St. Clare Girl’s Centre
In 2004 Fr. Riwa’s attention turned to the girls of Meru, who were becoming more of a presence on the streets. Little girls are the most endangered, prey to every disease and perversion. A myth has developed that a person can be cured of HIV/AIDS if he has sexual relations with a virgin, and the female children are victims of this myth. Every girl at the St. Clare Centre has an incredible story of survival.
Fr. Riwa began building the St. Clare Girls’ Centre to help these girls. The first eight girls were housed in Nchiru village homes. During the day they attended classes and took their meals under a mango tree beside the parish church. As more and more girls arrived seeking safety from the ravages of the streets, planning began for construction of the St. Clare Girls’ Centre.
St. Clare Girls’ Centre is also a refuge for girls running from arranged marriage and Female Genital Mutilation. In Kenya, young girls (6-12 years) are often forced to marry older men and must work as their slaves, laboring intensively, caring for livestock, carrying wood and water, and doing their husband’s bidding. These children are targeted and sexually abused by both their older husbands and young warriors. Many mothers help their daughters escape this slavery and flee to St. Clare.
The St. Clare Centre operates on the principle of “Simple Living, High Thinking” which is supported by four pillars of prayer, study, work and play. The success of the St. Clare Centre is best told in the words of the young children.
The St. Clare Girls’ Centre is much more than a school with a dormitory ….it is HOME. Staffed by caring individuals who act in several capacities the most important being parent, teacher and friend, the Centre becomes family for every abandoned girl who is fortunate enough to have been rescued from the destructive environment of the streets and welcomed into the nourishing arms of St. Clare. Each new girl is welcomed by a family of sisters and caring adults who provide structure and guidance paving the road to a productive future. As family, each girl is given nutritious meals, a bed of her own, challenging classes, friendship, companionship and a feeling of safety. Within a short period of time, each girl realizes they are HOME.
The Impact of the St. Clare Centre:
- The Centre saves the lives of hundreds of girls, year after year. Without access to the Centre they are doomed to live on the streets. No one escapes the streets unharmed.
- At St. Clare young girls discover and rediscover the joy and pleasure of childhood.
- At St. Clare, girls realize a new family, a safe haven from the rigors of the street where their teachers are like parents and their fellow orphans like sisters. They receive a quality education allowing them to secure employment and higher education.
- With a university degree the cultural “glass ceiling” is shattered. Professional women with a degree stand as equals, and can become part of the professional workforce Kenya desperately needs to develop and build the infrastructure of the country.
- Long term, the graduates of St. Clare, as educated, professional women, can assist in raising the status of women and girls in Kenya. Education is the key.