Nyakio's Story: Profile of a CSJ Associate

Associate Nyakio Kaniu-Lake 

by Associate Nicole Nicoll

KANSAS CITY: When associate Nyakio Kaniu-Lake signed the Initial Commitment book for CSJ Association in 2011 with her mentor Sister Gabrielle Smits, CSJ by her side, Nyakio embraced the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  For Nyakio, the mission of the sisters to “serve the dear neighbor”  was the Spirit was working through her to answer the call to serve the poor and abused in her ancestral home of Kenya.

Her Homeland
Nyakio comes from a large supportive East African family that is deep in tradition, which she says has been her backbone. Her birthplace is south of the equator between Lake Victoria and Mount Kenya in the town of Naivasha, not far from the shores of the Indian Ocean, a paradise with cool air from the high elevation that is occupied with rivers, lakes and mountains. African family traditions, national customs and beauty of the Kenyan Rift Valley landscape make Nyakio proud to be called a Kenyan.

Life in America
After attending high school in Kenya, she traveled from her native land to take classes at far away Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., as well as at Wichita State, eventually receiving a bachelor’s at Friends University in Wichita. While her studies kept her busy, she was still able to work in order to send money to her family back in Kenya. And yet, the Spirit continued to tug at her heart, never letting go of a dream she had for the women in need of her homeland and open a shelter for battered women and children in Kenya.

While attending Wichita State, Nyakio answered an ad for a Swahili tutor. Her pupil was retired U.S. Army Captain Joseph Robert "Joe Bob" Lake. Joe Bob graduated from West Point Academy in 1964. Once retired after four years of active duty, he became an entrepreneur and CEO of a large financial services organization and is currently COO of a non-profit organization. With a love for life, Joe Bob took off for Africa and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a close buddy. Several years later while Nyakio was attending Friends University in Wichita, Nyakio and Joe Bob, a widower, began dating and they were married. A delightful couple, Joe Bob is electrifying with his bright Irish eyes full of adventure and humor while Nyakio is an African beauty whose face reveals her compassionate heart for the poor

Nyakio earned a master's in counseling from CSJ-sponsored Avila University in Kansas City, Mo., and is currently a therapist serving low-income families in Johnson and Wyandotte County, Kan.  She has a keen interest in the field of cross-cultural psychology and is a member of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, as well as a member of the Greater Kansas City Psychological Association and the Missouri Mental Health Counselors Association.

The Agatha Amani House
Yet her deepest heartfelt concern remained with abused women and children in her homeland of Kenya. Nyakio began interviewing safe home shelter directors in the Kansas City area to help her understand the process of establishing and maintaining such a house. So when her mother Agatha donated some of her Kenyan land for the shelter, Nyakio wasted no time in building the home in her mother's name--the Agatha Amani House: staffing it with a qualified director, a house mother, social worker and a security guard. 

Water is delivered to the Agatha Amani House.

The cement has been mixed, the shelter has been built and the water storage tanks put in place. Agatha Amani (Peace) House will provide a training center to help establish the women, giving them a chance to receive an income and achieve independence. Garden projects on the site to grow crops and rabbits for consumption and for sale in the local market place will be a sustainability program for the shelter. And there has already been a success story written in the Agatha Amani House log.

The seed has been planted and encouraged by the love and examples of the Sisters of St. Joseph and their associates. Their charism of caring for the dear neighbor inspires and gives courage. To God comes the glory! As I stand in the presence of Nyakio, I experience God’s Spirit as an African Queen, with a compassionate love of her children of Kenya.

posted 3.21.14

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