Kenya First Lady Margaret Kenyatta today joined the Children of God Relief Institute (COGRI) fraternity during celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary since the inception of the orphanage in 1992.
After listening to stories of hope and resilience from both the managers and alumni of the Children’s Home, the First Lady said all children deserve the chance to fulfill their God-given potential.
“We are here to celebrate the transformation of the lives of children who have thrived, refusing to deny themselves the opportunity to reach their full potential through education”, said the First Lady
COGRI Executive Director Sr Mary Owens and Board Chairman Prof. Dominic Makawiti shared the memories of Fr. Angelo D’Agostino-the founder of the Children’s Home- and the initial challenges and obstacles in establishing the orphanage that admitted babies abandoned in hospitals and roadsides due to their suspected HIV status.
One of the pioneer alumnus of Nyumbani and the current President of the over 50-member Alumni Association John Mwangi gave a moving testimony of his journey at the home since 1996 when he joined it aged only 6 years.
Despite his struggle with HIV as a child, said Mwangi, he has eventually managed to successfully go through the law school and awaits to join the bar next year.
Mwangi’s story did not escape the First Lady who observed that many other Nyumbani alumnus had gone ahead to serve the country as lawyers, teachers, nurses, fashion designers and social workers among other careers.
“Because of education, these children have been to places that in the early years of HIV and Aids, we would never have imagined”, said the First Lady who applauded the many partners and volunteers from all other the world who have supported the orphanage over the last 25 years.
“I also I applaud the outstanding work of the Children of God Relief Institute – Nyumbani, and its dedicated community of staff, house mothers and care givers. Thank you for your enormous commitment”, she said.
She said the celebrations should serve as a reminder to individual Kenyans and the society of their huge responsibility to safeguard the rights of others and the need to renew the commitment to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
“Let this day remind us of the power we have to positively impact lives of vulnerable communities through optimism and resilience”, said the First Lady who paid a special tribute to Father D’Agostino.
“Core to Fr. Agostino’s vision was to provide holistic, quality care and treatment for HIV children who faced stigma and discrimination, who were abandoned and hidden from society. His was a tireless and unshakable resolve to make available antiretroviral medication for Nyumbani Home children as far back as 1999”, said the First Lady.
Over the years, some of the abandoned children admitted to Nyumbani would later test HIV negative but the orphanage became their permanent home until their discharge to the society on completion of either secondary or technical education.
An estimated 20,000 children have gone through the COGRI programs from several areas including Nairobi and Kitui where the program operates another village. Currently, there are 124 children being cared for at the Nyumbani home.
Organizations and Countries represented at the celebrations that incorporated a Eucharistic mass included USAID, Britain, Ireland, Italy and Spain
The celebrations at Nyumbani coincided with Sr Mary’s birthday who turned 79 today.