Regional Convening at Nairobi, 16th -18th May 2023
The conference was organized by the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) and GHR Foundation, in partnership with the Association of Member Episcopal Conference of Eastern Africa (AMECE). The theme for the convening was “Reading the Signs of Times Together: Catholic Care for Children”.
Episcopal leaders, Catholic priests and sisters, Catholic Care for Children members from Eastern Africa and Sri Lanka, government representatives from Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia, representatives from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), research scholars from various universities, funding organizations, journalist, representatives from media and a few NGOs engaged in child care, were present in the conference.
The main focus of the convening was to explore how Catholic church, especially Catholic sisters as the main group of care providers, national and local governments, along with other key stakeholders, can work together to advance care reform to ensure children grow in safe, nurturing families or family like environments.
Honouring the word of Jesus from the Gospel of St. Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”, begun each day with a reflection. The gathering was graced with the welcome notes by Sr. Josephine Kangogo from the Congregation of Daughters of Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Chair of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya, Ms. Mary Thongo from National Council for Children Kenya, Ms Kathleen Mahony, Senior Program Officer of GHR Foundation.
Most Rev. Martin Kivuva the Archbishop of Mombasa and the Chair of KCCB in his keynote highlighted that God is close to children and are precious to His eyes, families are central to Gods plan of His children. Further he emphasised saying family is the sanctuary of life and the place for the children to love and to be loved.
The Regional gathering of Nairobi was based on two emerging signs of the times- the global trend in care reform and the concern of safeguarding children. Care reform is gaining momentum globally as the social sciences fuel changes in legal frameworks and national policies that discouraged residential care and encourage family and community-based care for children. In responding to the care reform making family and community a safer place for the child to return is crucial.
Dr. Ronald Luwangula, from Makerere University Uganda and Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, executive secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Rome were the invited panelists for the convening. Dr. Ronald in his presentation emphasising the first sign of the time “care reform” explained why reform in care is important and how it affects the life of a child on the long run. Fr. Andrew Small focusing the second sign of the time- “safeguarding of children” reminded the participants of the Pope’s message on caring for the minors. He also emphasised the church’s teaching and its responsibility to strengthen the safeguarding of children. He urged the gathering to take the initiative to do so without further delay, in case they had not attempted to do it earlier. He motivated the stakeholders of child care projects to be Hopeful, to Heal the Broken and be Kind….
Official launching of “Regional Portrait of Catholic Care for Children in Eastern Africa”, added value to the event. This regional portrait has been a collaborative effort of UISG Catholic Care for Children International (CCCI), four national associations of religious in Eastern Africa, who sponsor Catholic Care for Children (CCC) programmes in their regions which includes Kenya (AOSK), Malawi (AWRIM), Uganda (ARU) and Zambia (ZAS), the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) and GHR Foundation (USA). This regional portrait presents Catholic-sponsored care for children in Eastern Africa using data from Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. Also, it describes the growing efforts, led by women and men religious, to ensure that children grow up in safe nurturing families or family-like environments rather than in institutions. It sheds insights for those interested in the wellbeing of children and hold the vision of a family for every child. (View the PDF “Regional Portrait of Catholic Care for Children in Eastern Africa”)
Presenting the findings of the midterm evaluation of Catholic Care for Children in Kenya (CCCK) by Ms. Nicole Moran, the consultant of the CCCK evaluation and Sr. Delvin Mukhwana, the program manager of the CCC Kenya opened the space for the participants to learn from the experiences of people who worked hard in bringing changes in the care sector in Kenya. The findings of the evaluation highlighted five main strategies that had supported them in their work in transitioning from institution to family care – winning hearts and minds, capacity development, collaboration and partnership, family strengthening and resource mobilization.
Engaging all stakeholders who were at the convening to share their contribution for care reform and safeguarding and to reflect further on what more they could do in accomplishing a family for every child emphasised the important of collaborative efforts. The participants were divided into stakeholders’ groups to discuss what they can contribute towards child care reform, based on the five key points for the safe transition of children from Institutional Care to Family- and Community-based care. This session highlighted the responsibility that each stakeholder had towards the success of this mission.
“From the way children are treated, society can be judged”. – Pope Francis. We are called to find best ways to treat them.