Life was far from being easy for Esther, a 53-year-old grandmother, who found herself responsible for her five grandchildren when their mother disappeared after discovering her HIV and AIDS status. Recounting those challenging days, Esther narrated how they “faced uncertainty every day” and that it was a struggle to put food on the table and make ends meet.
Back in 2011, Esther applied for an interest-free loan. With relief, she recalled how it felt like a lifeline when she got the Kshs. 6,000 loan. She used the money to boost her fruit-selling business. Her efforts bore fruit as her business thrived. She could make a Kshs. 1000 profit on tough days, but her earnings would soar up to Kshs. 5,000 when the market was favourable. “It was a turning point for us,” she mentioned.
Once the loan was repaid, Esther’s resilience journey continued: she saved diligently and eventually bought a piece of land. She plans to work towards building a house on that land. With her business still flourishing, life has changed for the better. “We’re no longer hungry, my grandchildren are going to school, and we’re even setting aside money for the house,” Esther beamed as her voice brimmed with hope.
Esther’s story is just a single thread woven into the larger tapestry of transformation that spans Naivasha and its surrounding areas. For over two decades, the Upendo village project, run by the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi, has extended its compassionate reach to hundreds of beneficiaries like her. Sister Florence Muia shared with the Sisters’ Blended Value Project (SBVP) participants who visited the enterprise after completing a one-week training on the Foundation of Social Enterprise Programme at Strathmore University on August 18th, 2023. She narrates that the village was a response to the dire need for medical support from individuals and families grappling with the consequences of HIV and AIDS. There was a need to provide care and support to those infected or affected by these conditions.
Assumption Sisters Nairobi (ASN) Upendo Village provides comprehensive care for individuals affected and infected by HIV and AIDS in the Naivasha region. The village employs a holistic approach encompassing education, healthcare, nutrition, economic sustainability, and psychosocial support. Established in 2001 and commencing services in May 2003, the organization has grown to serve over 13,501 individuals. As health is restored, Upendo Village empowers individuals toward self-sufficiency, fostering social, economic, and psychological empowerment.
The Education Department at the ASN Upendo Village is dedicated to nurturing Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) through the transformative power of education. The resonance of the sisters’ mission reverberates through the lives of the many young souls, illuminating a path to self-discovery and achievement. “Our goal is to instill hope and a sense of purpose in these children, enabling them to realize their full potential despite their challenging circumstances,” remarked Sister Florence.
Since its inception, the education department has been a steadfast beacon, touching the lives of 331 children who would otherwise be entangled in the webs of adversity. The Upendo Village has embraced education in all corners, from primary to university. Currently (2023), the village is sponsoring five children in primary schools, 38 in secondary education, 44 pursuing technical skills, and 16 in universities pursuing various degree courses.
Another effective strategy in poverty reduction acquired by the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi at Upendo Village involves supporting local communities with income-generating activities (IGAs). The objective is to instill self-reliance and shatter the perpetual cycle of poverty. The Upendo Village distributes resources such as beehives, dairy goats, solar lanterns, and indigenous chicken, enhancing financial stability and fostering sustainable independence among the recipients.
The Assumption Sisters of Nairobi are a remarkable success story within the Sisters’ Blended Value Project (SBVP), a collaborative effort between Strathmore University and the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA). The project, which is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation aims to empower Catholic Sisters to transform their social ministries into sustainable enterprises. It has yielded transformative results for the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi. Through the training, the sisters gained valuable insights and tools that empowered them to evolve their approach.
In a landscape where donor fatigue has become an unwavering reality, the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi (ASN) recognized the pressing need to chart new paths for financial sustainability. This strategic shift in mindset has yielded remarkable results, like the water processing plant initiated by ASN at Upendo Village. Originally intended to address the pressing water scarcity issues in the area, this innovative project by the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi has evolved into a dual-purpose initiative: it not only addresses a vital community need for clean drinking water but has also served as a wellspring of financial prosperity for the congregation.
The income generated through this enterprise now serves as a lifeblood, nourishing the very ministries that the Assumption Sisters tirelessly champion. With self-reliance as their guiding star, the sisters have ingeniously transformed a challenge into an opportunity, the gospel of SBVP to Catholic Sisters from different congregations.
Article by Alex Okoth
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