Category Page: Amani

Water is Life: The Lasting Impact of the Mumosho Water Project in Gender Equality and Education [Congo]

When Amani asked what this water tap means to this little boy, he replied: Let me show you!

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Our partner Amani Matabaro’s leadership in his local Bukavu Mwangaza Rotary Club made water flow into areas where people previously had no access to clean drinking water. Thanks to a Global Grant facilitated by the Montecito Rotary club, Amani was in charge of overseeing the project implemented by the Mumosho Local Water Committee. The task was to build one large reservoir and repair three existing reservoirs in Mumosho, where Action Kivu works with Amani in vocational training, education, and community building programs.

Amani does not settle for what is, but asks: what might be? And in this case, his community organizing turned the 22 water taps scheduled to go in to six villages into 51 taps that now serve 12 villages! Mark Magid, a representative of the Montecito Rotary Club, traveled from California to Congo to witness the work, and was amazed by the success of the project, that also included repairing 30 dysfunctional taps, so there are 81 newly working water taps.

How did Amani more than double the impact of the grant? We witness this in his work with Action Kivu every day – how Amani engages people in his passion, giving them ownership of the project. He invests his time: connecting with individuals, community leaders, church priests and pastors, and small groups of people. Once they’ve embraced the vision, in this case – access to clean water for their communities – they reach out to bring others on board. The community also talked to their children who had moved away from Mumosho, and found one person able to donate 150 pipes to the project. Local workers volunteered their labor.

The water project now provides the Mumosho Health Center with a water tank and a tap to ensure clean water is available there, especially for the maternity clinic. The grant requires training for the water committee to maintain the reservoirs and taps, as well as instruction in water testing, sanitation, and the components of water and peace, and the protection of water infrastructures.

In more ways than one, water is life. The project is also training the community on gender equality: shattering myths and long held traditions, the training teaches men and boys that collecting water is NOT only women’s work, it is everyone’s responsibility. The training also highlights the importance of education – children should be in school, not walking long distances or waiting in long lines for water. The increased number of taps means shorter wait time for life-giving water.

We’re honored to work with Amani and invest in the various ways his tremendous community building leadership creates lasting change in Congo. Please read more about his life-changing programs on our blog, and consider investing in this work through a one-time or monthly donation today!

 

Students cheered for the new water tap at their school.

Students celebrate the new water tap at their school.

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Tearing Down Taboos: HIV Education Saves Lives in Congo

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To shake off the stigma that surrounds AIDS and HIV testing, our partner Amani volunteered to be publicly tested at the opening of World Soccer Day this September 25th. Funded by the Dillon Henry Foundation, the tournament brought together 8 teams of footballers to play it out on the pitch, 4 of which were girls’ teams, a first in Mumosho, which explained the crowd of 4000 spectators.

In front of the crowd gathered at the Mumosho Women’s Center, Amani stepped forward to have his blood taken by Nurse Jeanine for an HIV test, and was quickly followed by one of the star players from the community, a young man geared up for the game. Shortly after him, a line formed to be tested, as kids and community members signed on to learn more about the disease, and how to stop it from spreading.

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One week earlier, on a hot September Sunday afternoon in Mumosho, Congo, a slight breeze stirred the air in the sparse room of the church where Nurse Jeanine sat in front of 45 students and community members. Though they had just started the school year, these students were spending their Sunday in a different kind of class, learning the facts about HIV/AIDS, so that they could share their education with their peers and family members. Sub Saharan Africa represents almost 70% of the total new HIV infections in the world, according to UN AIDS. Nurse Jeanine, Amani, and the kids and community leaders of eastern Congo learning about the disease intend to change that.

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“HIV / AIDS is considered taboo in Congolese society, thus the high risk of going untested and spreading HIV. The message of education about HIV/AIDS can deeply penetrate the fabric of society, and literally save lives,” says our partner and community leader, Amani Matabaro.

Working in tandem with Amani’s community building programs and vocational / educational training workshops, Nurse Jeanine is committed to changing how the new generation of Congolese thinks about HIV/AIDS, spending much of her time in the villages of Mumosho, proctoring tests and raising awareness to the facts about living with the disease, while not passing it on.

The determiner kits that Jeanine uses to test on site for HIV offer an immediate reading of whether the person shows the signs of HIV/AIDS, at which point she contacts them confidentially, and schedules a full blood test at a nearby hospital for the conclusive results. With those results, the person is then referred to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, or the local clinic in Nyantende for treatment with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

Even then, knowing they are HIV positive, many people in eastern Congo ask to be sent to a clinic in neighboring Rwanda, terrified that their family, friends, and neighbors might find out they contracted the disease. Thus, the critical, life-saving aspect of Amani and Nurse Jeanine’s program ALL TOGETHER AGAINST HIV/AIDS consists of diversified activities centered in the community, with a focus on settings with large populations such as schools, churches, and community-based organizations in eastern DRC. Thanks to the generosity of Robin Wright and Karen Fowler’s company Pour Les Femmes, Action Kivu currently pays Nurse Jeanine a monthly stipend that helps with her tireless work, but the HIV field test-kits are paid for out of Amani’s pocket at $25 per kit, and each tests 80 individuals. If you would like to give toward covering that cost as well as for Nurse Jeanine’s assistant, please donate today, and in your PayPal “note to seller” mark HIV. We are grateful for your investment in this life-changing work!

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Nurse Jeanine proctors HIV determiner tests in Mumosho, DRC.

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A Birthday Video for our Family: Action Kivu Field Report

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It’s Action Kivu’s birthday today, and to celebrate being 6 years old, we want to thank each and every one of you who has partnered with us and invested in the women, children, and communities of Congo!

Your generosity continues to make a meaningful impact in the lives of the people in Congo. Action Kivu began partnering with Amani Matabaro and his non-profit ABFEC in 2010. For five years before that, Amani / ABFEC had been operating a Sewing Workshop and Education Assistance Program out of his own pocket. In 2005, there were 7 women in the Sewing Workshop, and 15 children being sent to school. After launching Action Kivu and growing our family of donors, we have now graduated 236 girls and women from the Sewing Workshop, giving them the machines, necessary tools, and financial literacy to start their own small businesses, and are registering new students for the Class of 2017 now! With a grant from Jewish World Watch and your donations, over 400 children are now enrolled in school.

With your monthly donations and annual gifts, we’ve grown from those two programs to a variety of educational, vocational, and community building programs: 245 girls and women are in the Literacy Program, over 100 women and girls are enrolled in the Vocational Training Programs including basket weaving and bread baking. More than 100 families have been given goats and the animal husbandry support to breed them, to give back the kid to the next family awaiting a goat. Goats are a symbol of friendship and deepening connection, and a part of the circle of organic farming in our Shared Farm / Organic Food for All program, in which 180 women and girls are learning to farm, and growing healthy food for their families and to sell at the market.

With your support, we send a stipend for a nurse to teach HIV / AIDS awareness courses, family planning, and education to prevent and treat common diseases like malaria.

Without you, our Action Kivu family, none of this would be possible. Amani sends this message from Congo to honor the 6th Anniversary of our partnership:

“I’d like to thank everyone who has so far supported the work we do here via Action Kivu! That is the way to build a beloved community, to give hope to those whose hope has been stolen by the forces of evil. The support of our work is light in darkness, and communities feel a sense of worth that someone cares, and takes action.”

Visit our programs through a beautiful video filmed and edited by Hélène Estèves:

Thank you! Merci! Asante sana! We are grateful for you being part of our family, playing a part in creating the beloved community, taking action to invest in women and children and a brighter, more peaceful world for us all.

Read more about the impact of your giving:

Robin Wright’s Pour Les Femmes “Pajama Campaign” Changes Women’s Lives in Congo [Video]

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Celebrating, the women held high their graduation certificates, sang songs of gratitude, and made plans for their new small business ventures as designers and seamstresses. It was Action Kivu‘s Sewing Workshop graduation day for 60 girls and women in a village in eastern Congo, a day made possible by pajamas, you, and Robin Wright!

Robin watched the video (below) of the graduates celebrating and sharing their stories of how their lives have been changed by learning to sew and starting small businesses, and sent this message to the women.

“Congratulations to the graduates of Action Kivu! This is only the beginning… You are setting the example and reminding all of us that self-reliance is the key to a sustainable and rewarding life. Bravo!!!” ~Robin Wright

(Filmed & edited in Mumosho, DRC by Patrick Byamungu.)

“Mama Robin,” as many of the Congolese women who met Wright on her 2011 trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo call the actor, is a vocal activist on behalf of the people of Congo. Late last year, Robin partnered with her friend and fashion designer Karen Fowler to create a campaign for the women of Congo through Pour Les Femmes, a luxury pajama company.  The profits from the PJ sales traveled 15,114 kilometers from Los Angeles to Congo, and purchased sewing kits for these women to start their own businesses, earning income to feed, clothe, and send their kids to school, helping to break the cycle of poverty and change the landscape of their lives.

Some women walked one kilometer, some trekked five or six, a few bused in from the city of Bukavu, braving the unpaved dirt roads made muddy and dangerous from two days of the non-stop, rainy season wet weather. It’s just this wet weather that makes travel in Congo so dangerous, yet also makes it look a lush, verdant paradise, with its rolling green fields and the wide leaves of banana trees leading up to the misty mountains surrounding the valley. But the potential for paradise in Congo has long been marred by conflict, extreme poverty, and violence against women as a weapon of war.

That Saturday in March, in a corner of Congo, a country in which it is reported that 2.5 million girls are out of school, 60 young women ages 14 to 28 made their way to celebrate graduation from Action Kivu’s 8-month sewing program. They walked through the rain to the Mumosho Women’s Center, the heart of Action Kivu’s work in Congo.

Amani Matabaro is the man and the inspiration behind Action Kivu.  In 2006, Amani and his wife created Action Kivu’s partner organization in eastern Congo, Actions pour le Bien être de la Femme et de l’Enfant au Kivu (ABFEK), after learning that his cousins, victims of the ongoing conflict, needed work and a place to live.  At the March 2015 graduation, Amani congratulated each seamstress for her diligence in learning a new skill and gaining an education, invoking empowerment that no one could take away from them.   Often overwhelmed by tears of joy, Amani handed each woman her certificate of completion, and draped her new tape measure around her bowed head, a sort of sewing stole denoting achievement in education.

Amani congratulates Cibalonza Claudine.

Each woman received her graduation kit: a push-pedal sewing machine (for working in villages with little or no electricity), fabric, a box of threads, scissors, and her tape measure.  The rain abated, and the women stepped outside to pose for photos and share their stories of how learning to sew and having the means to earn income has already changed their lives.

“I am the happiest person on the planet today because of this graduation kit, I had never expected this, I waited for a long time but today is the day,” said Cibalonza Claudine, the sewing program’s star student, who was wearing a dress she had made. Cibalonza walks an hour and a half each way to attend the sewing classes at the Center, and was never late, never missed a session, said Amani.

Action Kivu’s work in Congo provides women with a variety of entrepreneurial programs to create sustainable change in their community, from bread baking and basket making to the sewing workshops, from literacy classes to a demonstration farm for growing food to sell and eat, as well as education assistance for the kids in the community whose families cannot afford to send them to school.  Your partnership through Action Kivu, whether an annual gift or a monthly donation, changes lives.

“Before I came to this center, I was nothing, I meant nothing at all,” Cibalonza said at the graduation ceremony. “After learning the sewing skills, I started rebuilding my life and today, I AM SOMEBODY. No matter the rain I will carry my sewing machine and show my mom and my child that I have to start a new life.  My plan is to open a new business and I promise I will prosper – thank you ABFEK, thank you Action Kivu, thank you Robin Wright, God bless you all and keep you strong for changing my life.”

These women, who have so little in terms of money, power, or influence, have so much to teach us.  Their gratitude for what you give them to start them on their path to earning income and caring for their families, reminds us of our connection to everyone in the world.  Thank you for partnering with Action Kivu through the Pour Les Femmes campaign!

Please consider continuing your partnership with Action Kivu — it provides the means to continue these life-changing programs for the women and children of Congo.  All donations are tax deductible in the U.S., and make a tangible difference in the lives of these women, as they share, in the video above.

ABFEK is registered as a local non-governmental organization in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Action Kivu, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) charity in the United States. Our EIN is 27-3537799.

~Rebecca Snavely

Executive Director & Co-Founder, Action Kivu

Stories from Mumosho: Amani Shares His Reasons Why Women are the Future of Congo

Every now and then one wonders, how does Amani, our partner, peacemaker, and community builder in Congo, keep going? Where does he get his strength and drive to create and manage community programs for women to access a place of empowerment and equality? And why? In a place where women are often less than second-class citizens, where they have no land rights, and are often discarded in divorce if they don’t produce a male heir, how did a man like Amani decide women are the future of Congo?

Amani and Nawa

Nawamugwaba participates in the demonstration farm activities, and is thankful she received seeds, so that during the dry season she had enough vegetables to eat.

Speaking to Amani on Skype recently, he shared his own recent realization of why this work is so close to his heart.

Amani has spent years investing in his childhood community of Mumosho, starting sewing workshops, education assistance programs for kids who can’t afford school, building a Peace Market for the safe and local sales of products and food. “I’m feeling a big difference,” he said, “when I meet children on the street, moms, the elderly. … I believe in the power of women, especially the women of Congo. My mom was left a widow after my dad died (Amani’s father was killed in the conflict in 1996). She was illiterate, but she raised us, she made every effort so that we would have the space for education.

“I shared my experience, my story, with the women [I work with],” Amani told me. “I see we are doing what we are doing because I trust the power of women. I trust what I learned from my mom, when she showed us that she believed, ‘My children are going to remain my foundation.’”

Amani’s belief in the power of women and education is what fuels his work in eastern Congo, and what we at Action Kivu work to support. His mother, who inspired this work, was also killed in the conflict, in 1998. In honor of all she taught him through her strength and love, he has created a community in Congo where women are learning entrepreneurial skills like sewing, baking, basket-making, and literacy training.

We learned last week that Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels have declared a ceasefire after a 20-month rebellion in North Kivu province to allow peace talks with the government to advance. It’s a hopeful step. But only yesterday we read that the fighting rages on, endangering more innocent civilians. At least 800,000 people have been left homeless since the conflict started.

NOW is the time to empower women with a voice for peace. Women in Mumosho stop Amani on the street, telling him they’ve observed their neighbors who are taking the literacy classes at the Mumosho Women’s Center. That they see women able to read and write their own names for the first time, enabling them to vote in their country’s elections. These women want that right, too. When they learn to read and write, they’ll be able to teach their children the value of literacy. And their children will learn, as Amani learned, that their mothers and aunties are strong, and won’t be stopped in their work for a better future for their children.

Meet Amani via video: The Enough Project’s “I Am Congo” Series.

Donate today and partner with the women currently in classes, and help us expand our programs to include more women!

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