kenya’s special greetings of hospitality and welcoming. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with Habari and a (pre-pandemic) handshake. My time in Kenya was a time of blessing, enrichment and learning. I came to appreciate and value intercultural living, although it was challenging at times with the unfamiliar foods and the dusty environment in Nairobi. I learned more about the Kenyan culture, people, language, and about myself. The experience helped me get out of my comfort zone and learn to adapt to new environments and places, develop new skills, and appreciate what I have and what I have taken for granted. The most important thing for me was the relationships and connections I made, especially my deepening relationships with our Sisters there.
I arrived on Jan. 8th at Nairobi Airport and was greeted with a warm welcome and hugs from Sr. Pamela and Sr. Veronicah Mburu. My first ministry was at Elizabeth Place Outreach Ministry (EPOM). I had the opportunity to learn and work with Sr. Benedicta. She taught me about the scholarship programs for poor children and about the training skills program where people from the slum areas learn hairdressing, knitting, and tailoring. I met parents and students. I listened to their stories, visited them at home and school, and worked with the people who enrolled in training programs.
The need for these programs is overwhelming due to poverty and lack of jobs and resources. I believe that these people are in a much worse situation now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am praying for them and remembering them in a special way at this time. I also visited Sr. Veronica Karengeri’s Languna Hospital and assisted in teaching for a day at Sr. Veronicah Mburu and Sr. Pamela’s schools. I was able to experience different environments offered by poor, middle class and rich schools. A month later, I went to Molo and lived with the Baraka Community. I really enjoyed my stay with them and loved the fresh air and cool weather. There, I developed different and new skills. I became a physical education and art teacher for the primary students, a life skills teacher for secondary students, and I shared my perspective with the staff of Bishop Ndingi School about children who experience psychological issues. I also had a chance to spend some time with the children of St. Peter the Apostle.
With postulants in the Dubuis Community, I visited patients at Molo Hospital, and also did spiritual direction at Ukarimu Retreat Centre when needed. These experiences helped me to be open to do and learn new things and trust in God in the process. My last month was spent at St. Catherine Community. Unfortunately, my stay was cut short by two weeks because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, I spent quality time with the Sisters at St. Catherine Community and a had a chance to volunteer at St. Charles Lwanga School run by the St. Charles Brothers. There, I assisted a brother with computer classes, taught personal hygiene and life skills to the primary school students, and pastoral care to young adults in vocational training. I appreciated this opportunity to interact and build relationships with the students and young people from the Kibera slum. I will always remember and cherish my time and relationships, especially with our Sisters in Kenya. The Sisters in each community made my stay comfortable and pleasant. We enjoyed each other through prayers, meals, stories, and social events. May the Incarnate Word continue to bless and protect all of us during this time of uncertainty.