Sister Florence Muia, 45 years old, is the fifth of nine children. She was born and bred in Machakos District, Eastern Kenya, and has been an Assumption Sister of Nairobi (ASN) for 28 years. Sister Florence ministers mainly to women and children affected by HIV/Aids at Upendo Village in Naivasha, Kenya. As a visionary, she dreamed of a safe haven for women and children affected by the disease. Upendo, the Kiswahili word for love, is such a sanctuary. She devotes her energy, commitment and skills to the success of this ecumenical project.
Approximately 2.2 million Kenyans are living with the HIV/Aids virus. Sister Florence has chosen to work with the Kenyan community to build bridges of hope and healing for people affected by the pandemic. She is primarily concerned with the pandemic in the rural area of Naivasha. Kenya is a poor country, and rural areas are acutely affected by poverty. Sister Florence was keenly aware that international support was necessary for an outreach program to become self-sufficient and independent. She also wanted the beneficiaries to have ownership of the program. With financial support and mentoring from the Wheaton Franciscans, she learnt the techniques necessary for working with charitable boards and non-profit organisations. This included learning how to provide required information in order to solicit assistance in addressing the struggles of the poor. She visited a number of programs in Chicago that had relevance to Upendo Village. These included a local HIV/Aids organisation, a domestic-violence shelter and a comprehensive agency that serves a variety of needs of persons who are poor. From these visits Sister Florence gained insights about policies, regulations and job descriptions that would help her in establishing her own non-profit organization. She has also become involved in national and international HIV/Aids organisations and met people from the National Catholic Aids Network, who challenged her and helped her refine her dream. She is skilled in political advocacy and has visited elected officials to promote help for the HIV/Aids pandemic.