Meeting the grassroots and raising awareness

Following the three-day UNEP meeting (March 18-20, 2019) in Nairobi, I had a chance to visit and meet with some VIVAT members in Kenya.  One of the three parishes I visited was Soweto. It is a parish in slum area of Nairobi, most of whose people are poor.  Fr. Leon Ipoma Mbo Nzali, SVD who is the secretary of VIVAT Kenya and Brother Lawrence Kibaara, SVD live and work in the parish serving the poor and marginalized.  The parish runs a primary school which accepts children of various ethnic and religious backgrounds most of whom are poor.  Not far from the rectory there is a SVD formation house for SVD candidates where we got an opportunity to introduce VIVAT International to the Brother candidates bringing to their attention how VIVAT works and addresses issues at grassroots level and how they can contribute to VIVAT advocacy work.

Late in the afternoon Fr. Amaldoss Rethinasamy, SVD, the mission secretary and Superior Delegate of SVD Kenya Province, brought me to SVD Theologate Formation Centre in Langata, Nairobi where I could meet with VIVAT members, including some formators and formandis. Our journey that day ended with a meeting with the Seminarians and their formators in St. Joseph Freinademetz House – Philosophy Centre, where I had another opportunity to talk to the seminarians about what VIVAT is and what they could do to support VIVAT advocacy work both at grassroots (local and national) and global (UN) levels.  Moderated by Fr. Eric Lacandula, SVD, Prefect of the formation house and JPIC Coordinator SVD Kenya Province, this meeting was aimed at raising the awareness on VIVAT Members that they all are VIVAT members and that all of them must promote VIVAT through their activities at national, regional and international levels.  Through this meeting it was clarified that VIVAT is not a profit-oriented organization; it focuses on advocacy.  This advocacy work can not be done alone but in collaboration and networking with other  stake-holders.

The meeting went on well with a lot of questions of curiosity and comments of enthusiasm.  Frs. Eric and Samy thanked VIVAT International for its visit to Kenya and for its advocacy work at the United Nations.

In both meetings, I emphasized the role of JPIC coordinators of at national levels and VIVAT Kenya to promote VIVAT among its members, to raise awareness of  VIVAT members about the current problems, challenges and opportunities, and to strengthen their commitments to doing its mission of promoting life, dignity and human rights. 

By Robert Mirsel, SVD