Sister Rose Wangui, VHM
Rose Wangui grew up in the village of Lare, Kenya. She was born to a large family that provided much love and support to her as she matured into a young woman. After attending elementary school she attended high school and worked with the Sisters of Mercy at the Mercy hospital in the Rift Valley. At her tender age and while attending religious education classes, she observed nuns working in the garden and became inspired to become a nun herself. Sr. Rose also developed a love for helping people especially the poor from these early years in Kenya. She described how it was to grow up in Kenya in the 1970’s:
“I woke up very early in the morning. We did not have much water, so we washed our face in the morning and our feet at night ... if there was any food left over I would pack it up for us to carry to school. We would run seven miles to school and arrive there before 7:30 am. I would come home around 5:00 pm and go for water. Then I would get into doing housework, cooking and washing dishes after school. On my legs I have so many scars because I got so many cuts while cutting firewood or working in the garden. Because of carrying big loads of firewood and water containers, the doctor says I have a ‘caved back’. Despite all this, I count myself blessed because among the many girls in my age group, in both villages in which I lived, it was only me who went to high school. Even now at the dawn of the 21st century women and girls in my village and in all rural areas of Kenya, continue to carry the same burdens, harassment from male and boys and no time to study. As a result many get pregnant and drop out. The only good that can happen for these girls is to offer them an education.”
Lare, a vast agricultural district located in the Great Rift Valley of central Kenya, has approximately 40,000 people living in scattered clusters of villages over 150,000 acres. The land is privately owned and cultivated by families who had relocated to the Rift Valley as part of a Homestead Act from the late 1960’s. A typical home is built of mud and sticks, corrugated metal sheeting for roofs and straw mats covering the dirt floor for sleeping. Nearby streams and creeks are used for bathing, washing clothes and drinking water.
The majority of people in the village of Lare are peasant farmers dependent on the land for their sub-standard livelihoods. Consequently, many parents or young heads of households, often lack money for basic necessities to provide for their children. As a result, many children drop out of school to help support the family, especially girls.
In Lare, health care is simply unaffordable due to the cost of transportation to the closest town of Nakuru or Nairobi. Additionally, the fees for consultation, treatment and medicines remain prohibitive.
The Mercy project fully reflects the vision and faith of Sr. Rose Wangui, VHM, whose efforts succeeded in building and funding a water well that now provides clean water and a health clinic that provides basic medical care for the families of Lare, Kenya. The third phase of her vision is the building and completion of a secondary school named the Mother of Mercy Girls Secondary School dedicated to the empowerment and education of girls. With support from the Mercy Center Foundation, USA the first three classrooms of the overall master plan for the secondary school were completed in March 2013. There are four remaining classrooms to be built, a dining area and the administration building, which will house the office of the Head Mistress and faculty with support staff.
The Mother of Mercy Girl’s School is open to all girls ages 13-18 in the surrounding area of Lare and Nakuru County. This region is experiencing a high incidence of school dropout rates for girls in this particular age group. Often, the parents lack the funding due to poverty to support their children to attend, forcing many to migrate from Lare to cities to look for work. Often unskilled, these girls are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked, abused or neglected by their families and/or employers. Many remain very vulnerable and unfortunately too many become prostitutes or street children and large numbers become pregnant at early ages, HIV infected or addicted to illegal drugs.
Thus far, the Mother of Mercy School has enrolled 205 girls to begin their Secondary school education. Although they are in three cramped classrooms, the expansion and completion of the project would allow the Mother of Mercy School to provide dormitory space and to educate 250 more girls, bringing the full capacity of the school to almost 350 girls. Without completion of the school, opportunities for education will be impossible, and the girls of the Rift Valley will be left behind.
In the future, Sr. Rose is working together with the Mercy Center to complete the school complex and support vulnerable girls to attend secondary school. She is also interested to bring together students and teachers through international exchange programs to build understanding and support for the continued empowerment of girls and communities in Kenya. She is also working on international agricultural program support and food security plans for the school.
Both Sister Rose and the Mercy Center Foundation, USA welcome your support.