Every year, Action Kivu raises money to create a Christmas & New Year’s celebration for the kids we serve in Congo. Once a year, kids who have next to nothing, who often have lost parents due to the poverty and disease and violence resulting from the long-term conflict in their country, are invited to a celebration. At the party, over 300 children are fed a meal, and receive gifts of shoes and a set of clothes, sometimes the only ones they’ll get for the year. They are so happy, our partner Amani tells us, and we see it in their faces.
Donate today, and mark “New Years” or “Christmas” in the note to seller section on PayPal. $10 goes a long way: A simple gift of shoes, clothes, and a meal tells these kids that their lives matter, that their stories are heard, that people around the world are cheering for them!
Not all are so goofy posing for the camera. Rehema’s face shows her determination to make her dreams a reality, and is taking her gifts of shoes, clothes, and an education very seriously. A little girl from a family of eight children, her parents could not afford to send her to school. Enrolled in classes now, thanks to ABFEK (Action Kivu’s partner in Congo), Rehema plans to graduate school and use her education to help other kids like herself, working for ABFEK!
Donate today! Thank you!
The girls and women step inside the Mumosho Women’s Center, take off their flip-flops, set their kids down on the floor to play, and gather up handfuls of colorful bright rope. They watch and follow along to the basket-making teacher’s advice, weaving the rope into gorgeous baskets to sell at the local market and in their villages. For half a year, a class of women come together three days a week to learn the art of basket-making and marketing, so that, like graduate Chantal (pictured below), they can sell their art, and earn income to feed their families and send their kids to school. Depending on the size of the basket, they sell from $3 to $8 dollars a piece.
Many people agree, plastic bags are the bane of our modern existence. While convenient, they are not only unappealing when they escape to get caught in trees or stuck in gutters, but they are terrible for the environment: According to a 2014 report from the Earth Policy Institute, “worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, nearly 2 million each minute. Usage varies widely among countries, from over 400 a year for many East Europeans, to just four a year for people in Denmark and Finland. Plastic bags, made of depletable natural gas or petroleum resources, are often used only for a matter of minutes. Yet they last in the environment for hundreds of years, shredding into ever-smaller pieces but never fully breaking down.”
The government in Congo banned the use of plastic bags, and when that law takes effect, it will mean even more need for and better sales of these beautiful baskets!
Read more about our work on our blog, and consider a monthly donation to partner with the women in our vocational training programs in Congo, from basket-making to sewing to literacy classes, your dollars make a difference, giving hope and empowering the girls and women with the means to change their lives.
Meet Nshokano Patrick, and his goat.
“Our goat is our wealth,” says Nshokano Patrick. “We’ll bring back one of these small goats to ABFEC [Action Kivu’s partner organization in Congo] and keep one small goat and the big goat. My mom has said she will sell our small goat for her to start a small business to make sure she can start taking care of us.”
Goats show good standing in the community in eastern Congo, as Amani explained to Action Kivu’s leadership team: “If I want to buy a piece of land from you, we can count it in terms of goats. If I want to immortalize our friendship, I give you a goat. If that happens, our friendship is solid. Valuable. Through My Goat is Your Goat, the neighbors share the babies of the gifted goat. For a poor woman to have a goat, it gives her pride. It means: ‘I am somebody in the community.’ It is social, community building.” The “pay it forward” model contributes to a stronger sense of community. Amani points to Cate, co-founder of Action Kivu, to illustrate. “Cate is keeping the goat, but I know the baby will come to me. The goat owner is now accountable to the organization and to me. The goat owner is now accountable to the organization and to me,” Amani repeats, to emphasize how important that is in a place where people have so little.
$80 is the cost of buying one goat for a family in Congo, and Action Kivu is working to raise funds to buy two more goats a month to expand the program in Congo, which currently serves 540 people in area of 50,000.
Want to know a little more about goats? According to this piece on TreeHugger.com, published in response to the debate over whether the Chinese New Year was that of the goat, or the sheep, writer Melissa Breyer explained: “While both hail from the subfamily Caprinae, sheep and goats diverge at the genus level and arrive as distinct species. Sheep (Ovis aries) have 54 chromosomes; goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) have 60. Sheep–goat hybrids – yes, a geep or shoat – do exist, but they are rare. Behold the baby geep below. Awww!”
Breyer continues: “A main difference between the two is how they forage. Sheep are grazers; they ramble slowly eating short plants close to the ground. Goats are browsers; they look for leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs. And their agility allows them to attain charming positions in pursuit of their forage…
“Because they browse, goats spend a lot of time investigating things. They are forever nibbling on and eating things,” Cathy Dwyer, a professor at Scotland’s Rural College, tells NPR. “So they have more exploratory, investigate behavior because of their feeding style. They appear to be more interactive with the environment, and they are very engaging animals.”
We find them to be very engaging animals, too, changing the lives of the women, children, and families we work alongside in Congo! Consider partnering with the people of Congo through a monthly donation to Action Kivu to help us continue these programs.
(Photo credit: [Top] Nshokano courtesy Amani Matabaro, ABFEK / Action Kivu, [Bottom] courtesy TreeHugger.com / YouTube)
It’s hard to tell who is more excited about the first day of school this year: the kids or Papa Amani, as the students in Congo call our partner in Congo. Amani lights up when he talks about sending children to school, giving them hope for a better future and the means to pursue their goals and dreams. He knows that educating children, and specifically sending girls to school, often denied education simply because of their gender, is one of the best ways to break the cycle of extreme poverty furthered by decades of war in this corner of Congo. Thanks to a generous grant from Jewish World Watch, many of the children we serve in eastern Congo, kids who are orphans or whose families are unable to afford school fees and supplies, are back in the classroom this week!
Amani often echoes Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
We’re thrilled to post our own Back to School photos. Meet Cibalonza, who is six years old and so excited to begin her education, entering grade 1 in elementary school this year. She’s surrounded by the school kits each child receives: a school bag, a uniform (many sewn by the students and graduates of Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop), copy books, a pencil, two pens, a mathematical box, and a ruler.
We’re happy to share an update on Ntaboba. When he was six years old, Ntaboba, whose name means “no fear,” stepped on a live grenade in the jungle near his home in eastern Congo, mangling and twisting his leg, forcing him to walk with a metal pole for support, which further twisted his spine. Because of the injury, he often missed classes and fell behind in his education when he could not navigate the five kilometers to his school.
Margaret Johnson and Betty Merner, two Americans visiting Congo with their friend Dr. Victoria Bentley of Empower Congo Women, met Ntaboba in Mumosho. They quickly connected to Ntaboba’s soft spirit and strong character, and were determined to do what they could to help him. Thanks to the emotional and financial support of these women and school kids they work with in Rhode Island, in 2012, Ntaboba received a surgery on his leg from Heal Africa in Goma, a hospital renowned as one of only three referral hospitals in the DR Congo. He continues to walk freely with “no fear,” stepping into grade 2 in secondary school.
Read more about our programs, and how your partnership and donations support life-changing work in Congo, here!
Meet Mamy in a video from our Sewing Graduation Day, 2015
Meet Cikwanine, Nadine, & Chanceline – three teen moms who are back in school!
Meet Claudine, and read her story of coming “back to life”
Meet Grandma Mwayuma and see some of the children at play
Meet Amani through the Enough Project’s “I Am Congo” video series
Meet the goats in our animal husbandry program, Your Goat is My Goat
When you plant a seed, you cannot be 100% sure that the plant will grow, our partner Amani says. Reflecting on the sustainable agriculture project that is changing the lives of the women working on the farm, Amani sees more than just food and income in the cabbages and tomatoes. “The power and the hope I see in the people in our programs makes me believe. Even when there is little water during the dry season, we get plants to grow!”
It’s the dry season in Congo. When the winds blow this late in the summer, dust swirls off dirt roads, limiting vision to a few feet, if not inches. But in the valley, the shared farm is verdant. The women in the Organic Food for All (OFFA) program have been carefully tending the seedlings they planted in July, filling watering cans at the nearby creek to grow the crops that will feed their families and give them income from sales at the local market.
It’s been an unending dry season in eastern Congo: years of conflict, fear sown by militias who use rape as a weapon of war and kidnap children to use as child soldiers, lack of medical attention or access to education, extreme poverty. In the midst of that ongoing season, Amani has seen hope grow. He has planted seeds: in schools and vocational and community building programs. He has seen women gather together to learn new trades, to form cooperatives, to earn income to send their children to school. He has seen men begin to change their views about women when they attend community education projects that focus on equal rights and the problem of domestic violence. He has seen the men celebrate when their wives start a small business. He has seen girls earn top scores when they head back to school, and has heard women ask why, why can’t they do the jobs men do, and then he sees them go do those jobs.
“When you plant a seed, you cannot be 100% sure that the plant will grow. The power and the hope I see in the people in our programs makes me believe. Even when there is little water during the dry season, we get plants to grow!”
“I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.”
― Mary Oliver
When you partner with Action Kivu, you continue to plant seeds of hope, that we see grow into changed lives! Read their stories on our blog: