Category Page: ABFEK

World Toilet Day: Peace Market Latrines Under Construction!

The Peace Market latrine, prior to construction.

What?  You didn’t know that November 19th is World Toilet Day?  I didn’t either, until I read Amnesty International’s post about “giving a crap for human rights,” and immediately thought of Robin Wright and Amani Matabaro.  Neither one who approved my using his/her name in conjunction with “crap,” but both have given time and money toward making sure the women, men and children who use the Peace Market have a safe and sanitary place to … well, poop.

It’s an unsavory subject, but one that is critical to health and human rights.  I never thought I’d be so passionate about the toilet, but lately I can’t forget the fact that 2.6 billion people don’t have access to basic sanitation.  Next time you flush, consider that open defecation leads to outbreaks of cholera, which is a horrifying threat to the lives of children, especially in eastern Congo, where 1 in 4 children who die before their fifth birthday lose their lives to something entirely preventable – cholera and acute diarrhea.

Immediately after Robin Wright heard of the need and generously donated the money, the latrine started started construction at the peace market!  Amani, who met Robin during her visit to eastern Congo with the Enough Project, sent us the photos of the construction and another thank you to Robin, saying “that she has saved lives with the donation!!!”


Peace Market latrine construction 11.2011

Peace Market Latrine construction_2 11.2011

Asked about the importance of these latrines, the leadership of the Market committee happily replied:

”These latrines are so important that they are going to prevent people from getting very dangerous diseases such as cholera. And we will be selling our goods, especially food, with no fear of contamination of any disease — these latrines are going to save lives! They will prevent us from getting problems with people living nearby the Market since they were already complaining about merchants. A crowd of upwards of 300 people gather at this market every day.”

And Amani’s thoughts about the importance of these latrines:

”A market is a place with large populations and when it has no latrines, it simply becomes a public danger. Building these latrines … is a great sustainable solution to the health threat which was already there since community members started using the Market with no latrines.  Many community members come to buy food, buyers and sellers both had no rest rooms and they were coming to use the Health Centre rest rooms, and the danger here is there are many communicable diseases in the area.  Patients admitted to the Health Centre sharing latrines with sellers and buyers puts everyone at risk–these latrines will minimize and stop once and for all the risk of communicable disease contamination among sellers, buyers, patients, children at school and those who come to attend the church nearby since all these facilities are very close.”

Cate and I are excited to visit the Peace Market in person later this month to see the completed project, and share more stories with you.

In the meantime, you can support human rights on World Toilet Day by supporting the Water for the World Act.  Take ACTION and sign Amnesty International’s petition today!

Back to School (and to the garden)

I remember the palpable current of a new year that ran through our house on the first day of school; my backpack at the ready with sharpened pencils, fresh notepads of lined paper, and a box of color crayons that hadn’t been smashed or eaten by the odd kid two desks over. 

The kids in the Congo are heading back to school this week too, 100 of them because of YOUR support.  Via Amani’s vision through ABFEK, not only will they study languages, letters and numbers, they’re also learning agriculture, and the art of growing gorgeous food for better nutrition. 

Amani writes about two children in particular, Manu and Namegabe, who over the summer break used their hands to study gardening, digging in the dirt of the shared ABFEK farm, in order to pass along their experience to their schoolmates.  They’re very interested in agriculture, and excited to teach other kids.
  The rainy season normally starts early in September, but this year has been special with rains off and on since mid-July. When it starts raining on a more regular basis, the garden will grow well. In the dry season people need to water the crops on a daily basis but as rainy season starts, there are no more water problems.

This shot of the shared garden shows cabbages, carrots and onions growing, where the women and children supported by ABFEK learn about agriculture. Most of the vegetables are native to Eastern Congo but not everywhere. In the Mumosho district, Amani writes, “people are not used to growing carrots, eggplant, peppers…we want to do it on a larger scale to fight malnutrition through the schools.”  Amani plans to use this as a pilot program to expand the experience in other communities based on lessons learned. 

As the kids head back to school, we’ll be sharing their stories of a new year.   What are your favorite stories of going back to school?

Isn’t This Progress? A Thank You, Straight from Bukavu

From Nabirugu*, one of the women in the sewing collective that is supported by your donations.

“My name is Nabirugu*. I am 21 years old. I have no father. I joined the ABFEK centre 10 months ago and today I am ready to go and start my own sewing workshop based on the skills I have [learned]. Today I am able to measure, cut fabrics and join them. I can now make dresses, skirts, a pair of shorts, pants, and blouses. Isn’t this progress? I learned to use sewing equipments in this centre, before that time I had never used a pair of scissors to cut fabrics or a tape measure. I am very proud of my training in this centre. Now I have hope and confidence. I hope for success in my life. If I succeed to get my own sewing machine, I can start a small business such as making school pupils uniforms,make [outfits] from fabrics when there is a wedding ceremony, make my own clothes without paying as I was doing before. We need to start learning embroidery and then people will not be taking their fabrics to Bukavu if they need embroidery. I am very happy and I thank everyone who has donated his money to provide us with the sewing equipment we are using in this centre.”

(*Names are changed to protect the identity of women in the workshops.)

Pass the buck. Action Kivu on – log on to donate a dollar!

Do you philanthrop?  (Philanthropize?  I’m always attempting to coin new verbs.) is sort of like those daily deal sites, but instead, they give you the option to do good, one dollar a day, if you choose.  And today, Friday, July 22nd, they’re featuring Action Kivu!

“Passing the buck” is generally not a flattering phrase, so we’re re-defining it, and asking you to pass along a buck to the women and children of eastern Congo. $1.  100 pennies.  You’ve got that to give, right?  Log in at, give a buck and tell your friends.  (If you missed our day and, naturally, you want to philanthropize for Action Kivu, you can always donate here.  In fact, you can make it a recurring donation  — 4$ / month, the cost of a latte, will send one child to school.)

Since we’re volunteers here in the U.S., every bit of your donation goes to the work on the ground in the Congo. (PayPal takes a tiny percentage, as does the bank fee for wiring funds.) Here’s a glimpse at where your money goes: to teach women who are victims of the ongoing conflict and violence how to sew, and embroider! Last year, with your generous donations, Amani bought an embroidery machine for the students at the Bukavu sewing collective. And just this week, Amani informed us that with the partnership and grant from the Rotary club, ABFEK bought another embroidery machine for the Mumosho sewing center. Amani’s wife Amini is training the advanced students in this art; as the demand for embroidered fabric and clothing is higher, the women will be able to earn more money with this skill.

So go on.  Log on to (if it’s Friday, July 22nd, 2011) or anytime at Action Kivu, and pass the buck.  This time it’s good for your soul.

Photos from the Bukavu Center

Poems and a Play: International Women’s Day in Congo 2011

In honor of International Women’s Day, the women and girls of ABFEK / Action Kivu wrote and performed these poems and a play for all to hear:Poem composed and read for Internal Women's Day 2011

Rape!  Where did you come from? 
Who gave you a name?  
Who brought you to my home country?
Those who use you have taken my sister like a cow to slaughter.
They have taken my friends to unknown countries, where are they?
Rape! Why can’t you answer me?  Do you hear me?
They have taken my mom in front of me! You have no mercy.
Rape! You have damaged our bodies.
Rape! Because of you, my family and my community have rejected me
Rape! Because of you, my husband has run away
Remember what you did to me mercilessly in front of my beloved ones.
Rape! Because of you, love on me has changed into hatred.
Rape! You have taken my smile, my joy far away from me. BRING THEM BACK.
Rape! You have traded my happiness to bitterness.
Today, I will ask the whole world to help me and bury you
They will help me erase your name and what you’ve caused against my community.
Rape! My family, my community, my country, the world and myself, we all hate you.
  ~ Author’s name withheld for privacy and security reasons
Violence has  no Mercy & Excuse
Why do you not forgive?
Why do you not master yourself?  
Why do you not have reservations?
Why do you only do evil against evil?
You sow terror wherever you go.
You fear no one
You spare no one
You do not negotiate
But you treat with force
And everyone complains about you
For you are the enemy of peace.
La Violence est sans Pardon
Pourquoi tu ne pardonnes pas?
Pourquoi tu ne te maitrises pas ?
Pourquoi tu ne te réserves pas ?
Pourquoi tu rends le mal contre
 le mal ?
Tu sèmes la terreur partout où tu passes.
Tu ne crains personne
Tu n’épargne personne
Tu ne négocies pas
Mais tu traites avec la force
Et tout le monde se lamente de toi
Car tu es l’ennemie de la paix. ~Author’s name withheld for privacy and security reasons

IWD 2011 - APSED women and girls
ABFEK also performed a play to highlight the plight of women’s lives without equal rights and understanding. Using humor and pathos to educate and inform, the play covered a range of issues facing these women, girls and men in their community on a daily basis.Using hyperbole to show the disparity of home life and housework, the play asked the question, do men think women have a thousand hands? They must, if they don’t offer to help as she goes to collect firewood, fetch water, cook food, mop the dirty floor, take care of the kids, go to market for trade and when she comes back she gives the earnings to the “king” husband.The play addressed the lack of basic, equal rights in marriages where men can decide at any time to reject their wives for no reason, can divorce their wives simply because they never give birth to baby boys. Men who say women have no right to inheritance. Who make decisions about everything in family life, able to sell the property of the family without asking the opinion of the wife. An opinion that doesn’t count in bed either, for men who decide when to have sex, regardless of how the women feel. Men who decide what types of food a woman is allowed to eat. Families who cannot afford to send all their children to school and discriminate against girls for being born a girl, and choose to educate a boy, even when he is not as good a student as their girl.We’re so thankful for the women using poetry, plays and songs to change their lives, and the men who are awake and aware and are fighting alongside them for equal rights! Your support helps send girls to school alongside their brothers, teaches women a trade to support themselves and their families, and reminds us all that we stand together, and what affects one of us affects us all.