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Margaret Kirsch

When I first saw the application for the Opus Prize Ambassador position, I immediately was interested and wanted to apply. There are unsung heroes all over the world, and this organization recognizes these humble and selfless individuals in a way that truly makes a difference.

Margaret Kirsch

Margaret Kirsch. Photo by Maggie Rotermund.

I had the opportunity to take part in the due diligence visit to the Bannakaroli Brothers of St. Charles Lwanga in honor of Brother Charles Nuwagaba in Nairobi, Kenya. This experience was special and eye-opening to see and appreciate the good, humble work these Brothers have dedicated their lives to.

Something that stuck out to me in our time there is the care and compassion of Brother Charles. In all our conversations, he emphasized giving dignity and hope to those in need and how faith leads to hope which then leads to change.

I witnessed him living this out in his interactions with those at the school and when we went out into the community. In the classrooms, he related with the children and encouraged and praised them in their recitation of the alphabet for us. When we walked through the Kibera slum and visited the home of one of the students, he took time to tell the mother what a wonderful job she is doing raising her children and encouraged her to come and consider the vocational training programs so that she can help provide for her family as well.

These are just a few examples, but this characteristic of Brother Charles giving dignity and hope stands out to me.

Something I will always remember about Brother Charles is how personable he is and how he truly cares about each person he encounters. Each time I had a chance to talk with him individually, he expressed such genuine interest and care in each word he spoke and shared with me. 

In addition to the opportunity to get to know Brother Charles, we witnessed the work of the Brothers and saw how it is changing lives of those going to school and vocational training. I was inspired as we walked around the different areas of vocational training and talked with those in the programs about what they liked and what they plan to do with their training once they finish.

We also witnessed the success of students who finished training and were out working around the city which was inspiring as well. The conditions that so many of these students live in and go home to are unbearable, yet they are excelling in school and training programs.

I remind myself not to take the opportunities I have been blessed with for granted. I am learning now so that I may give back going forward.”

Margaret Kirsch, SLU Opus Prize Ambassador

After seeing the conditions that the people of Kibera are living in, it is hard not to think about it every day. If it didn’t have an impact on my life, I would be concerned. 

The living situations of so many, the smells, the bugs everywhere, the sewage running down the roadway are all things that I will never forget. It is hard not to become deeply discouraged and saddened by the reality of this happening each day while I live my life. However, I remember the work the Bannakaroli Brothers are doing to help people in these situations and how that makes a difference. 

The problems in Kibera are deeply rooted and will take a long time to resolve, but the Brothers have committed their lives to helping these individuals.

Brother Charles said he truly believes in the importance of teaching a man to fish and not just giving him the fish because once you give a person the skills to succeed, you have no idea how many other people that individual is helping as well. 

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to accompany on this trip and see the wonderful work of the Bannakaroli Brothers in honor of Brother Charles Nuwagaba. I do not recall a day that has gone by since then that I do not think about my time in Kenya.

I have been blessed to travel to Ethiopia and Kenya a few times each now, and I immediately feel at home. There is something special about the place, the people, and the instant comfort I feel being there. The disparities I witnessed are hard to sit with, but I try to allow these truths to motivate me in how I live my life. I remind myself not to take the opportunities I have been blessed with for granted. I am learning now so that I may give back going forward. 

My sister attended SLU two years ahead of me. I came and visited her a few times, and instantly fell in love with the campus and everything I learned about SLU in my visits. I had been looking at only Jesuit Universities in the Midwest area, and SLU was the perfect fit. I am part of the Micah Community and have found a great community on campus and in the Saint Louis area through that. SLU has become my home, and I am forever grateful for my education and time here.   

Reflection by Margaret Kirsch, a senior from Waconia, Minnesota, studying nutrition and dietetics in the Doisy College of Health Sciences. She evaluated Bannakaroli Brothers of St. Charles Lwanga in Nairobi, Kenya. The Bannakaroli are the first indigenous order of men in Africa. The headquarters are in Kiteredde, near Masaka, in the southwest region of Uganda. The focus of the Bannakaroli is education and evangelization.