They affectionately call her “our mother.” Sister Seraphine has been leading the DfA sponsorship project for over 14 years and, together with her team, currently cares for 462 orphans. The 47-year-old nun knows all the children personally ever since they were accepted into the project at the age of about four to seven years.
The warm-hearted woman with the kind eyes and the shy smile has a particularly close relationship with the children who have lost a parent or even both parents. “The AIDS rate in western Kenya is over 20 percent, depending on the region,” she explains. When children lose their parents, they are placed with relatives. Some of them are very old grandparents who can’t really take care of the children. Often the children have lost several caregivers at a young age. Sometimes it seems as if an entire generation has disappeared.”
Working with traumatized children
Caring for these deeply traumatized children is no easy task. “When I took over the management of the sponsorship project at DfA in 2007, I often had to leave the room during consultations to calm down. I told the children that I had to get something for a moment. Then I went out and cried. Eventually, I enrolled in a youth counseling and therapy course to learn how to better deal with such situations.” Sister Seraphine is also there for adults. The members of the small community of Nyabondo come to their office to share their concerns. As an employee of an aid organization, Sister Seraphine is the point of contact for many who are hoping for support. But she can’t help everyone. “When parishioners come to me with their concerns, I often have to send them away,” says Sister Seraphine. It’s really hard for me because many people in our region suffer a lot.” In order to relieve Sister Seraphine, a committee was formed to select particularly needy children for the project. So, she does not have to decide for herself who is helped and cannot be held responsible for these decisions by her community.