Sandy Baldwin, SOT '13, walked outside the schoolhouse to an endearing sight: young students running around in winter coats and snow pants. A typical scene in Stearn's County - except Baldwin is 8,000 miles away.
"My kids in Kenya think 60 degrees is cold. It's like the haven of Minnesota in Africa!" she laughs. The retired teacher is co-founder of Moto Hope Mission, a non-profit organization committed to educating children in the Moto region of Kenya. Baldwin serves as coordinator of the BeFriender Program, connecting students at St. Francis Academy with donors who help fund education expenses like textbooks and meals. Moto Hope Mission began as a dream of Fr. Francis Kabiru, a friend of Baldwin's who wished for a better classroom in his native Moto. With lots of prayers and hard work, the duo raised $1.7 million for a new education complex and began the successful nonprofit. "It's been a joke in our family that I know how to talk to priests after theology school!" Baldwin quips. Baldwin came to Collegeville for her Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry before founding the school to bolster her understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and pastoral skills. She says the impact of her SOT education is truly worldwide. "We're not officially dubbed 'Benedictine,' but the Benedictine values that attracted me to the SOT are instilled in the Kenyan school," Baldwin says. "It sets us apart. When someone comes to the school in Kenya, just like coming to the SOT, the very first thing they receive is hospitality." The warm, welcoming community combined with rigorous academics has made St. Francis Academy a destination for students across the region. Their outreach continues to grow. Sandy lugs a 50 lb. bag of books on every trip to Kenya. The school library has over 10,000 books and is a prized resource in the region. Their next goal is to fill the new 350-person dormitory so all students are guaranteed to be "safe, dry and have three meals a day." Baldwin draws from lessons learned at St. John's as she works to empower young leaders across the world. "The SOT helped me learn how to sit and listen to God's call in my life," she says. "I left the SOT with the confidence to say, I am a lay minister with the skills and knowledge to answer my call to do mission work in Africa."
Written by Jessie Bazan. Jesse is a Master of Divinity candidate at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary.
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