Year Joined MKLM: 2018
Ministry: HOPE (Helping Orphans Pursue Education) Project. Educational support for vulnerable children.
Ministry Area: Education
Nonviolence Focus: Prevention. The HOPE Project provides youth with the education and life skills to break the cycle of poverty and become self-reliant, productive members of society.
Goals of Ministry:
To provide orphans and vulnerable children with access to an education, the prospect of a career, self-reliance, and the opportunity to thrive in life; to help provide a healthy and safe environment for these children to learn, grow and mature; to rescue or prevent children from living on the streets, where they are vulnerable to exploitation, radicalization, gangs, drugs and disease; and to reintegrate these children into society as valuable, contributing members.
More than 40% of the Kenyan population lives below the national poverty level, which aligns with the country’s unemployment rate. Kenya is also one of the most HIV-affected countries in the world, with an estimated 1.6 million people currently affected by the disease and many tens of thousands of new cases reported each year.
With approximately 36,000 AIDS-related deaths yearly, many children in Kenya have lost at least one parent to AIDS. Of the 2.6 million orphaned children, close to 1 million, or nearly 40% of all orphans lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
Rich is the director of the HOPE Project, which serves orphans and vulnerable children infected or affected by AIDS by providing tuition and school fees; uniforms and shoes; books and other school supplies; transportation, meals and in special cases, boarding and medical; weekly tutorial sessions; proactive monitoring of each child’s progress in school and at home; as well as counseling when needed.
The HOPE Project also runs a number of events for the orphans and their families to assist with social issues as well as provide spiritual enrichment. HOPE gives out food each month to 50 needy families and provides assistance to improve the living environments of our children and their families. This includes home repairs as well providing mattresses, beds, cooking units and solar lanterns.
As director, Rich is responsible for managing the operation and finances of the project, donor relations and funding, maintaining project data, project reporting and community relations.
Prior to becoming a Maryknoll lay missioner, Rich worked as a technical sales software engineer at IBM, where he was employed for 33 years — his entire professional career. As a technical sales professional, Rich worked with clients on the application of information technology to address business needs and improve insight into the operation of the business. Rich has a bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degree in electrical engineering.
Rich was active in both parish and community. In his parish, he was a long-time catechist and religious education teacher for both First Communion and Confirmation preparation. He served in parish ministries such as lector at Mass, visiting the homebound, participated in Bible studies and other parish activities. In the community, Rich cooked meals and coordinated volunteers every Saturday at a meal center in Lawrence, the poorest city in New England. Hot meals are served to hundreds of people daily in a restaurant style sit-down environment. Rich also did three domestic mission trips to work in St. Joseph’s, a homeless shelter in Oregon.
Rich says, “My approach to my ministry work and my life as a missioner is to strive to do everything, even the simple things of everyday life, with love. I’m not trying to save the world, but rather have others experience Christ in me through the way I live and share my life with them. I am inspired by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who said ‘Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.’ “