Florence Muia – Kenya

Linked with Upendo Village NFP.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “I believe every single life is worth living. If we can help even one out of the two million, then I think for me that will be a great achievement”.

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Florence Muia – Kenya

She works for the Upendo Village NFP.

Sister Florence Muia, 45 years old, is the fifth of nine children. She was born and bred in Machakos District, Eastern Kenya, and has been an Assumption Sister of Nairobi ASN for 28 years. Sister Florence ministers mainly to women and children affected by HIV/Aids at Upendo Village in Naivasha, Kenya.

As a visionary, she dreamed of a safe haven for women and children affected by the disease. Upendo, the Kiswahili word for love, is such a sanctuary. She devotes her energy, commitment and skills to the success of this ecumenical project. She directs the outreach programs of Upendo Village and works on securing funding and resources in Kenya.

Progressive planning helped her determine what was viable for her project at each stage of its development. She now spends a considerable amount of her time and energy on the managerial responsibilities and the business components of the program as well as with personal contacts. Using her skills to develop practical goals, realizable business plans, she has created a stable and a sustainable project.

Upendo Village is committed to the care of orphans by providing them with proper nutrition, counselling, healthcare, education and placement with extended family members. Opportunities for income generation are provided for the family to support the children in the future. Most of the children are below fifteen years of age and have lost one or both parents to Aids. Women are taught skills that will enable them to become self-sufficient. They learn how to tend kitchen gardens and rear chickens for their own nutritional needs as well as to provide poultry and eggs for sale.

Nine hundred and four (904) women, men, and children have participated in a program that provides counselling, nutrition, food and medicine to its clients. Healthy food supplies are packaged for persons with HIV/AIDS. Smaller amounts are shared with the caregivers who are in need of food.

Sr. Florence’s educational sessions debunk myths and provide accurate information about the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Residents and off-site clients are provided with guidance and education in the areas of nutrition, health education, HIV prevention and mental health services. They are also provided with clean, comfortable living spaces and urgent medical care by nursing staff. They also gain access to prescription drugs and governmental medical systems. Hospitality including nutritious hot meals and accommodation is offered to clients who travel far to attend the hospital.

Rooted in the belief that non-violence is key to right living, Sr. Florence is able to diffuse many potential conflicts with community and tribal leaders. Her focus is on what unites rather than what divides. She is keenly aware that such values as creating respect, practicing honesty, promoting justice and nurturing wholesome relationships establish non-violence.

She recognizes mutual partnerships and education as the solid foundation of her undertaking. These partnerships have helped develop a good base on which to build resources and practice responsible stewardship.

Fund raising efforts to benefit Upendo Village program continue to be held by school children, university students, Physicians For Human Rights chapters, religious organizations and concerned individuals across the United States. In addition to raising money, these events educate American citizens in the HIV/AIDS pandemic and help receptive individuals see faces, not statistics, behind HIV/AIDS victims. Much time has been spent in creating awareness in the United States of the African HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Sr. Florence had to convince people that her project had a firm business and practical foundation and that it would be successful. She has successfully engaged the media particularly in Chicago. She has respected the integrity of the small Christian communities and worked through them and with them to establish and maintain an ongoing involvement of faith-based structures. She has also given a number of mission talks in the Joliet Diocese, Green Bay Diocese and the Chicago Archdiocese.

A committed and skilled pioneer in her work with HIV/AIDS in rural Kenya, an area traditionally underserved, she is a source of inspiration, hope and healing in her community. She advocates for positive change with such groups as tribal leaders and interfaith involvement that reaches out to other churches. She is a person of integrity who practices non-violence in all of her relationships by creating respect, practicing honesty, promoting justice and nurturing wholesome relationships.

When Sr. Florence first spoke to the parish of Naivasha about her goals and vision of Upendo Village, the community was able to share her dream. Now the people of Naivasha think of it as ‘our’ project. These dreamers span two continents, linking people of hope in Kenya and in the United States, building a ‘global village of love’. (1000PeaceWomen).

NEW YORK — At the invitation of Franciscans International, Sr Florence Muia, ASN, an Assumption Sister of Nairobi, and Sr Sheila Kinsey, OSF actively participated in the 2006 High-Level Meeting on AIDS, which took place at UN Headquarters in NY (May 30 – June 2). Br Mike Perry, OFM of the Africa Desk was instrumental in making these arrangements. In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly called a special assembly (UNGASS) to focus attention on the global AIDS pandemic, examine the multiple responses by the world community, create instruments for collaboration and call on governments to strengthen their political commitment and financial contributions to the fight.

The High Level Review evaluated progress achieved, and also a number of outstanding challenges that inadvertently enable the virus to claim more lives and further weaken families, communities and nations. The High Level Review also provided greater space for the participation of non-governmental organizations, including faith-based groups, while recognizing the contributions of the values and spiritualities contained within the many and diverse faith traditions.

There was further recognition that the presence of faith does not mean the absence of science. Evidence-based approaches to prevention and care can work closely with faith-based approaches, but much will be required of each set of approaches for the HIV and AIDS pandemic to be effectively addressed. (full long text).

On 6/21/06, Sister Florence Muia (right), President and Founder of Upendo Village in Nairasha, Kenya Africa spoke to the club on the water project that the Naperville Rotary clubs funded.

Working hand-in-hand with the Wheaton Franciscans, Sister Muia was instrumental in developing Upendo Village, a grass roots endeavor that offers specialized treatment and counseling services for AIDS-infected women and children in Naivasha, Kenya. The Franciscan Sisters of Wheaton provided seed money for the renovation of a small school on a 4-acre piece of land outside Nairobi that was donated by the Diocese of Nakuru for outreach to AIDS victims. The enterprise was ultimately launched in May 2003.

Sister Beatrice Hernandez (left), Executive Director of Upendo Village is located in Wheaton (P.O. Box 449, Wheaton, IL 60189, Phone: 219-362-3807). For more information on Upendo Village, see Upendo Village.

links:

Rotary Club of Naperville;

pbs kids;

Trinity Lutheran Church.

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