Nyumbani gives dignity despite disease

Nyumbani+Children%27s+Home%2C+along+with+the+other+Nyumbani+programs+work+to+provide+over+4%2C200+Kenyans+affected+by+HIV+with+necessary+holistic+care.%0ACourtesy+of+nyumbani.org

Nyumbani Children’s Home, along with the other Nyumbani programs work to provide over 4,200 Kenyans affected by HIV with necessary holistic care. Courtesy of nyumbani.org

As the first and largest organization in Kenya that serves orphans with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Nyumbani gives hope to hundreds of children suffering from the disease.
Sister Mary Owens, Executive Director of the Nyumbani organization, spoke to the Convent of the Sacred Heart Upper School during chapel October 6. She reinforced the importance of human rights as she informed the Sacred Heart community about Nyumbani.
In 1992, Father Angelo D’Agostino founded the Children’s Home, one of four programs affiliated with the Nyumbani organization, according to nyumbani.org. Father D’Agostino was a Jesuit who hoped to combat the challenges HIV-positive orphans face in Kenya, a country widely uninformed about the disease. After Father D’Agostino passed away in 2006,  Sister Owens assumed his role as Executive Director of Nyumbani programs.

Nyumbani Children's Home, along with the other Nyumbani programs work to provide over 4,200 Kenyans affected by HIV with necessary holistic care. Courtesy of nyumbani.org
Nyumbani Children’s Home, along with the other Nyumbani programs work to provide over 4,200 Kenyans affected by HIV with necessary holistic care.
Courtesy of nyumbani.org

Today, the Children’s Home houses approximately 120 HIV-positive orphaned children. The Home’s mission is to foster self-sufficiency and enable residents to maintain independent and normal lives both during and after the program.
Among these children is six-year-old Gabriel Ochieng, who was admitted into Nyumbani April 27, 2011. His parents deserted him in their home in Kariobangi, an impoverished residential area in Kenya. He remained there for five days without food or water. Neighbors eventually took notice and called the District Children’s Officer. He referred Gabriel to the Children’s Home, where he is currently a preschool student. 
Sister Owens explained how another resident, HIV-positive Ms. Faith Njeri, and her younger brother Kevin, sought protection in the Children’s Home after their mother’s passing from HIV in 2001. After eight years in Nyumbani, Ms. Njeri is currently 21 years old and is working towards a diploma in teaching. 
In addition, Sister Owens works with many other teachers and doctors to ensure that the children of Nyumbani receive extensive medical and holistic care. She also helps the residents foster individualism through extracurricular activities including sports, arts and community service.
“I am guardian of the children so they are ‘my’ children. I love them,” Sister Owens said.
The Sacred Heart community appreciated Sister Owens’ visit to the school, and continues to support the work of Nyumbani.
“I think the most powerful message Sister Owens and the Nyumbani organization conveys is the power of one person. They were so motivated to change the world, and I think that’s an amazing goal that we all have, regardless of our career path,” junior Elizabeth Considine said. “It’s so inspiring to see the power that one person can have, and it shows that we all have incredible potential.”
– Cheyann Greirson, Staff Writer