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Sister Nancy Kamau, LSOSF, Expresses Thanks and Love as She Prepares to Return to Native Kenya
I am Sister Nancy Kamau, a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis from Kenya. The LSOSF are an indigenous community of religious women working in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Our charism is to serve the poor and needy, especially women and children of our society. The sisters work as educators, social workers, pastoral workers, nurses; caregivers for patients with HIV/AIDS, orphans, street children, people with disabilities, the blind and many other vulnerable members of our society.
I have always had a passion for making a difference in the life of other persons by helping them find meaning and purpose and encouraging them to become the very best they can be. A memorable coincidence in a childhood experience ignited this passion. Growing up in Kenya amidst poverty and the great effort to make ends meet contributed greatly to my developing life and leadership skills. I knew at an early age that great determination in life is vital to overcome difficulties. My father, a grade-school teacher, was the only breadwinner. To help subsidize my father's income, my mother and I sold vegetables in a local market. The situation changed when my mother had a car accident and broke her hip. At the age of ten, I dropped out of school to take care of my mother, two younger brothers and sister. Although I was only in fourth grade, I was the reliable "big sister" who took over duties and responsibilities in the family, including selling vegetables in the market. Although it took great courage and endurance on my part, the life skills I learned then became my motivational factor whenever I faced difficult challenges.
This childhood experience was revitalized when as a religious I relocated from Kenya to Tanzania to go to work with the Pare and Maasai people. Working with the Maasai people was not only challenging but also a learning experience. The Maasai, an ethnic group of people who have retained their culture and traditions over the years, consider strangers as intruders who want to initiate changes to their culture. It was clear, therefore, at my first meeting, that I was unwanted. However, I was determined to make a difference among this group of people and help them become the very best they could be within their own culture. The children raised my spirit after I had experienced denunciation from their families. Their love, friendship and eagerness to teach me their dialect eventually led both the Maasai and Pare families to accept me. Eventually I was initiated into the Masaai and Pare cultures. Thus, I was able to take up the role of leading, organizing and directing, as we developed projects that enhanced their culture and made a difference in their life.
For almost two years I have been at The College of Saint Rose pursuing my degree in business studies. As I await my graduation this May, I thank all of you Sisters of St. Joseph for your invaluable help, support and, most of all, your great love for me. In a special way, I thank the Sisters at Cathedral Convent who made so many sacrifices that gave me ease during my study and who constantly encouraged and prayed for me. It is because of your love, kindness, generosity and prayers that I have been able to complete my graduate studies. For this reason, I am so excited that Sister Kitty Hanley will hand me my degree on graduation day, a sign of all the CSJs' love for me. Know that you will always be part of my story and always in my prayers.
With the scholarships from The College of Saint Rose, housing from the CSJs and your generosity and that of many others, I have obtained the education which my bishop asked me to pursue, and I am better prepared to meet the challenges ahead, and they will be many, Sisters, I can never thank you enough. I love all of you, and I will miss you; you have become my family. May God bless each of you!
KARIBU AFRICA (meaning "You are most welcome to Africa!")
Sister Nancy (second from right) with her family in Kenya