By Megan Smith – HealeyIRF Program Manager
In 2016, Healey International Relief (HealeyIRF) was awarded funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to provide higher education for Holy Sisters in Sierra Leone West Africa in nontraditional professions. There was a need to address the training of religious nuns to meet the changing socioeconomic demands of the 21st century. In addition, it offered advanced education for those who otherwise would not be able to bear the cost.
When given the opportunity, the Sisters in Sierra Leone were elated. There was a wide range of interests. However, the focus of the program was to support study that would help strengthen their religious order and the work they did.
HealeyIRF received many applications from local congregations in Sierra Leone. With the help of Fr. Peter Konteh, Director of Caritas Freetown, twenty-five students were admitted into the program. Budgets were completed by each student, listing their tuition per year, school supplies, books, cost of laptop and other needed equipment, internet service, travel and transportation. Late 2016, the first group of students began their studies. Additional Sisters followed in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Great interest in the scholarship program
Three students enrolled in programs at universities in the United States; two students enrolled at schools in Ghana; one student in South Africa; and the remaining students studied at local colleges and universities in Sierra Leone. Since the beginning of the program, nine Holy Sisters have graduated. Of those graduates, their certificates and/or degree programs were in the areas of nursing (SRN) State Registered Nursing Program, teaching, bachelor of science in educational administration, four master’s degree graduates achieving their Master of Science in Psychology, Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Master’s in Business Administration, Master’s in Educational Management and two PhD students, graduating with their PhD in Educational Management and Organizational Leadership.
Students currently enrolled are studying in various fields and degree levels; Bachelor of Science in Medicine, Bachelor of Education-Guidance and Counseling, Bachelor of Education-English, Master’s Degree in Business Management and Administration, educational administration and management, teaching certificates, public health studies, public health-laboratory, public health-epidemiology, Master’s in Public Health- Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety, Master of Public Administration, Master of Education and Master of Education-Guidance and Counseling.
The Sisters have expressed great gratitude for this opportunity to learn and help better serve their congregations and missions. We are proud of all the Sisters in the program. To the graduate’s present and future, an investment in you is building a brighter future for Sierra Leone.
Read about two of our graduates and we know you will agree with us!
Sister Margaret Mary Happiness Osuji of the Handmaids of the Holy Child of Jesus Congregation in Pendembu studied at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana Campus. Prior to entering the scholarship program, Sr. Happiness earned her bachelor’s degree in Education for Accounting. These skills helped Sister Happiness oversee Pendembu’s school and health clinic. However she knew there was much more to learn. She worked hard throughout the master’s program and was rewarded for her effort. Walking in her graduation ceremony in August of 2019 in Ghana, Sr. Happiness received her master’s degree in Management and Human Resources.
Sr. Happiness sent the following update, “Presently I am still in the secondary school where I serve as the Head of Commercial Department, a Teacher. With my present knowledge in administration, I help out with administrative matters both in school and in our congregational health facility. This ensures smooth running within the institution. I want to use this opportunity to again express my appreciation to the Hilton and Healey teams for giving me the opportunity to acquire my Master’s degree. This has added value to my person, widening the scope of my ability to serve God’s people in a different capacity. Although I am done with my studies, I hope we continue to communicate as a family. I am willing to be of service to the team whenever the need arises. Thanks, and God bless!”
There is no waste in Sr. Juliana’s Work! Sr. Juliana Wangao of the School Sisters of Notre Dame Congregation sent an update on her studies and recent projects in-country. Studying for her Degree in Public Health majoring in Epidemiology she wrote, “I am in my second semester in fourth year. It is the last semester after which, I defend my dissertation and graduate in February 2021. This was the initial plan set by the school before the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, this plan has changed. I am hopeful that God willing we will go back to school and complete the remaining semester.”
Sr. Juliana said that “despite the current situation around the globe and not being able to attend classes, I am writing my dissertation on “Challenges of Understanding Informed Consent Among Patients at Holy Spirit Hospital.” Holy Spirit Hospital in Makeni is a health facility that HealeyIRF has supported throughout the years, providing medicines, medical equipment and supplies. “In addition, I have been participating in creating health awareness and education in my community surrounding the coronavirus and how to protect one another from contracting the virus. For instance: washing of hands, wearing of masks and social distancing. Before the coronavirus, I volunteered to help in chlorinating water wells around my community and educating the communities on how to keep the environment clean, especially the dangers of plastic bags in our surroundings.”
Thanks to all the Sisters who participated in this program. And a very special thank you to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for the funding to support this effort. In the coming months we will be highlighting more of the Sister’s educational accomplishments in our blog so stay tuned!
“If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”