Year Joined MKLM: 1983
Focus: Healthcare and health promotion
Project: Uzima Centre
Population Served: People affected by HIV/ and vulnerable children
Description: Help people living with HIV learn how to manage their health. Joanne’s support-group meetings offer a time to share information, sing, share stories and encourage one another.
That adults and children living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children may have healthy and productive lives.
Joanne feels blessed to be serving as the Director of Uzima Centre. Uzima is a Swahili word that means wholeness, wellness or fullness of life. By offering hope, healthcare and education, lives are being transformed.
Through education and counseling at Uzima Centre, people living with HIV learn how to manage their health. Joanne’s support-group meetings offer a time to sing, share stories and encourage one another. For women who are HIV positive, the challenges are many, as they fear what they might pass onto their children, and the Centre has a special program which assists over 80 children who have been HIV positive since birth. Twenty have now reached their teens and many are attending secondary school. It is exciting to see these wonderful young people fulfill their dreams.
Joanne runs a program for orphans and vulnerable children, which supports them from first grade on. She knows that only through education will their generation overcome poverty. Uzima Centre offers assistance with medical care, nutrition and school supplies, enabling them to stay healthy and to stay in school. All of the children live with a relative. Joanne looks forward to Saturdays, when they come to the Centre for recreational and educational activities, a safe environment in which they can play, learn, share and be themselves. Secondary students are invited to participate in the Centre’s “Bongo Bead” project, where they can earn money making bead jewelry out of recycled paper. This not only teaches them a handicraft, but more importantly they learn to manage their own earnings and expenses. Some will continue academic or vocational studies. They put their whole heart and soul into their studies. All they need is the opportunity.
Joanne reflects, “Every person I encounter has something to teach me. We accompany each other on this journey we share, always trusting that God’s plan is for each of us to ‘have life and have it to the full.’ John 10:10”
Joanne has a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from San Diego State University and worked as a laboratory technologist in La Jolla, California. She volunteered with the Catholic Worker Soup Kitchen in San Diego, and Los Niños, a San Diego-based program that served people in Tijuana, Mexico.
Joanne shares, “I was searching for a way to integrate my faith, professional skills and desire for cross cultural service. So many people around the world lacked the opportunities that I had been given. I wanted to give back.” This led her to Maryknoll Lay Missioners and her first ministry was at a rural parish clinic in Tanzania. Over the years, she has also conducted parish leadership training and retreats, taught English and Religion, and served in various administrative positions.
Joanne is married to Martin Miya. Together they raised five children.