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
18 years old, Yvette Cishi doesn’t mind her long walk to attend Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop. She is one of the 43 girls and women in the Class of 2018 – eager to learn all she can and graduate with a sewing kit complete with a pedal-powered Singer machine to start her own business! This is what you, our Action Kivu family, make possible for the women and girls we work alongside in Congo.
Head over to our blog to read more about the sewing workshop and alumni at ActionKivu.org/category/sewing-workshop/
Brigitte’s face lights up when she talks about her future as a lawyer: “At school, my classmates are already calling me lawyer for standing up for their rights. I often like to defend my colleagues who are innocent and sometimes punished for no reason.”
With financial support to pursue law school, 18-year-old Brigitte plans to take that spirit of justice out of the classroom, and into the rest of Congo, and the world. “I want to attend the school of law so that I become able to defend the rights of women and children around the world, in Africa in general and in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) in particular. This has been my dream for several years, since I joined the Teen Mothers and Educational Assistance programs four years ago. I came with a heart full of disappointment and sadness. I felt worthless, but today I am worthy and want to become a lawyer.”
Four years ago, Brigitte was abandoned by her family, in accordance with a cultural norm that blames the survivors of rape for their crime. Forced to quit school with a baby to care for, she had little hope for her future. After Action Kivu’s partner ABFEC welcomed her and her child into the Teen Mother’s program, providing a home and vocational training, she quickly found her footing.
We don’t stop at education and equality training for just our participants, but work to educate the whole community on the rights of women and kids, and reconciliation with families who grasp that understanding. Brigitte’s family was one who learned that rape is not the victim’s fault, and with support and forgiveness, reunited with Brigitte and her baby. By that time, Brigitte had already requested to return to school, and stayed in Mumosho, while her mother, now Brigitte’s biggest supporter, raises the little girl, so Brigitte was able to focus on her studies, and finish secondary school in June of 2017.
“My mom is so happy, proud of me for continuing my studies because my family believes that it may lead to a bright future, which I know will happen. I want to continue my education to create a better future where I become able to take care of myself, my child, my community, and my country by giving back,” Brigitte says.
“I am inspired to become a lawyer to defend the rights of children who are not respected and who are being violated every day.”
Brigitte’s memories inform her drive to work for equality and justice, from how she found hope to come out of a dark place, to a joyful memory from elementary school.
“The story of the past that I remember is the day that I lost hope to live, the only thing I wanted at that time was to end my life, after being pregnant, abandoned by everyone, even my beloved ones. I had to stop going to school, I was feeling it should not have happened, and questioned why it happened to me. My favorite memory of a great experience was being in school, in elementary school I got 99%, and my headmaster paid for my school fees for 6 months. I was very happy and respected.
“Returning to school changed my life, because I have a new hope for a better life in the future, and my parents are proud of me now and proud of the program which changed my life. I am not ignored by people in our community, they look at me differently now, they have respect for me. My life is no longer miserable like before, I see a bright future based on a new hope. Before my life was very hard, destroyed and miserable. I spent my time at home disappointed, doing nothing alone with my child. But now life is becoming easy,” Brigitte says. After graduating secondary school in June, she’s still learning: “Even now I’m in training, and helping nurse Janine with education about HIV/AIDS,” she says.
“10 years from now, I will have a job as a lawyer and be independent, defending people because I will have that power thanks to my studies.
“I say thank you so much to all the supporters of the programs. I would like to say that I wish to study law, travel around the world and exchange experience with other experienced lawyers in other countries and help Congo build a strong country reinforced with law.”
We believe Brigitte’s vision for her bright future, and are looking for people to partner with her in it. $7,000 USD pays for one year of her university education, including books, room, and board.
“What I want to tell other girls – in Congo and around the world – is to never lose hope, and to work hard. They should not lose self-confidence, which was what happened to me. And that being a girl or woman does not mean someone is inferior to men, no, not at all.”