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Grants in Action: African Sisters Share Updates

Sister Lina Wanjiku (r.) shows BVM President LaDonna Manternach the region were the Sisters of Emmanuel minister to those most in need.

by Kari Litscher

Sister Lina Wanjiku Hunger Fund and Ministry
Partnership Grant Recipient
Sister Lina Wanjiku, Superior General of the Sisters of Emmanuel in Kenya, Africa, visited Dubuque, Iowa, in early May to meet with BVM sisters  and to thank them for their support. Lina’s connection with the Sisters of Charity, BVM began when she met Pat Bombard, BVM through her  work with the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC), an organization that facilitates access to education for women religious in Africa.

Pat is an advisory board member; Lina is Regional Director for East and Central Africa. In support of Lina’s congregation, Pat recommended the  Sisters of Emmanuel for multiple BVM financial awards. Lina’s presentation highlighted the impact on her congregation from BVM funds  through Hunger Fund and Ministry Partnership Grants.

The Grants in Action

With BVM support, Sisters of Emmanuel purchased an industrial computerized embroidery machine, changing the lives of the women and young girls in their care.

With the first grant, Sisters of Emmanuel was able to support a feeding program in the neighboring slums affected by drugs and alcoholism. Due to COVID, the program was struggling—need for food increased, funds dwindled, and sisters had been sent home on unpaid leave due to  financial constraints. The BVM Hunger Fund arrived at this time and saved the program. Lina shares, “This fund gave a lot of hope to the  beneficiaries living in the slums and put a smile on their face.”

The second grant was utilized to create the Emmanuel Skills Centre. During the hardships that COVID produced, the sisters had an epiphany . . . they realized they “needed to teach the women and children how to care for themselves.” Tailoring, hair dressing, soap making, beadwork,  and embroidery classes began.

With BVM support, Sisters of Emmanuel purchased an industrial computerized embroidery machine. The machine streamlines the process of  making church/liturgical vestments, altar linens, and school uniforms. It also allows for larger quantities of commercial work, such as logo work
and specialty items, to be ordered and  completed, creating more opportunities for the women.

Pat notes, “The knowledge and job training the women and girls receive will in turn help them to come out from under the pattern of  dysfunctional families and the oppressive society in which they live.”

“You taught us how to fish and gave us the fishing net with this embroidery machine,” professes Lina. The income generated from  embroidering jobs sustains the skill center, gives students the instruction they need to find jobs outside of the center, and helps many
start their own business.

Young mothers enrolled in the center are able to bring their children with them and place them in the center’s daycare or pre-K through second grade classes. BVM funds help support the children’s programs at the vocation training center. Without a place for their children to go,  many women would not be able to attend the center programs.

The combination of training and childcare is life-changing. For many students  and neighbors, the economic and environmental struggles are palpable and large in scope. But there is so much hope.

With a grateful and optimistic heart, Lina says, “You are here, but you are changing so many lives through us in Africa. The ripple effect of your help is significant.  Thank you for accepting to partner with us. Your support is critical . . . you are our mothers, our springboard. We are able to spring very high  from your shoulders to transform the landscape of Africa.”

To learn more about Sisters of Emmanuel in Kenya, visit:

Sister Clarisse Remjika Jaiwo, SST
Hunger Fund Recipient

BVMs Jacquelyn (John Kathleen) Cramer (l.), Mary Anne (Leslie) Bradish, and Linda Roby gather around Sister Clarisse Remjika Jaiwao, SST.

Sister Clarisse Remjika Jaiwo, SST is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus of Buea, in Cameroon, Africa.  She began service with African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) from October 2013, and currently holds the position of Country Director for Cameroon and Coordinator for Africa.

She also met Pat Bombard, BVM through her work with ASEC. Clarisse wanted to share with BVM  sisters the impact the 2021 Hunger Fund Grant funds were making in helping alleviate hunger and suffering, especially among women and  expectant mothers, displaced by civil unrest in northwestern and southwestern regions of Cameroon. Due to their circumstances, the women  did not have the means to provide for themselves or their babies.

Over 15,000 people have been displaced . . . many “ran to the towns,” live in deplorable conditions, cannot meet their own needs, and have  become highly vulnerable. The most vulnerable are women and young girls who have increasingly become victims of sexual harassment/abuse and become pregnant.

Hunger Funds in Action
Utilizing BVM Hunger Funds, the  community was able to provide food, supplies, sanitation items, and buckets to carry clean water for people  in four communities, purchase food for the SST sisters in two formation houses, and were able to provide items to displaced expectant  mothers.

Clarisse shares that as they distributed the resources, many people would keep returning, requesting more food/supplies because they do not have the skills or resources needed to care for themselves. “We identified a need to provide ‘seed money’ so that they can do little businesses  for themselves, especially for the women, so they can provide for themselves and their families, instead of constantly coming back and asking, ‘Can we have some more?’”

Helping women establish small businesses such as hairdressing, weaving, growing/selling fruit, and reselling food  items from other communities will be transformative. “They just need a little amount and from that they can thrive . . . as long as they are assisted,” Clarisse  explains.

Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus of Buea helps the women get started and teaches them how to keep records and expects them to save  funds, so they can reinvest and grow.

The sisters train the women to fight the urge to spend their income right away on their needs, but rather to have a long term view of their  situation. “We make sure they maintain some capital along the way,” she says. Clarisse says, “We remain grateful to the Sisters of Charity of the  Blessed Virgin Mary for their support to us and the internally displaced persons in the North and Southwest regions of Cameroon . . . thank you very, very much.”

To learn more about Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus of Buea, visit:

This story was featured in:

FALL 2023: 190 Years, From Dublin to Dubuque, Around the World

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