By Mr. David Munene.
The young-looking dark gentleman welcomed the CYNESA team of five (Kenya Charter) comprising of Allen Ottaro (The Founding Executive Director), Balla Galma (Country Director), Hubert Ndayisaba aka Rukuz (Media Director), Anne Kirori (Core Team Member) and David Munene (Programs Manager) to the Apostolic Nunciature, at a few minutes to 10:00 am. The Team was on a mission to meet with His Excellency Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan. Top on the agenda was to thank Archbishop Balvo for gracing the conclusion of the CYNESA Summit 2014 on June 20th and to brief him about what CYNESA is involved in with respect to concrete projects and plans.
When Archbishop Balvo walked in, his unmistakable presence was further underscored by a stature to behold and a broad smile that is difficult not to reciprocate. He was very courteous to request individual introductions before proceeding to share about his experiences since the last time he was with the team at the June Summit. He shared his experience at the first ever United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA), and clarified that the role of the Holy See at such forums is purely limited to observation. However, much of what was achieved at the first UNEA were recommendations and wishes as opposed to binding commitments.
The CYNESA-Kenya team listens keenly to Archbishop Balvo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan.
The CYNESA delegation took turns to brief the Nuncio about their various projects and initiatives and those still in the planning stages. Balla offered highlights on the Climate Change Toolkit that CYNESA is working on, piloting with youth in Jesuit institutions drawn from Kenya (St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School), Tanzania (Loyola High School and St. Peter Claver High School), and Zimbabwe (St. Peter’s Kubatana High School). The Climate Change Toolkit is intended to create awareness about climate change from a youth perspective, with the long-term vision of replicating the success in the entire continent. Balla added that CYNESA was working on this in partnership with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).
Commencing his briefing with reference to hills on a huge canvas portrait at the meeting lounge, David briefed the Nuncio about the Greening Hills Initiative. The Greening Hills Initiative is a project whose aim is to restore the lost glory of bare hills. The initiative is the brainchild of His Lordship Bishop James Maria Wainaina, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Murang’a in Kenya. “The project is still in its early planning stages”, David explained, adding that the plan is to work with the communities living around the hills.The office of the Caritas Director, Murang’a Diocese is also a partner in the project. David mentioned that the CYNESA-Kenya team would be meeting with His Lordship and the Caritas Director at the end of October. Archbishop Balvo expressed interest in the project and even recommended that the implementation goes hand-in-hand with concrete, tangible actions especially with school children, as they tend to be very committed. He also hinted at possible individuals that he thought would be interested in advancing the project further.
In his briefing, Allen talked about several issues that CYNESA was pursuing. Among them, was the possibility of CYNESA venturing into South Sudan. The Nuncio stated that he would be glad to provide links through the Catholic University of South Sudan. Allen also steered a round-table discussion about the expected Papal encyclical on ecology. Reiterating our commitment as Catholics to care for creation and why we do it, Archbishop Balvo indicated that this would be a crucial building block for the Church initiatives in addresing ecological issues.
In addition, Allen mentioned CYNESA’s intentions to run side events at the World Youth Day in 2016 in Poland. The Nuncio recommended that CYNESA extend the horizon of this to include awareness creation and activities during the WYD 2016 Days in the Diocese, and expressed hope in the success of the idea.The last two agenda items that Allen addressed at the meeting, included participation in the UN Habitat Governing Council in 2015 and possible fundraising strategies. His Excellency stated that he would be willing to assist whenever called upon and whenever possible to advance CYNESA’s initiatives.
Left to Right: Mr. Allen Ottaro, Ms.Anne Kirori, His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, Mr. David Munene and Ms. Balla Galma (Country DIrector)
Towards the end of the meeting, Ann presented Archbishop Balvo with a CYNESA polo-shirt and a framed photo of the Nuncio with the CYNESA delegation during the CYNESA Summit. The meeting ended with Allen thanking Archbishop Balvo for making time to meet with CYNESA and he was equally grateful that the team had visited.
Mr. David Munene is the volunteer Programs Manager of the Kenyan charter of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA).