A message from Amani Matabaro, Action Kivu’s Founding Director and the co-founder of our local Congolese partner, ABFEC.
As we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome a new year, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our supporters, and to share what your partnership has meant to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo is a country with very little in the way of access to quality education for children, women’s empowerment, and socioeconomic services. Yet the country is as vast as all of Western Europe and a very rich country in natural resources such as diamonds, coltan, copper, cobalt, and gold. It is what I call a rich country for poor people.
2018 was a special year in that, for the first time, a local Congolese organization built a high standard school to promote nonviolence and peace, entrepreneurship, equality, equity, and transformational leadership. With the dedicated support and majority funding from our Peace School partner, the Dillon Henry Foundation, and generous support from Pour les Femmes, as well as the individual contributions from so many of you, the Congo Peace School, a decade-long dream of mine, became a reality. The construction of the school campus started in September 2017 and was completed in July 2018. Using the training I received from the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies as well as my training in Cognitive Processing Therapy for communities that have experienced trauma, I began training the staff and students in August, and the Congo Peace School opened in September 2018 with four classes of the eventual 12 grades, a student population of 160, balanced for equity between girls and boys. It is one of the only schools in the region where the students receive two meals a day, often the only food they will eat, as well as have access to a school counselor and nurse.
The mission of the school is in line with all of our ongoing programs that invest in the education, equity and equality of girls and women, from vocational training courses that include the Sewing Workshop. Since partnering with Action Kivu and our family of donors, we have graduated 205 sewing students with their own sewing kits to start their businesses, with 42 ready to graduate right now. Girls and women denied a formal education learn practical skills to earn income such as soap making, bread baking, basket weaving, organic farming and an education in protecting the environment, animal husbandry with goats, pigs, rabbits, and fish contributing to the health of the farm, and the Literacy Program, which, combined, have served over 300 women and girls since 2010.
Our HIV/AIDS education and treatment project is saving lives. With the support of donors to Action Kivu, Nurse Jeanine has tested over 1400 people in 2018, and follows up with those who tested positive, offering access to treatment at the clinic where she works. She speaks with hope about the change she has seen from the education and information campaign we started in 2016, when she had to work to convince people to be tested for HIV. Now, she says, men and women seek her out. And some who tested positive have told her that if they had met her earlier in their lives, they would never have been infected.
As word spreads of the valuable, life-changing assistance these programs provide, we continue to see many more children, women, and teen mothers coming to seek support from locations deeper in the South Kivu Province. These survivors are my heroes, they inspire me to keep pushing forward for peace, equality, and education for them, their children, and the world!
I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all our supporters, large and small, for their allegiance to the programs and steady support throughout a period in which they have other important things to take on but they chose to make our life changing programs a reality. I hope that, as you look at these pictures, you will see how your support makes a huge difference by being well used in responding to very real, critical needs. Hence your support is making a huge difference and brings a new hope in the lives of so many who have seen nothing but violence, have felt nothing but despair. We now see hope.
With gratitude and appreciation,
It’s not too late for a year-end donation online, or to set up a monthly donation that allows us to plan ahead as we deepen our impact in the lives of women and children in Congo, and all the people they influence.
Every dollar makes a difference. $20 buys a ream of fabric for the women in the Sewing Workshop to learn with. $35 pays for one month of one girl’s sewing education. $50 pays for seeds for the farm. $150 pays for one month of one of the literacy teacher’s salary. $200 pays for one month for nurse Jeanine’s family planning education and HIV/AIDS testing and prevention. $2000 pays for the yearly salary for one of Action Kivu’s sewing trainers.
We are grateful for all you do to invest in this life and culture changing work!
We first met Nathalie in 2017 on Action Kivu’s organic farm, where she was working a plot of land with her mother, Rose.
Nathalie is one of nine children, and the fourth of eight girls. Her parents could not afford to send their kids to school, and when her father died, Nathalie’s mother started working on the farm, to grow healthy food to feed her family and sell at the market.
Fast forward to 2018, and Nathalie has been working hard at Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop, determined to create a better life for herself and her family. “I was envious of the women who had graduated from here,” she said. “I wanted to be like them: strong, empowered women.”
Speaking about the community she has found in her sewing school, she said, “being here, learning from others, having them learn from me, mutual collaboration is community.”
Nathalie is ready to graduate, and we’re raising the funds to buy her and her fellow students each a sewing kit, complete with a Singer sewing machine, to start their own businesses, and to be like Bahati, Class of 2017, who is already earning enough income to care for her six children, and to have purchased a second machine, to teach her own students!
From December 10th to the 15th, 2018, Action Kivu is hosting a giveaway to raise the funds to graduate 42 students and continue our life-changing programs in Congo. Visit ActionKivu.org/giveaway to learn more, and donate!
Nurse Jeanine sits with six of the students who are anti-HIV / AIDS educators in their schools and communities, gathered to update us on their progress and the change they’ve seen from their outreach. With the support of donors to Action Kivu, Jeanine has tested over 1400 people in 2018, and follows up with those who tested positive, offering access to treatment at the clinic where she works. She speaks with hope about the change she has seen from the education and information campaign we started in 2016, when she had to work to convince people to be tested for HIV. Now, she says, men and women seek her out. And some who tested positive have told her that if they had met her earlier in their lives, they would never have been infected.
Enter in the student educators. Led by Jeanine, they take their knowledge of prevention and treatment into their schools, teaching their peers and engaging their families and communities. Bisimwa joined Action Kivu’s education club in order to not only protect himself from the disease, but to save future generations.
Nurse Jeanine also teaches family planning to the communities Action Kivu partners with. Both men and women, who often cannot afford to feed or send to school the children they do have, come to meetings to learn what contraceptives are available and will work for them.
Jeanine sends her thanks to everyone who is connected to this program – it is truly saving lives.
Read more about All Together Against HIV/AIDS here, and click here to donate to Action Kivu’s life-changing work in Congo. Thank you for all you do in partnering with the people of Congo!
From our Founding Director, Amani Matabaro, who is a community organizer in every facet of his life, from his work with Action Kivu his commitment to the mission of Rotary International. Read Amani’s words, as his Rotary Club delivers medical equipment to Dr. Denis Mukwege for use at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC:
“What an honor being a founding member of the Rotary Club of Bukavu Mwangaza! Today is an unforgettable day whereby my club officially hands over this medical equipment (Digital X-Ray / Brivo-F) to the Panzi Hospital, a life changing project whose vision came from Dr. Mukwege, the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. [The equipment donation] is possible thanks to the generous support of Rotary International District 1620 in Belgium and the Rotary Club of Bukavu Mwangaza in south Kivu, DRC.
“Dr. Mukwege is a man whose sense of humility and compassion will inspire you every time you meet him. Today was not the first time I met Dr. Mukwege, but I felt moved by his words calling everyone to make a difference and not just stand idly by doing nothing.”
No matter where you are, you can make a difference and change the lives of so many, whether through the Panzi Hospital and Foundation, or through Amani’s work in education, from literacy to organic farming to sewing workshops to the newly opened Congo Peace School, paving the road for peace ambassadors. If you want to support this groundbreaking, life-changing school, visit patreon.com/congopeaceschool. Even $3 per month makes a difference, and the need is great, as we grow from four grades to the full school of 12 classes.
The school is already changing the lives of the students and staff. Read more about their stories here.
Bulangalire did not hesitate to speak up as we talked about what equality means for women and girls in Congo. “I’m very angry about the discrimination,” she said. “My father told me I shouldn’t go to school, that my brother should. My father knows he owes me a debt for not putting me in school.”
In her book A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes, “Teach her to reject likeability. Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people. … teach her to be honest. And kind. And brave. Encourage her to speak her mind, to say what she really thinks, to speak truthfully. And then praise her when she does.” (Eighth Suggestion)
Bulangire speaks her mind, sharing her story in order to change her world: “I got married, and the marriage ended, and I had to move back home. I told my father, see, if I’d had an education, I could be teaching right now.”
Bulangalire may have missed her opportunity for a formal education, but thanks to support from Action Kivu’s generous donors, she is learning the latest in organic farming, using new skills to grow nutritious food for her family, her community, and to sell to the Congo Peace School so that the students eat healthy meals, grown locally!
If you want to partner with us in this movement for equality, education, and peace, click here to donate today, and consider making it monthly. Our family of monthly donors allows us to plan ahead in sustainable growth.