by Kathleen Dolan
Chestnut Hill College and the Sisters of Saint Joseph recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) by holding an event on campus that praised the organization’s work and recognized those who have helped it provide educational, social, and environmental services to numerous African countries over the past two decades.
“ASEC at 20 has changed the world forever and will continue to work to provide for those it serves a future full of hope,” said College President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., at the event, “ASEC@20,” held in the East Parlor of St. Joseph Hall on Nov. 5.
ASEC was established in 1999 to “facilitate access to education for women religious in Africa that leads to enhancement and expansion of the education, health, economic, social, environmental, and spiritual services they provide.” The College and the Sisters of Saint Joseph are two of its founding members. To date, the organization has served more than 5,300 African sisters, carrying out work in 10 African countries.
Draru Mary Cecilia, LSMIG, Ph.D., the executive director of ASEC, spoke at the event about the ways ASEC benefits women religious and the communities they serve. She explained that education gives people the ability to mobilize, organize, and understand who and how to call for help. She said the confidence and commitment ASEC engenders in the sisters is vital to their work, especially in places where there is little support.
“When you have these highly skilled women you know that the services that people need in a rural setting with little resources that the people will receive them,” Sister Draru said.
Students at the College have the opportunity to participate in ASEC’s service learning programs, which involve spending two weeks onsite in Africa and engaging in various activites including teaching and coaching sports. Most recently, several students and faculty members worked alongside the African sisters in Ghana. Nicole Monteiro, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, held a faculty colloquium on Oct. 30 about the trip and the organization, “Journey to Ghana: Notes from Our Transformative ASEC Service Learning Experience in Cape Coast, Ghana.”
At both events, students shared their experiences serving in Ghana.
"I was catapulted out of my comfort zone,” said Erin Bitting, an English and communication major, adding that she learned a great deal about patience and flexibility on the trip when supervising a class of fourth-grade students.
Jaala Welch, a senior majoring in early childhood education, called the experience “extremely transformative and life-changing.”
Sister Carol emphasized key elements to ASEC’s success, such as courses in technology. She also acknowledged former and current CHC board members for their contributions as well as the generous funding provided to ASEC through the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. As a sign of appreciation, Sister Draru and Nancy Kamau, LSOSF, the assistant director of development for ASEC, bestowed tokens of gratitude upon several Sisters of Saint Joseph for their mentorship and work with the organization throughout the years.
To learn more about ASEC, please visit www.asec-sldi.org.