ST. ALOYSIUS GONZAGA SECONDARY SCHOOL
World’s First High School for AIDS Orphans
Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, June 21, 2012
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
It is a joy to write you as we celebrate St. Aloysius’ Feast Day. In our ninth year, we offer our gratitude to you for the 271 students currently at St. Al’s and the 197 alumni continuing their studies in the service year, post-high school trade and college education. Without you, and without St. Al’s, life for these AIDS orphans in the Kibera slum would have no hope. With your generous support of St. Al’s, these students are given a life-changing opportunity!
While we celebrate our feast day in our modern school building, we must not forget the difficult situations from which our students come in Kibera slum. Life is never easy in Kibera, and the situation of our students having lost one or both of their parents to AIDS/HIV is especially difficult. Most live with relatives, but some find themselves completely alone. Kevin and Evans, both seniors, are clear examples. They were somehow managing to raise the monthly rent of about $10 for a room and surviving on the breakfast and lunch we supply on school days. When the school administration learned of their plight, the school committed to providing their basic needs through our social needs program. Still, life remains fragile in Kibera. One night in April, Evans awoke unable to breathe. Due to especially heavy rains this year, a mud wall of their room had collapsed on him. Kevin was able to gather neighbors quickly, and together they dug Evans out. The image of this rescue reminds me of how you, our benefactors, are rescuing our students from situations that could otherwise suffocate them. You are providing the education that is liberating them to live full and productive lives.
One wonderful accomplishment this year is the initiation of a medical option for our students. Thanks to an anonymous gift, we have been able to initiate a program with St. Mary’s Mission Hospital, a local low-cost hospital, to provide medical and dental check-ups to each student. In recent years, two of our students have died due to lack of access to medical care. With your help, we hope to build on this program to ensure our students receive the medical care they need.
We recently completed “Quest” retreats for our junior girls and boys. We are very pleased that this new tradition, which was introduced last year by students and faculty from Regis High School in New York City, is progressing nicely under our own leadership. This year, the retreat was prepared by five senior girls for the Girls’ Quest and five senior boys for the Boys’ Quest, along with four teachers and me for both retreats. Major responsibility for the retreat is taken by the senior student leaders; they each prepare a talk, and these five talks are the backbone of the retreat. Additionally, each leads an ongoing discussion group. The retreat focuses on knowing oneself in relationship with God and with others. It is difficult to capture in words how powerfully the retreat impacts the students. The most moving moments are probably when each retreatant speaks of the ups and downs of his or her life in the small group and later in a plenary session when each shares how God is present in his or her life. Much gratitude is expressed in the retreat - much of the gratitude is to you who make the education of our students possible. Our students emphasize how their lives were moving in a downward direction until they were offered the opportunity to come to St. Al’s and move forward with their education. In addition to the clear impact the retreat has spiritually, we have seen in both years that it also unites the class and helps our students support one another.
This year we have been able to furnish our library with shelves, student desks and a lovely workspace for the librarian. With the assistance of a generous donor and a container of books sent by Books for Africa, these resources are now readily available to our students.
With the help of the American People and a grant from the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) program we constructed a well to ensure our water supply into the future. We now have a great supply of pure, fresh water. Water is a symbol of life, and this abundance of water speaks of the rich life of the students, graduates, and all members of the St. Al’s family that we celebrate this year.
We are very grateful to all of you for the support and encouragement that you continue to provide. Your spiritual and financial contributions, big and small, make a difference in enabling us to give hope to our students through the quality education they receive in a caring environment. We are especially happy with the success of the Sponsorship Program which is one way of providing a concrete link between donors and particular students. Thanks for the special initiatives of friends or fellow-students who have joined together to sponsor a St. Al’s student at $1,200 per year.
Please visit our website at www.sagnairobi.org for the latest school news. Additionally, please pass this letter along to friends to share the success and continued needs of the students of St. Al’s.
As we celebrate the feast day of St. Aloysius, we welcome students, friends and benefactors from Georgetown University, Loyola University Chicago, Loyola Academy, Xavier University and from the College of the Holy Cross. Be assured that you are included in our celebration on St. Al’s Day as we express to God our gratitude for what so many have done to enable St. Al’s to prosper - giving hope to our bright youth through education and preparing them to move forward to love and to serve others.
Terry Charlton, S.J.
Society of Jesus Chicago-Detroit Province 2050 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614