Make a dress for me, Iragi asked her sister, Francine, who had just graduated from Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop and set up her new Singer sewing machine in a room in their home.
Francine didn’t have time, so Iragi decided to join the Class of 2017, and make her own dresses. The first day she arrived at the Mumosho Community Center, she saw so many choices of skills to learn, she wasn’t sure what to choose.
“I started with basket making, but after mastering that in three months, I decided to challenge Francine. I wanted to become a better seamstress than my sister.”
Before starting the classes, Iragi explained, she knew some of the girls, but they had nothing in common, nothing to talk about. But now, we are more than family. We lean on each other.
Iragi didn’t hesitate to answer when asked what is unique about the Mumosho Community Center: We don’t have to pay! We learn for free. And then, at the end, you give us a kit to start our lives.
With so many people living in extreme poverty, the chance at a free education and vocational training is critical. “The trainings are becoming a source of hope here,” Iragi says. “I will professionalize what I learned. I plan to graduate, and move somewhere else to start a business where there are more people working. But I will be smart about it, save money to buy equipment, to start a co-op.”
Iragi lights up when asked about her goals. Now 20, she wants to finish school: impregnated in her fourth year of secondary school, she had to quit. Her baby is 11 months old, and is looked after by other women at the Center while Iragi is in class. “I need to go back to school,” she says. Then there would be no limit to what she could do: “Imagine having a secondary diploma, a sewing co-op, and making baskets? I could be a teacher!”
“If girls and women are given the chance, given an education, we can change the future of Congo,” Iragi says. “We have to start within ourselves. If there is no love in ourselves and our families, the government, the leaders, will not love, as they are just people, raised up in our homes, our families.”
When Amani asked what this water tap means to this little boy, he replied: Let me show you!
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!
“Should agriculture be a required school subject?” writer Dan Nosowitz asks in his Modern Farmer piece that highlights Kenya’s attempt to add agriculture to its curriculum. At Action Kivu, our Organic Food for All (OFFA) program trains women and girls, denied a formal education, in the skill and art of agriculture. Here five farmers weed the beans they grow on the lush land down in a marsh in Mumosho, critical in the dry season for the water to grow food when vegetables are rare and expensive. “Having access to this land, thanks to Action Kivu support, makes a huge difference,” our partner Amani tells us.
Read more about our Entrepreneurial, Educational, and Community Building Programs:
“We write history with our feet and with our presence and our collective voice and vision.”
~Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
Walking the dusty dirt roads of eastern Congo to run her small business as a trader of local beer and the maize to make it, Claudine’s feet are on the ground, writing her chapter in the history of the women of Congo. There is great dignity in presence, in showing up daily for her work.
Claudine is still amazed at how much her life has changed in such a short amount of time after she received a microloan from the Power in Unity group, a program that began with donations from Action Kivu supporters and has grown into a sustainable economic system of investment, where each member pays forward their loan in small monthly installments, giving back part of their profits to create another loan for a new entrepreneur.
“The way you see me here, I don’t know where to begin telling you about my life,” Claudine tells us. “But before I talk about my life, I first want to say thank you very much to Action Kivu / ABBEC. I consider them like my parents because they have done a great thing in my life. It gave sense to my life.”
Married, and the mother of seven children (three girls and four boys), Claudine had first tried to run a business on her own, borrowing 10 dollars from a friend here, 20 dollars from a neighbor there. But it was never enough; she couldn’t pay back her loans and also feed, clothe, and pay the fees to send her kids to school.
“Since I got the loan,” Claudine reports, “five of my children are studying and we eat one meal a day.” One meal a day is not sufficient, “but at least we know that there will be a meal every evening,” Claudine says. “I can also save a little money. I also got a goat from Action Kivu / ABFEC. It helps me with fertilizer for my soil and I have hope that I will gain many other things from it.”
Claudine adds her voice and vision to the collective when she meets with the other women in the Power in Unity group twice a month. They voted in a president and a committee of eight women who oversee the meetings and the finances. The women pool their resources and have created a sustainable system in which their profits make it possible to include new members, while also depositing into a social fund to help members who need money for medicine, or marriage, or who are too sick to work, or are grieving the loss of a loved one.
The community the women have created has never been seen before in Mumosho, but that is the underlying meaning of hope: it fertilizes and tills the ground for the foundation of a new reality, allowing hope’s adherents to write their new history.
Read more Microloan Mom stories here:
To invest in women like Claudine, donate to Action Kivu here!