Zane Wilemon


The 2010 Charles J. Cook Award in Servant Leadership

 Zane Wilemon

 

Founder and Executive Director of Comfort the Children International, Seminary of the Southwest alumnus, priest in the Diocese of Kansas, you lead by empowering those you work with to reach their full potential.

In 2001, after a year in Africa, you returned to the States with a passion to improve the lives of the people of Maai Mahiu, Kenya.  You had a vision to address the cycle of poverty with creativity and innovation, bringing hope and restoring dignity.  Comfort the Children International was born, and you returned to Kenya with a handful of volunteers to share your life and build friendships while establishing a trade school. 

Since that time you have led Comfort the Children into a lasting partnership with the people of Maai Mahiu and have transformed the lives of those you work with, both the volunteers from the United States and the people of Kenya.  Your holistic approach to community development has provided the means for those you serve to lead independent, full lives. Time and again you have been heard to say that you are not ‘helping' the people of Kenya but building relationships.

In a 2007 interview you described your motivation for carrying on this work.  "We are co-creators with God and that fleshes itself out by living alternative practices and ways of being in all the social, medical, relational, practical justice work that we do."  You have found alternative practices in partnering with universities, non-government organizations, and the Kenya Ministry of Health.

You see challenges as opportunities to be creative. What began as a vision to provide people of one impoverished town with resources for breaking the cycle of poverty has resulted in an award winning polytechnic school, community gardens, a school for children with special needs, a business that allows women to support their families, a health clinic, soccer clubs for youth, a community center, and this summer work began on an HIV/AIDS clinic to offer free counseling, testing, and medication to a community of 30,000 with a 70% infection rate.  These resources change lives.

Your grandmother often told you, "Your life may be the closest thing someone gets to reading the Bible."  Reading your life we understand the Gospel of Christ more clearly.   In appreciation of your commitment to serve "the least of these" we rejoice in presenting you the Charles J. Cook Award in Servant Leadership.