Where are they now?
Catholic Digest shares the latest news on individuals previously featured in this column
By Julie Rattey
Violet and her family
“A BLESSING FOR VIOLET”
In May 2010, we introduced Violet (last name withheld for privacy) and her family from Kenya. When Violet and her brother Wycliffe were children, their family’s house was burned and their father was killed by a different tribe. When her mother fell ill, the family lost their employment and became homeless. At a local Catholic church they met Father Alex, an Augustinian of the Assumption, who helped them obtain assistance for food, medical care, schooling, and other resources. At the time we published our article, financial support had mostly dried up, leaving the children unable to continue their education and career training. The family was also unable to meet their rent. Thanks to your generous response, the Assumptionists were able to provide Violet’s family with money for food, rent, schooling fees, and other resources. Though the family is now on a better footing, they are in need of continued support.
Wycliffe’s heart beat quickly as he walked out of the hot sun and into school to check his exam results. Thanks to the help of the Assumptionists and donors including readers of Catholic Digest, he had been able to pay for his first year at the Co-operative College of Kenya in Nairobi, where he was studying business administration. Not only did he want an education and the job it would likely bring, but he would need a job to support his family. His mother had been chronically ill for years, and he had sisters to help support. He needed to do well on his first-year exam to propel him into a promising second year of studies.
Wycliffe anxiously scanned the test results for his grade. How did I do? A moment later, his mouth spread into a broad grin. Not only had he passed, but he had earned one of the better scores!
“It is so encouraging to see the growth in these young people over the past few years,” says Father Luc Martel, AA, who has helped arrange assistance for the family. “They are serious students and have shown a lot of maturity in facing the daily challenges of their mother’s illness and their need to manage the family. Wycliffe has become the man of the house and has exercised his responsibility with a lot of maturity and care. He has succeeded very well in his studies of business and accounting and I am confident that he has a promising future.”
Wycliffe is not the only one pursuing an education. “I have been in Sweden for the last seven months,” Violet wrote us. “I came here under a church program for youth affairs and am studying community services and development. I will be done by next fall and will then be going home.”
Catholic Digest recently spoke with Father Luc to assess the family’s situation. Their mother, who is bedridden, is in need of ongoing medical care. Two girls of the family are in need of financial assistance for schooling and/or job training, and Wycliffe and Violet may on occasion still need financial support.
“God willing, if I happen to complete my education,” Violet said in our 2010 article, “I would just like to help someone else like Father Alex helped me, and help my family in the way that I can.”
Support the Assumptionists’ work
Donations to support this family, and others ministered to by the Assumptionists, may be sent to:
The Augustinians of the Assumption
330 Market St.
Brighton MA 02135
Checks should be made out to “The Augustinians of the Assumption.” The “for” line should read “LYN September 2011” in order to be correctly distributed.
To learn more about the Assumptionists and their work around the world, visit assumption.us.
“RUNNING WITH KRISTINA”
In March 2006 we introduced Kristina (last name withheld for privacy), who moved from Lithuania to Chicago at 14 to live with her father but discovered it to be an abusive household. After a teacher discovered her situation, Kristina was moved to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a Chicago-based residence that has been providing residential and mentoring programs for children since 1887. At the time of publication, Kristina was preparing to attend college.
Kristina shielded her eyes from the sun, frowning as she compared the terrain to her coordinates. She had an hour left to complete her task... or her career as a military officer would be over before it had begun. Kristina rolled her shoulders to ease the weight of her pack and gazed at her compass. A shift in the grass a few yards away caught her attention.
You can do this, she told herself, keeping a wary eye on the departing snake. You’re almost there. It was Phase 1 of Kristina’s training at the Army’s officer candidate school in Fort Meade, South Dakota. She was proud of what she’d achieved so far — including making it through boot camp. Her high school running had helped, but those days of brutal training had been some of the most atrocious of her life.
But it was paying off. It had been an honor just to get into OCS, and she’d made it to the final stretch of this phase. First, she and her fellow candidates had been sent out in a group, then in pairs, then individually. Each time they’d been given a map, a compass, coordinates, and a list of points to reach. One mistake was a ticket back home.
Once more Kristina compared the terrain to her map. Got it. This way.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Kristina later told us, having successfully completed the program. “I was very proud.”
Kristina had begun her training after graduating from Elmhurst College in 2009 — her education was made possible thanks to a scholarship and the generosity of a Mercy Home donor — and becoming a United States citizen in the same year.
“I thought joining the military would be a good way to say thank you for what this country has done for me,” she says. “At Mercy Home, I had people who were not related by blood who were just helping me because they were passionate about helping people. The staff people were my family. This is the country I owe my ‘teenagehood’ to.”
Kristina keeps in touch with friends and mentors from Mercy Home, and also occasionally with her mother, who lives in Europe. She credits her boyfriend Jeff as a blessing in her life.
Kristina is now pursuing a nursing degree paid for by the military. She hopes to get her commission, become a lieutenant, get married, and have children — an impressive list of ambitions that she credits Mercy Home with helping to prepare her for.
“I’m blown away by the impact of Mercy so many years later,” she says. “I just wish those people would know that the stuff that they do for us doesn’t go to waste. It’s with us for life. There’s no way I could ever say thank you enough.”
Support Mercy Home’s work
To help young people like Kristina with a donation, call 1-877-MERCY-55 or visit mercyhome.org. To learn more about Mercy Home, visit the website or call 312-738-7560. If you are a child in need, or if you wish to refer a child, call 1-877-24-START.