I was struck by the extreme contrast between the poverty of the slums and the economic boom in Nairobi. You see skyscrapers going up all over the city and then you travel just outside the city to the most abject poverty.
When you first enter the slums, you feel weighed down emotionally. Immediately though, the warmth of Br. Charles lifted that weight. The children in the schools welcomed us with music and dances. They made us feel at ease.
I was looking to see that the community was involved in the process and that the work was guided by the needs of those it served. It was clear that there was a relationship and that everyone was working together to accomplish their goals.
The spirit of Br. Charles lives in the many alumni of the school’s vocational programs. We got to meet some of the people who have participated in the hair dressing, auto repair and software training programs. One man, Joseph, stuck with me. He really believed in Br. Charles’ mantra of keeping a smile on your face, doing your work and doing it well. He now owns a business and is employing other program graduates.
The classrooms are filled with children eager to learn. Br. Charles and the Bannakaroli Brothers are filling urgent needs, but they are doing it in a slow and thoughtful way.
I am so grateful for this opportunity and I’m still processing all of it. This experience stirred my heart and has made me think. It affirmed for me the value of a vocation - my path doesn’t have to be packing up and moving to Africa. There are a million different ways to serve. Br. Charles taught us to work on the issues in front of you and find your path and the best way for you to contribute to make the world better.
We are all connected - we should improve the space in which we exist and ask others to do the same.
I looked at SLU while I was in high school, but like many, my default plan was an itch to get out of town. As soon as I came on campus I fell in love with SLU. This community is so special and I think that is tied to SLU’s Jesuit Mission. That mission is lived out in our classrooms and outside of them. I’m involved in the Overground Railroad to Literacy program.
Reflection by Suzy Kickham, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, studying philosophy and psychology. 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.