Meet the People Behind the Work
On-the-Ground Field Operations
“My name is Agnes Kariuki. I was born and raised in Kenya, Africa. Though a Kenyan born, I am also honored to have dual citizenship as a citizen of Canada.
After my elementary and high school education, I trained as an elementary school teacher at Kericho Teachers’ college in Kericho County, Kenya. After a few years of teaching in a number of schools in my country, I was deeply moved when I observed children from very troubled, deprived, and indeed, very disadvantaged families. It always touched my heart when I saw them struggle with even the most basic needs that, at times, would cause them to frequently miss school. Some would come to school hungry, while others were forced to terminate school altogether because their parents could not afford the school fees.
From this experience, I deeply felt prompted to do something more than just classroom teaching. I felt a need to gain more skills that would enable me help address the root cause of this state in living standards among our people and for humanity in large.
I joined the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, (CUEA), where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Anthropology. I was later offered a scholarship by Loyola University, Chicago in the United States in the year 2000 and undertook my Master’s program in Pastoral Counseling.
The reason I chose this area of study was that after having taught young children from diverse family backgrounds, and indeed very deprived families; and having achieved my university education, I had come to identify more with the area of family counseling as my passion and calling. This is where I saw myself down the road; helping the deprived, the displaced and traumatized of our society, through a holistic approach to counseling.
Pastoral Counseling seemed to be the program for me, as it merged both psychology and spirituality thus addressing the social, physiological, psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the challenged in our society. I saw myself empowering and alleviating their livelihoods with skills that would enable them reclaim their dignity and self-worth and thus, be able to alleviate their own livelihoods.
While Loyola University offered me very vital skills in the field of counseling, I felt that I needed to be more enlightened in the area of working with diverse cultures through a family systems approach to family counseling. Therefore, after graduating from Loyola, I enrolled in a two-year family therapy certificate program at the Multicultural Family Institute in Highland Park, New Jersey. After graduating from this program, I was offered a job as a family counselor by an agency called Interfaith Works Center for New Americans, a refugee resettlement program in Central New York at Syracuse. I was the only family counselor in the entire agency for six years.
I served clients from different war torn countries of our world, namely from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Congo DRC, Somalia and many others. By working with these extraordinary survivors, and after attending to them through a holistic approach to their basic needs, to the trauma issues caused by the atrocities they had to endure, their social physiological, psychological, emotional needs and their spiritual needs, I was amazed to learn about their resiliency, inner strength and capacity to pick up their broken pieces as they courageously set forth to new beginnings.
However, most of them worried about their relatives who they left back home in their war torn countries. While some, like those in Congo, may have escaped to the forests, they were not sure whether they could still be a live or whether they had died. This was a constant stressor to many due to a lack of closure. This would always touch my heart deeply.
In the year 2010, while I attended to one client with this disturbing stressor, I felt that I had to raise the bar of my counseling to a higher level by helping two of her families get out of the Congo forest. They later got resettled to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where I am able to empower their children with education.
I believe the hope for the future of refugee families and the disadvantaged of our society lies in empowering the youth and their families by addressing their holistic healing, empowering them with education and calling forth in them their God given talents and gifts so they can help turn our broken world around for a better tomorrow.”