Revamped program for teens launched - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2022 newsletter


Joanne Miya, Tanzania


Gaudensia and Irene share their thoughts at a meeting of our teen group.

Greetings from Uzima Centre. We hope and pray that all is well with you and your loved ones.

It’s 2022 and there is so much to be excited about. One of our goals was to revamp and update our program for the teens. The staff have worked hard to create a new year-long series of classes. Issues including identity, self-esteem, reproductive health and gender-based violence will be covered. These interactive lessons will incorporate role playing, group discussions, games and individual reflection. The first group of teens started in January.

Nicholas speaks to his peers.

In the right-hand photo, Nicholas is sharing his thoughts with the group. The question posed was, “Do my family and friends see me as I see myself?” Our hope is that the teens will gain a greater understanding of themselves and of each other — and in the process come to realize that they aren’t alone in their struggles.

Each member of the group is coming from a difficult background. Nicholas and his two younger brothers have been raised by an older brother ever since their mother left them nearly 10 years ago. Although I’m sure this affected them all deeply, they hold no resentment toward their mother. Maybe that’s the secret of how they have been able to persevere. They maintain a positive attitude, supporting each other, pushing forward together.

Shown in the top photo are Gaudensia and Irene, who are both in their last year of secondary school. Gaudensia’s stepfather wants to have her married off, but she is determined to finish school and join the army.

As a young child, Irene lost both of her parents. She is being raised by her stepmother. With dreams of becoming a lawyer, Irene must do well in school this year to continue her education. The girls face endless obstacles, including childhood marriages, teen pregnancies and the unfair burden of domestic chores.

Some of our girls come from families that do not have money to help them purchase feminine hygiene products, which means that they have no choice but to stay home from school when menstruating. How are they to succeed academically if they must miss days of school every month? Starting this year, we are assisting them with this need.

Issues of abandonment, abuse and neglect are common. Uzima Centre is trying to provide a safe place for these young people to process their experiences and to acquire the skills necessary to have a healthy and happy future.

Susanna’s Christmas bake-off

As you all know, Uzima Centre is funded by private donations and grants. Our donors come from all walks of life, each giving what they can. I was especially touched by a new donor, Susanna. She is 11 years old and the daughter of returned Maryknoll lay missioners and had visited us when her family lived in Tanzania. Last December she organized and virtually hosted a Zoom Christmas bake-off, which raised $50.

A donor in Chicago decided to start her own line of lip whips with the goal of having 10% of the proceeds go to Uzima Centre. I remember thinking “Who starts selling lip whip during a pandemic, when everyone is wearing masks?” But her sales continue to grow, and this is the second year we have received donations thanks to her lip whip! Never underestimate the power of a faith-filled woman with a mission! I love the creativity of these donors, each using their unique talents to help make the world a better place.

In February two special visitors — my granddaughters, Hawa and Hadija — helped with our Saturday program for first through fourth graders. I think they enjoyed it as much as the kids did. I have great hope in this next generation.

As we enter the season of Lent, I encourage each of you to reflect on how you can share your time, talents or resources to uplift others. A smile, a prayer, or an act of kindness can change someone’s day — and as a bonus — changes you as well! Let’s nudge this world a little bit closer to being a place where love can flourish and peace prevail.

Hawa and Hadija with some of the Uzima kids

I’ll end with this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”

May God bless you.
Peace, deep breaths and gratitude,
Joanne Miya

Email: or Uzima website:


Please consider making a special Lenten gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!

Joanne Miya
Joanne Miya joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 1983. She is the director of the Uzima Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania, whose mission is to provide hope, healthcare and education to adults and children living with HIV.