This month, we’d like to take a moment to highlight one of our most inspirational stars, Sister Okechi Bernardine Njoku. Sister Okechi is one of the few mental health professionals in Sierra Leone and is the Director of Holy Rosary Sisters Counselling and Peace Center in Bo.
One of the first sisters to sign up to participate in the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation program to advance the education and professional development of sisters in Sierra Leone, Sister Okechi chose to study at Divine Mercy University in Virginia. In November 2018, she graduated with a degree in psychology.
In discussing her decision to participate in the program Sister Okechi told us, “I enrolled in the Divine Mercy University program because I felt I needed more knowledge to understand the human person, human joys and suffering to facilitate his or her growth and flourishing. [The University] equipped me with sufficient insights to identify and handle human sufferings in a more professional way.”
She continued, “After my graduation, I began to treat my workers as well as those with whom I have contact with more respect, dignity, empathy, understanding and unconditional love. I have become more gentle and compassionate to those who suffer. Above all, I emerged out of my studies as a transformational leader who desires to transform others’ lives.”
Sister Okechi is now sharing her knowledge and building up the capacity of mental health workers in Sierra Leone, noting “I am engaged in teaching psychology to candidates who are interested in becoming counselors.”
Her day-to-day counselling responsibilities are still a priority and she is kept very busy with individual clients. In her counselling she seeks to empower her patients so they have the ability to write their own story and that, despite hardship, they are “redeemable.” Sister Okechi also holds workshops on stress management and addressing the “defense mechanisms that humans employ to run away from difficult situations.”
And if that isn’t enough, Sister Okechi has written a book, “Domestic Violence: A Guide for Survivors,” which she uses to help victims of domestic violence while conducting workshops.
HealeyIRF is very honored to have been able to support Sister Okechi in her studies. It is through the hard work of individuals, like Sister Okechi, that the delivery of mental health services will improve in Sierra Leone and that those who need them will be able to access them.
Thanks a million times for your sponsorship. – Okechi Njioku