The organization Growing Community Roots is the bridge created to further the ministry our Sister Rosita Aranita, CSJ began in southwest Kenya, an area where eight out of 10 people live in poverty.
Growing Community Roots invests directly in water catchment systems that provide safe water for drinking and bathing, latrines that offer privacy and washrooms, and wash stands, fencing for community gardens that ensure children have nutritious meals at school and tree farms that help address the critical deforestation problem that exists in Homa Bay.
Sister Rosita went to Kenya after meeting Kenyan student David Opap at University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota. She traveled with David to meet the village leaders and learn more about the culture. She stayed five months, living with the Franciscans of St. Joseph. With the help of Father Ombok, she met the people, tribal leaders and parish leaders. They shared with her the most pressing needs of their communities. Together, they identified 36 schools in West Karachuonyo of the Rachuonyo District, all of them in need of water and sanitation.
Two consociates from our St. Paul Province, Anita S. Duckor and Anne Hannahan, and Sister Irene O’Neill went to West Kenya to see firsthand the work that Sister Rosita had started and nurtured. Their visit was the beginning force behind building that bridge from the United States to the eastern shore of Lake Victoria, Kenya.
Mary Lieta, a consociate in Kenya, guided the three to the most poverty-stricken areas—schools, communities and houses without the basic infrastructure of water and sanitation. The visitors also met community leaders and school principals of the IMBO Community Action Program (ICAP), a certified non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kenya that is a partner of Growing Community Roots in West Kenya.
Seeing first-hand the incredible needs of the schools, Anita and Anne returned home and began the process of establishing a nonprofit to raise funds for safe water and sanitation. Growing Community Roots was established and received its nonprofit status in 2014. It is an all-volunteer organization.
We built Growing Community Roots to include representation from Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet across the United States with board members that include Sister Angela Faustina from our Los Angeles Province; Sister Linda Neil and Associate Dorothy Hathway from our Albany Province; Sister Maureen Freeman from our St. Louis Province; and Sister Therese Sherlock and Consociate Ann Shields from our St. Paul Province.
Three Kenyan consociates serve on the IMBO Community Action Program Board: Mary Lieta, Leah Lieta and Serphine Mambe. Samuel Lieta, the CEO of ICAP, is also a consociate, and other Kenyan consociates include Roseanne Akinyi, Oseanne Ochien’G, Emmaculate Okuta and Margaret Wanda. These committed consociates animate the “profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction” and by working toward social, economic and ecological justice in the Homa Bay area of Kenya.
Our partnership explicitly demonstrates our call to respond boldly to injustices in the world and exemplifies our commitment to work toward dismantling interlocking systems of oppression by standing with the poor and the oppressed, especially with women and girls.
Each year IMBO Community Action Program submits a school project for Growing Community Roots to consider fundraising for. Living our principle of subsidiarity, all recommended projects are approved by the community-based leaders in Kenya. We then raise funds for the approved project.
To learn more about the 12 schools where we have finished our work, visit the Growing Community Roots website at www.growingcommunityroots.org.