Heart of a Lion

Sister Rosemary Nyirmube is not shy. Her smile stretches ear to ear as her sincere laughter bellows from beneath folded hands, resting gently on her belly. On paper, she is CNN Hero of the Year and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. In person, she is the embodied essence of a brave mother – warm, caring, and passionate about protecting “her children.”

“Sister Rosemary,” as she is called, runs the Saint Monica Girls Tailoring Centre in Uganda, Africa for hundreds of displaced women and children, who are abandoned.

Rejected from their villages after violent rapes and unintended pregnancies, the victims often turn to killing their children or killing themselves. “I help them love their babies that come from the sexual violence. It demands a lot of love and care from me. I get close to them as though I do not know their past,” she said with a soothing tone.

“We have to look at these young women as children. I adopt them; I become their parent so they can get to feel the sense of childhood that they lost,” she explains. “They are in essence, only children with children.”

Edmond resident and philanthropist Reggie Whitten often describes Sister Rosemary as a modern day Mother Theresa. As she and Whitten embrace, you see the warmth in their comfort level, as though they were family living in the same small town. And yet, our meeting was Sister Rosemary’s very first time to Oklahoma – a journey of over 7,200 miles from her war-torn region of Africa.

Whitten and the Sister’s story began eight years ago when he, and retired author Mike Hinkle, traveled to Uganda with a mutual friend. “We were moved by the violence,” said Whitten. “It