Category Page: Food for Thought | Growing Up Healthy

Students as Teachers: Jewish World Watch & Lessons from Congo Kids

We are so thankful for Jewish World Watch, their work, and their partnership with Amani and ABFEK’s educational assistance program!  Read an excerpt from JWW’s recent visit by Diane Kabat to learn about how funding education is changing these kids lives, giving hope, and shaping the future of a peaceful Congo.  The kids in the education assistance program speak with confidence about their goals, teaching us never to give up hope.

“As we leave Bukavu, we must say ‘au revoir’ to our dear friend, guide and translator, Amani.  He has been with us every day and has managed every detail on the ground with Naama in the JWW office. Amani makes things happen here in Bukavu, not only for his JWW partners, but for the people in the South Kivu region.

“…One of the successful projects that Jewish World Watch sponsors with ABFEK is the Educational Assistance Program.  Yesterday, for over an hour, we once again maneuvered the difficult hillside roads of Bukavu to Amani’s village of Mumosho (comprised of 6 districts) to see ABFEK. JWW has sponsored 52 secondary students (50% girls, 50% boys) during the last school year (2012-2013) by paying school fees. In addition, we supported 113 younger primary school students with school supplies and uniforms.

“After another celebratory greeting, we gather in the community room to meet the older students, many of whom are ‘double orphans,’ a phrase used to describe the loss of both parents to the war.  All of us are eager to share our stories.  The first student to speak is Bamanye, a dynamic 16 year old girl who says (translated from French), ‘I finished the last school year without difficulty (fees paid).  I was able to concentrate on my studies and work hard.  I want to be useful for society.’

“We are all very surprised when she continues to speak in English, ‘My mother has to care for everyone by herself and work very hard.  But, she does not see much improvement for her family.  She prefers the ABFEK action for her children.  She knows that it will improve the well-being of women and children in Kivu.’  Bamanye thanks us for sponsoring her this school year, and hopes we will continue.  After hearing from about 20 students, we are left with the feeling that these teenagers, all wanting to be lawyers, teachers, doctors and engineers, will be able to make societal improvements for their generation and the generations to follow.”

If you’d like to support the education assistance program, consider a monthly donation! Just $10 / month sends a secondary student to school, giving kids, and especially girls, previously denied an education, the opportunity to change their lives and impact their communities. 

The Jewish World Watch team with students and Amani, and our new Action Kivu intern Shatreen.

Read more from our blog:

Top of the Class: Girls Sent to School by Action Kivu Supporters
Back to School Stories: Hope and Thanks from Congo

Mi Casa Su Casa … My Goat is Your Goat

50 women gathered at the Mumosho Women’s Center to meet their goats. Given to each through Action Kivu’s partner ABFEK, the goal is to breed these lovely lady goats with a billy goat, to improve the milking productivity, and to grow the goat family.

When a baby goat is born, the family caring for the goat will return the baby to ABFEK to pass it on to another neighbor who is waiting.  Paying forward the good in their lives, providing more milk to drink and sell, the community will grow stronger, Amani explains.  Which is why the project is called, “My goat is your goat.” 

Creating community is crucial in our work.  But sometimes, in the midst of life, it can be easy to forget the basics:  “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” ~ Robert Fulghum (All I Really Needed to Know I Learned from Kindergarten)

To hold hands with the women in eastern Congo, help grow the community and the goat families, please consider a donation to Action Kivu!  All funds donated are tax deductible in the U.S., and go directly to the programs on the ground in the Congo.

Connect with Congo: Women who Weave

Walking out the door to the local market to fill up your cupboard with locally grown fruits and vegetables  – don’t you wish you could pick up one of these beautiful, hand-made baskets for your market day?

The women at the Mumosho Women’s Center have begun to learn basket weaving.  Depending on the size, they can sell these for 3, 5, 6, or 8 dollars.  A bundle of the colorful cords that are woven into the patterns costs between $50 and $70, used to create approximately 12 large and 2 medium baskets, that sell at $8.00 USD and $5.00 USD, respectively. 

Connect with the women in Congo — post a comment or tweet @ActionKivu with your words of support for the women in eastern Congo, weaving their way to empowerment through earning regular income, sending their children to school, and being the change we all want to see in Congo!  We’ll send your thoughts forward, where your words will be printed out and translated, posted in the women’s center to encourage the women on their journeys.

To support the weaving women, consider a monthly donation! Every dollar makes a difference in the lives of the women learning to read & write, to sew, to weave, to farm.

Threads of Education: Meet Sewing Trainer Rosine

Rosine meets with the sewing students at the Mumosho Women’s Center, leaning over a shoulder to check one woman’s work, eyeing the stiching of another’s, offering encouragement and tips on creating gorgeous garments from a bolt of fabric, needles, thread, and a simple Singer sewing machine.

At 22, Rosine is as young as many of her students, teaching a marketable skill to teen mothers and other young women who could not afford school. Rosine had to drop out of elementary school in the sixth grade, her mother unable to pay for further education. Four years ago, desperate for a way to help her family, she found a job on a farm, growing beans for a small wage. Selling her harvest was just enough to pay someone to teach her to sew. Her hard work led to a position as a teacher at ABFEK’s sewing workshop in the Mumosho Women’s Center, supported by Action Kivu, which offers free classes to train women in eastern Congo to start their own businesses.

“By training the other women,” Rosine says, “I am always thinking that the women and
rest of the community will become able to take care of themselves, their
families and why not the community.”

Rosine learned about ABFEK’s work from her brother, a student who is sent to school through Action Kivu/ABFEK’s sponsorship. “I also know that ABFEK built the Mumosho Peace Market,” a safe place for the community to gather to sell their fruits, vegetables, fish, and goods.  After she attended last year’s sewing graduation ceremony, she was interested in teaching at the workshop.

“Being a sewing trainer makes me happy,” she says, taking a break from work. Rosine has seen the benefits of what she teaches directly, through her ability to help her family with her income, especially after her father passed away a year ago. “I help my mom to take care of the rest of my family. Whenever my mom is unable to buy food and I have some money out of my savings from sewing, I jump in and fix the issue. If one of my brothers needs to pay school fees, I am able to help from time to time.”

When asked what their greatest needs are, and how the partners of Action Kivu might help, Rosine reminded us that they need support to make sure they have all they need to continue training the women, to ensure the sustainability of all the programs hosted by Action Kivu through ABFEK. 

Rosine’s story is just beginning, as she plans for her upcoming marriage, and worries about how to continue helping her mother and brothers, while she starts her own family.  We work to surround Rosine, and all the women working and learning and living in the communities of eastern Congo, with support.

You can partner with the women and children of Congo by donating here!  To start their business, sewing graduates are each given a sewing kit, including a pedal-powered machine, fabric, scissors, thread, and more, totaling $195 USD. (Action Kivu is a U.S. 501c3, and 100% of the funds go to the programs on the ground, minus nominal banking fees.)

How You Can Connect with Congo: Action Kivu Monthly Donor Drive

It’s spring and Action Kivu’s programs in Congo are growing!

The new Mumosho Women’s Center is up and running, and offering a new outlook on life for the women taking part in the classes offered there. “What we like the best with this Center is that we are offered free trainings whereby we acquire skills, and the men who abused us are now going to respect us. Being here means no longer being worthless.” And from Amani: “Sewing, farming, literacy: the women are so proud they are able to write their names, read and write a few sentences!”

Writing practice in Action Kivu’s Literacy Program. Photo courtesy Emma O’Brien – emmaobrien.com

But we can’t grow without you – and the best way for you to support the women and children in eastern Congo is with a monthly donation. Under Amani’s leadership, the community has so many ideas of how to learn and grow and thrive, but they need our support. With every dollar going to the work on the ground, your tax deductible donation of $10, $20, $50 … $100, $200 per month means that you’re investing in a better future for the people of eastern Congo.

Planting Seeds of Hope

What will your kids be doing to fill the lazy days of summer? The kids in ActionKivu’s Education Sponsorship Program in eastern Congo will be on vacation starting July 2nd to August 30, but have no camps to attend or pools to swim in. With your help, over 130 school kids who are able to get an education because of your partnership, will grow vegetables and flowers this summer, and the harvest will belong to the children. Planting seeds is in itself a symbol of hope – holding in your hand a small, shriveled brown seed that holds the possibility of life, of a flower to open slowly to the sun and add a bit of beauty to the day, of a ripe vegetable to bite into after tending the plant and watching it grow. In groups of 10 to 15, kids from different schools and different villages will form their own summer camp, where they will learn lessons of growing food as well as sharing stories and making new friends. Their camp counselor is a local woman who studied rural development and will guide the kids in agriculture lessons as they meet for lessons at the Mumosho Women’s Center, and grow their gardens three days a week.

The Community School Garden’s seeds will cost $1350 for the whole summer, plus $200 / month for the supervisor’s salary, at three months, totaling $1950.00. The supervisor will start work in June, preparing the seed beds, from which the kids will transplant the seedlings to each community garden. The project gives them hope and a sense of responsibility and success, as they work together, investing in the future of their land, and contributing toward feeding themselves and their families.

Mumosho Women’s Center

With your help, we will reimburse the community who gave talent and materials to complete the new Mumosho Women’s Center. A beautiful, safe space that now houses Action Kivu’s multitude of programs, including literacy classes, job and skills training workshops like sewing, embroidery, soap-making and more, the center also provides a gathering place for the community to address social problems such as domestic violence or women’s rights. Empower Congo Women partnered with Amani to help build the center, and started a Teen Mother’s 12-month program, while Action Kivu is partnering with the newly formed Peace Exchange to start a Fair Trade program, where the top graduates of the sewing workshops will create fantastic products for you to purchase! The outstanding cost from finishing the Women’s Center remains at $8,200.00.

Mom and child – Mumosho. Photo courtesy Emma O’Brien – emmaobrien.com

It’s a very exciting season of growth, but we can’t do it without your partnership. We need to meet ongoing basic needs: to pay the program instructors, hire a program assistant, expand our education assistance so more girls go to school, and purchase kits for the graduates to can start their own small businesses. Visit “how you can help” and click on the drop down menu to choose a monthly donation amount here.

Giving shows the women and kids that their stories matter. Giving reminds us that we’re all connected, that what we do with our time and money impacts others, so we’re all sharing a better world.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Please share with friends, colleagues, strangers, the woman on the subway platform! A great way to introduce our work is through introducing Amani via The Enough Project’s beautiful video:

(Many thanks to Emma O’Brien for the use of her gorgeous photos from a recent trip to Mumosho with Amani!)