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Sister shares motherly instincts
Place co-founder will spend three years in Kenya
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Forsyth County News
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For more information about Friends of Kenyan Orphans or to donate, go online at Donations can also be mailed to 920 Berkshire Road, Grosse Pointe, MI 48230.
Sister Kathryn Cliatt felt her heart drop when she read a story about Kenyan orphans in her May 2009 congregation newsletter.

She thought how she would travel to the country if she were younger, and then let the idea go.

That September, Cliatt received an e-mail inviting nuns to attend a weekend sermon about serving three years in Kenya.

That’s when she felt her calling.

“I’d not planned to leave,” the 35-year Forsyth County resident said. “My heart was just really tugged at and I thought, ‘This is God, not me, so I better pay attention.’”

Cliatt and three other nuns will depart their Michigan motherhouse for the east African nation Oct. 13.

They’ll spend three years in Meru working at the Children’s Village, a home and school to more than 750 orphaned or abandoned street children.

The organization works with an American national nonprofit, Friends of Kenyan Orphans, which was founded by one of Cliatt’s former colleagues.

Father Limo Riwa of Kenya founded the home for boys in 1999 when he saw a growing problem with street children.

In 2004, at the urging of local nuns, the Children’s Village added a home for girls called the St. Clare Girls’ Centre, where Cliatt and her companions will work.

The children who stay at the home often have watched their parents murdered or die of HIV/AIDS, Cliatt said.

Abandoned girls are often in the most danger, she said, since they can be taken and sold into sex trafficking.

Her role at the center will be to teach and mentor the girls, many of whom have lived through horrifying events.

Shortly after arrival, the sisters likely will attend a workshop with a local psychologist about cultural differences and how to help traumatized children in Kenya.

“We’ve really been prepared as well as we can be for something that’s so unknown,” Cliatt said.

The sisters plan to take the first three months to learn from the children and assess the needs of the people, she said.

They have prepared a unit on storytelling through photography and helping the girls write letters to sponsors and pen pals, said Cliatt, adding that $450 sponsors a child for a year.

Sister June Racicot, a longtime friend, said she’ll miss Cliatt, but they’ll be able to keep in touch with modern technology.

Cliatt likely will communicate using online messaging and phone service. She may possibly set up a blog of her experiences.

Racicot, who arrived in Forsyth County with Cliatt 35 years ago, said her colleague’s experience as a teacher and counselor should go far in helping the girls at the St. Clare Girls’ Centre.

The two have spent about 30 years working with local nonprofit organizations to fight poverty and, most notably, founding The Place of Forsyth County.

While the cultural differences in Kenya may be challenging, Racicot said, the results should be the same.

“Women are women, and young girls need that all the same all over the world,” she said. “[Cliatt’s] got a lot of motherly instincts.”

Racicot had encouraged her friend to follow her calling, but both women believe Cliatt will be back to Forsyth County if it’s meant to be.

“You never know in three years what God has in store for you, but that’s my plan,” Cliatt said. “As they say in Georgia: ‘If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise,’ I will be returning.”