We hear this story over and over from the sewing students and recent alumni – how being a part of a community, learning marketable skills, and embracing their equality as women is opening new doors for hope, for planning for the future. Sara, whose father died in the conflict, only attended school through grade 5 of elementary, as her mother couldn’t afford the fees. Now 20 and a mother to a three-year-old, Sara lives at the Teen Mother’s Center, supported by Jewish World Watch and their partnership with Amani’s work, and is a part of the Sewing Workshop, Class of 2018, thanks to our Action Kivu family of donors. Hope has been restored through living in community with the other teen mothers, and in her sisterhood of sewing students and the graduates who are modeling the way to earning income and creating a new life.
“Being here has taken me out of danger,” Sara told us. “Being with others has helped me balance my thoughts and feelings,” Sara told us. She had been desperate, but now, “living with others in community gives me hope, I can focus on tomorrow.”
This is a marked difference from when we began Action Kivu. On a visit to Congo in 2011, when we asked the first cohorts of students in the Sewing Workshop what they hoped to do with their new machine and skills, the question was often met with silence. Action Kivu’s Founding Director Amani Matabaro paused in his translation, and explained, for most of these girls and women, they do not know how to hope for the future. They need to focus on survival for today: how will they feed their children? Will they be safe tonight?
Your investment in Action Kivu’s community building work is changing lives, opening the door for the women and girls to step through with their brilliance and determination, bringing back hope and planning for a brighter future for themselves and their children.
The impact of your support is palpable in Congo. It is seen in the smiles of the women as they work. It is heard in their voices as they share their stories, hopes, and plans with ease. Please share these stories with others in your community, to help us continue to provide opportunities for peace and hope to flourish!
The Congo Peace School opens its doors on Monday, September 3rd! This month, our Founding Director Amani Matabaro trained the teachers and many of the students in some of the practices of nonviolence and peace.
We’ve posted a video and more photos that are accessible when you support the school via our Patreon page for as little as $3 per month! That’s less than a morning latte in most places – can you commit to being a Congo Peace School patron today? Each month you will receive an exclusive video update from the school. www.patreon.com/
Photo credit: Tony Mancilla
Meeting Justine today, it might be hard to tell that she felt scared on her first day at Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop, not knowing what to expect, how to operate a foot-pedal sewing machine. Today she is confident, talking about her plans to start her own business, how she became the matriarch of her family when her mother spent six months in the hospital for a hip problem and her father could not find work.
Justine’s parents decided that each of their children should complete elementary school, to be able to read and write, so Justine, now 22, finished 6th grade, but was unable to begin secondary school, in order for her younger siblings to get a basic education. Enrolling in the Sewing Workshop and already earning money from clients in her village, Justine now helps pay the school fees for her siblings. “People ask me to make something, and I bring it here,” she says, gesturing to the Mumosho Women’s Center, “and my colleagues, my fellow students, help me.”
“I’ve seen how working in community makes a difference,” Justine says. “Learning sewing skills, I’ve become part of a family. I know how to sew now, but I’m still learning. We work together on orders, learn from each other. That’s community for me.”
“I like the word,” Justine replied when asked what the word equality means for her. “It means no discrimination. I still feel like men are getting many more chances, and that’s not equality. When I come here, I feel safe, and equal.”
When asked about sharing what she’s learning about women’s rights and equality, Justine’s face lights up. “I always share what I’m learning about equality with the people in my village,” she says. “And when I get a sewing machine at graduation, I have a plan. My head is full of skills now. I already help my family, I help buy food and medicine. My mom spent six months in the hospital with a hip problem, and my father has no job, so I took over.
“I have to do it, but I am not afraid. I feel like when I am successful, I can lift up the entire of Congo in my hands.”
In addition to learning the traditional curriculum skills, Justine has joined the alumni group learning to make men’s fashion as well. “I want to be able to do it all!” she says.
Thinking about her community, and Congo, “the need is huge. There are many other young girls who could not attend school, who need a program like this. Wherever I go, I am not afraid. I can work, I am empowered.”
“I want to continue to thank and pray for the people who support this program, it is changing lives.”
Thanks to your support, girls and women like Justine are discovering the power that they hold, and teaching others. Read more about the alumni and current students here, and please consider a donation today to invest in this life-changing work!
“I wish I was a child to be able to attend the Congo Peace School! I want to be educated, but I was never given the chance to attend school.” Claudine, 25, is one of the farmers learning organic, aquaponic techniques to grow healthy food for herself, her family, and her community. Claudine will start with Action Kivu’s Literacy Program in December to pursue her goal of an education, made possible by you, our Action Kivu family of donors!
Join the movement for equality in education and support our farming program, literacy courses, HIV education and prevention work, and sewing workshop here!
To Shadrack, the word peace means stability. “Congo needs that,” he told us in July, as he thought about what a school based on the principles of peace and nonviolence will mean for him, his country, and the world. Shadrack lives with his grandparents, after his father, a soldier, died when Shadrack was just six years old, and his mother recently passed away from HIV/AIDS.
13 year old Shadrack will enter his first class at the Congo Peace School as a secondary student in grade 1. He’s excited to learn who his French teacher will be, and continue to study his favorite subject a this new school. “I’ve heard the term nonviolence,” he said, “but I don’t really know what it means.”
“My only dream is to be admitted to this school,” said Shadrack.
“Oh!” Amani paused in translating for Shadrack. “He says, ‘I want to be like Amani, to do the work you are doing, to help others.'”
Amani is Action Kivu’s Founding Director and the visionary leader behind all we do in Congo, inspiring the community that peace is possible, and it starts within each of us. https://www.patreon.com/congopeaceschool
When asked what the term “nonviolence” means to him, Arsene replied: “I’ve only ever heard of violence, not nonviolence. Our teachers tell us about what is happening in the world, and it is all related to violence.” I asked Arsene what expectations he has for this new school, based on the principles of peace and nonviolence. “We never know,” he said. “I hear this school will be a blessing. Maybe I will graduate and become president.”
From our U.S. ED, who is in Congo reporting on our ongoing programs and the Congo Peace School:
Thank you to the Eddy family – the newest members of the Action Kivu Congo Peace School Patreon family. Your monthly commitment helps ensure the ongoing education grounded in peace and nonviolence for students like Arsene, who will enter grade 2 of secondary school at the Peace School this September.
Thank you to all our Patreon donors, Guardian Donors, our partner Dillon Henry Foundation, and PLFDreams for making this vision of peace possible, investing in future peace leaders. It starts here.
The need is great, if we reach $650 / month on the Patreon page we can pay 2 of our secondary school teachers a living wage. Jim us for as little as $3 per month!
“But I have no uniform.” Our U.S. ED reports from Congo: Visiting Action Kivu’s Literacy Program, I noticed that one student appeared much younger than the others. Asking the age range of the group, I learned that Anouarite, pictured here, is 10 years old. After a few students shared their thoughts on equality and community, and Amani and I started to say our goodbyes, Anouarite stood up and addressed our Founding Director and leader Amani, telling him she is an orphan who has no one to pay for her education, so she joined the Literacy Program, determined to learn how to read and write. Barely four feet tall, she stood strong and confident and asked if she could attend the Congo Peace School when it opens in September. Amani said yes on the spot, as part of his criteria to select students is to find those most vulnerable, who have no one to look out for their education, as well as to find strong leadership potential, students willing to assert themselves.
As we celebrated her drive and determination to get an education, she interrupted: “But I have no uniform.” Amani assured her that the uniform and supplies are part of the school, and she will be well cared for.
Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop students and alumni will be paid to make the school uniforms for the 160 students will will launch the school this September in grades 1 & 2 primary, and grades 1 & 2 secondary, part of the synergy that is implemented across much of Action Kivu’s work on the ground in Congo.
Celebrate Anouarite’s courage and determination with a monthly commitment to her education and students like her! A pledge of $3 / month ($36 / year) will purchase 3 uniforms for students at the Congo Peace School. Learn more and sign up at our Patreon Page – www.patreon.com/congopeaceschool