The weather gifted the kids of Congo with a dry day in the midst of rainy season this Christmas Eve, and our Action Kivu family of donors gifted the kids with shoes, clothes, and a holiday meal of rice, beans, and a banana. The kids send their wishes for our beloved community to have a Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and wish for the Congolese people a new year of stability and new hope.
Borauzima, pictured above, is the only of her family of 7 kids who is able to attend school. In the 4th grade of primary school, she is always at the top of her class, and dreams of teaching French as a university professor. When she learned what her tee-shirt says, she smiled, saying: That is what I want! To shine like a star.
In Alice Walker’s book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For, Walker writes: “It was the poet June Jordan who wrote ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for.’ Sweet Honey in the Rock turned those words into a song. Hearing this song, I have witnessed thousands of people rise to their feet in joyful recognition and affirmation. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for because we are able to see what is happening with a much greater awareness than our parents or grandparents, our ancestors, could see. This does not mean we believe, having seen the greater truth of how all oppression is connected, how pervasive and unrelenting, that we can ‘fix’ things. But some of us are not content to have a gap in opportunity and income that drives a wedge between rich and poor, causing the rich to become ever more callous and complacent and the poor to become ever more wretched and humiliated. Not willing to ignore starving and brutalized children. Not willing to let women be stoned or mutilated without protest. Not willing to stand quietly by as farmers are destroyed by people who have never farmed, and plants are engineered to self-destruct. Not willing to disappear into our flower gardens, Mercedes Benzes or sylvan lawns. We have wanted all our lives to know that Earth, who has somehow obtained human beings as her custodians, was also capable of creating humans who could minister to her needs, and the needs of her creation. We are the ones.”
In this season of giving, if you feel moved to connect with the women, kids, and communities Action Kivu partners with in Congo, please take a moment to read more stories on our blog to learn how your donation is an investment in community building programs that are bringing new hope to women long denied equal rights and access to an education through our Literacy Courses and Vocational Training Programs, as well as life-transforming work in HIV / AIDS prevention, sustainable farming training, animal husbandry, and education assistance for kids like Borauzima.
We are grateful for all our partners who donate annually or on a monthly basis – thank you! We feel surrounded by the power of people reaching out to care for each other in this holiday season and into the new year.
As we enter the holiday season, we reflect on the generosity of our Action Kivu family – you! Though we can’t all gather around a table to celebrate and thank you in person, we gather online, in emails and Facebook posts and Instagram photos, to share stories of the lives of the children and women, siblings and mothers, who have new hope because of your support. We’re asking you to help us reach our $3500 goal to gather 300 kids together in Mumosho to celebrate with a pair of shoes, clothes, and a holiday meal, often the only shoes and clothes they’ll receive all year.
Many of the children in our Action Kivu family have lost a mother, a father, or both parents to the ongoing conflict in Congo. They are “silent victims of violence,” as this NYT piece reports, and “over 4 million kids have been orphaned in Congo.”
“These children have grown up amid conflict fueled by ethnic strife and the fight over Congo’s valuable minerals. The violence and displacement are eroding the tradition of families caring for their own.
“The breakdown in family means some orphans are forced to look after themselves and their younger siblings. Some are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. And many also face sexual exploitation, in a country where rape has become commonplace on the streets.
“‘They are the orphans with a story of violence since 1994 — it’s a generation of victims that continues,’ says Francisca Ichimpaye, a senior monitor at the En Avant Les Enfants INUKA center. And the children ‘lose their story in the violence.'”
We’ll share some of the stories of the kids we know to let them know that their stories are not lost. Kids like Arsene, who last year told us: ”I am so happy again today because the red t-shirt I am wearing was given to me last year at the Christmas Celebration. I have nobody since my father passed away 4 years ago. I am in school because of your support, every year I get a new pair of shorts and a shirt or a T-shirt and a pair of shoes.”
Please visit our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page to help us share their stories and ask others to join you in investing in the kids and women of Congo. And please consider giving this week to buy shoes, clothes, and a meal for 300 of these kids in Mumosho!
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.
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.
“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!
“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!