One Person Can Make a Difference
At the age of 19 years she was sent to Africa
where she served the Dominicans in a number of countries, including
Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya. In the course of this she also received
a university education,
"Lost Boys of Sudan" Find a Voice
with Dominican Sister
ARBOR, MI - October 5, 2006 -- Sr. Luise Radlmeier, OP, a Dominican
Missionary in Kenya, was awarded the Wallenberg Medal at the University
of Michigan October 5th. By coincidence, the Iraq Coordinating Committee
was meeting in nearby Adrian and came to hear Sr. Luise's lecture.
She was delighted to meet up with other Dominicans, the committee
was proud to be present for her honor. Read an incredible story
about one person making a difference.
Luise Radlmeier was born in Pfeffenhausen, Bavaria in 1937. She
recognized her vocation early in life and joined the Dominicans
including a Master's degree from the Sorbonne
while on scholarship, and later became a lecturer in Religious Studies.
In 1985 she was sent to Nairobi, Kenya. Her assignment was to lecture
at a local college and contribute to the support of the other Sisters.
It was in 1987 that she began her personal mission of assisting the
children of war-torn Sudan. This started in an informal and part-time
fashion. There were ever-increasing numbers of Sudanese refugee children
coming to the house to beg the Dominican Sisters for sustenance. Sr.
Luise responded by helping them to find not only food and housing:
her goal was to provide them with an education. This was not a routine
part of the Sisters’ mission but certainly in keeping with Dominican
On stage with Sr. Luise are several
of "her boys" who came to celebrate her accomplishments
Initially, she place 27 of the refugee
children in a number of area schools and paid for their primary
schooling and for secondary education in trades and technical fields
that would make them self-reliant. By 1990 she moved her efforts
to a larger scale, continuing to enroll the ever-increasing numbers
of refugee children who, despite the incredible challenges, were
making their way to Nairobi from the camp in Kakuma (run by the
United Nations) more that 700 kilometers away. Sr. Luise raised
the funds to enroll hundreds of Sudanese children in primary and
secondary schools – promising them a future through carpentry,
mechanics, plumbing, computer and secretarial skills. When sufficient
funds were available she supported the schooling of as many as 800
children a year.
By the late 1990’s Sr. Luise was involved in
many ways in efforts to aid this lost generation of Sudanese youth.
As she continued to support and educate hundreds of the refugees
who make their way to her in Nairobi she expanded her efforts. For
example, Sr. Luise works through the Joint Voluntary Agency to assist
with the preliminary interviews that determine resettlement. She
helped to settle many of the Lost Boys of Sudan from the camp at
Kakuma by preparing them for the tests they would have to take to
immigrate to the USA, Canada and Australia.
In 2002, Sr. Luise finally left her position as a
lecturer in the college to attend full-time to the needs of the
refugees and orphans. During the course of the 1990’s she
was able to secure funding from a wide range of private and public
sources and gradually built a compound in Juja, some 48 kilometers
northeast of Nairobi. There she established dormitories for students,
a home for AIDS Orphans and HIV positive children, a clinic, two
nursery schools and a primary school. She also established a modest
hospital in nearby Thika. This is for the local poor and destitute
but benefits the refugees, too.
In 2005 the Peace talks between warring factions
in Sudan resulted in major NGOs shifting their policies. Now they
provide funding for education only to groups inside Sudan and not
in neighboring countries where most of the refugees are. However,
there is no shortage of children and adolescents who come to Sr.
Luise for help, nor has she lost her desire to secure a future for
Sudanese youth in the refugee camps.
She continues to care for refugees from throughout
east Africa, though the majority are Sudanese. The focus of her activity
remains education and health care. In Juja her efforts support an
AIDS Orphanage which is home to 132 Kenyan children; 137 other orphans
are placed with “grandmothers” in surrounding villages.
At the hospital Sudanese are treated for free but Kenyans must pay.
(A German Parish in Nurnberg supports the hospital and orphanage,
with plans for extended services.)
In late 2005 she was paying for the education of 75 children in vocational
school, 135 children in secondary school, and 100 children in primary
school—all refugees. Funding cuts do mean that new admissions
are fewer than half of what they used to be. Besides those at Juja,
she has been trying to support the education of 166 secondary pupils
and 67 vocational trainees in schools around the region. She has had
some 200 applications from former child soldiers for money for vocational
training which she cannot provide at this time. Another 40 had been
accepted but must wait for their vocational training because there
is no money.
Currently, funding comes from small charitable organizations
and informal, personal sources. For example Sr. Luise receives donations
from Caritas Austria, the Christian Foundation for Children and
the Aging in Kansas and Jewish organizations in Colorado; from her
home parish in Germany; from the sale of clothes made by the young
women under her care. She raises money wherever and however she
Sr. Luise’s dream now is to bring 300 or more
girls out of the camp at Kakuma where they daily face abuse and
exploitation with no promise of a future. Her plan is to provide
these girls with an education in Nairobi and eventually secure their
resettlement, as happened with the Lost Boys of Sudan.
left: Eileen Gannon, OP, (Sparkill) Luise
Radlmeier, OP and Dusty Farnan, OP (Adrian)
Boys of Sudan film
about one of Sr. Luise's students who is now pursuing a degree
at the University of Colorado-Boulder.