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Adrian Dominicans
Sisters begin new ministry to orphans in Kenya

Children's Village teacher and Sister Renee Richie, OP, with freshman and sophomore female students

Adrian, Lansing and Greater Detroit… Many people might find it hard to imagine two places more distant—in miles and culture—than Kenya and Michigan. The streets of Meru, in eastern Kenya on the slope of Mount Kenya, are home to thousands of children, left orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Michigan is an industrial state, most noted for the manufacture of cars. Yet, in recent months, the two areas are connected by the work of many caring Michiganders.

Bud Ozar and his wife Sue have played a large part in bringing these two populations closer together. They served for a couple of years as lay missioners at The Children’s Village, located in Nchiru, Kenya, not far from Meru. Founded by Father Francis Limo Riwa in 1999, the Children’s Village houses and educates orphaned or abandoned children who had been living on the streets. Most of the children lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. In addition, some of the girls at St. Clare Centre had been at risk of being sold as child brides, tantamount in many cases to becoming enslaved. At present, 340 girls reside at St. Clare, and 500 boys are housed at St. Francis.

The Ozars returned to their home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to reconnect with their family and to raise money for St. Clare Centre. Through their non-profit organization, Friends of Kenyan Orphans, they have raised enough money for a three-story building, large enough to house 500 girls.

The Ozars, long-time friends of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, recommended the girls’ St. Clare Centre at the Children’s Village orphanage as a ministry. Father Riwa gave a presentation to the Adrian Dominicans, and Sisters Maurine Barzantni, OP; Kathryn Cliatt, OP; Christa Marsik, OP; and Renee Richie, OP, volunteered. They left Adrian, Michigan, in mid-October and have been settling into their new ministries: serving as a caring presence to the children, visiting the classrooms, offering personal and group therapy, providing prayer opportunities, and working with the children on creative projects.

In January, four more women from Michigan will join the sisters. The women will leave on Jan. 21 for two weeks of volunteer service. Kathy Partlow, who has taught for years in Lansing Catholic schools; Moira Keefer, of the Oakland University Teacher Education Department; and Mary Jo Johnson, long-time teacher at Grosse Pointe Academy and professor at Baker College, will teach at St. Clare.

In addition, Lisa Cracchiolo Peracchio, a member of the Friends of Kenyan Orphans Board and apiarist, will teach single mothers in Kenya the skills necessary to raise bees as an income for their families. The four volunteers, who collectively represent more than 100 years of teaching experience, will introduce their Kenyan students to a new way of learning, complete with group work and the opportunity to ask questions.

Sister Kathryn, in her blog on the Friends of Kenyan Orphans’ website (www.friendsofkenyanorphans.org), recounted the constant arrival of girls in great need. In particular, she told of the arrival of two 12-year-old girls who had been married to older men and beaten for not yet being pregnant. A week after their arrival, Sister Kathryn saw their smiling faces in their first grade classroom. “They clearly feel safe and cared for,” she wrote.

Donations to St. Clare Center can be made in many ways. Checks made out to Friends of Kenyan Orphans may be mailed to 920 Berkshire, Grosse Pointe, MI 48230. Donations may also be made online. For more information, call 313-815-9900.

Sister Kathryn also wrote about the great need for more funds to complete the girls’ building at St. Clare. “The third floor still needs the wing with the bathrooms to be completed, which will entail roofing the area, installing the plumbing and electric, enclosing and finishing some classrooms and dormitories,” she wrote, adding that the Centre also needs a kitchen. “The cooking for the girls is being done in an open walled, roofed shed,” she explained.

The Adrian Dominican Sisters are a Congregation of Catholic women religious in the Dominican Order. The Motherhouse is located in Adrian, Michigan. The congregation has more than 1,000 sisters and associates in 32 states and five countries, who minister in such areas as health, education, pastoral care, and peace and justice issues. To learn more, visit our website at www.adriandominicans.org