UU Congregation of Frederick, Maryland: International Engagement
In addition to taking action locally and nationally, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick (UUCF), in Maryland, has reached out internationally over the last few years, supporting initiatives in Kenya and Congo.
Three years ago the Social Action Committee at UUCF reorganized and determined to extend its outreach in response to the call of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) Sixth Principle, “to affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.” Participating in programs like Guest at Your Table, the Church World Service's "Crop Walks,” and Heifer International’s Keep the Fleece program, UUCF has also organized “Fashion Made Fair,” a Fair Trade fall fashion show and luncheon.
Able & Willing
A great example of the congregation’s work in international faithful stewardship is its cooperation with Able & Willing, a foundation based in Frederick that builds schools in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The founder and president of Able & Willing, Mbuyu Wa Mbuyu (also known as Puma), and treasurer Jim Carpenter, are both UUCF members. One of the congregation’s split-plate collections each year benefits Able & Willing and many members attend an annual spring fundraising dinner, where Congolese food is prepared by Chef Puma and donations are raised towards educational development initiatives in Congo.
Kenya Self-Help Project
Perhaps UUCF’s biggest endeavor, however, has been the support of Lilian Ochieng, a young woman in her second year at Kenya’s Alliance High School for Girls. UUCF funds her tuition and she absolutely would not be able to attend secondary school without it, since Kenya provides limited free education.
UUCF members Mary Fletcher and Bob Hudgins, with daughters Jessica and Lauren, recently traveled to Kenya with gifts from the congregation, to visit Lilian while touring Kenya. Lauren’s account, excerpted below, offers a compelling first-person account of the experience; published in the Frederick News-Post earlier this year, it is available, in full, online.
“A few years ago one of UUCF members, Mary Bowman-Kruhm, traveled to Kenya for a safari. Safari guides are liaisons and teachers about Kenyan culture, as well as the leaders of adventure. Her guide, Peter Liech, was disheartened by the decline of his hometown, Kendu Bay. He, like many Kenyans, knew that education was the key to progress. But very few in Kendu Bay, stuck by poverty and HIV infection, could afford the privilege.
He began a local aid organization, Nyashep Education Trust, to provide scholarships to aspiring and bright students. Through a fundraising and accounting organization called Kenya Self-Help, groups in the United States can donate to the Nyashep Education Fund and provide financial support to youth like Lilian.
Mary Bowman-Kruhm was determined to get the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick involved. Lilian’s gentle, determined personality and desire for knowledge seemed like a wonderful sponsorship match for the UUCF congregation.”
UUCF recognizes the huge impact education has made on Lilian’s life and that of her family and is committed to sponsorship of Lilian until her graduation. Other members of the congregation, moved by her story and her success, are individually helping other young Kenyans.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick is a 196-member congregation founded in 1961. Many thanks to Mary Bowman-Kruhm for providing information in this profile and to the Frederick News-Post for permission to re-print an excerpt from the article.