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Isn’t This Progress? A Thank You, Straight from Bukavu

From Nabirugu*, one of the women in the sewing collective that is supported by your donations.

“My name is Nabirugu*. I am 21 years old. I have no father. I joined the ABFEK centre 10 months ago and today I am ready to go and start my own sewing workshop based on the skills I have [learned]. Today I am able to measure, cut fabrics and join them. I can now make dresses, skirts, a pair of shorts, pants, and blouses. Isn’t this progress? I learned to use sewing equipments in this centre, before that time I had never used a pair of scissors to cut fabrics or a tape measure. I am very proud of my training in this centre. Now I have hope and confidence. I hope for success in my life. If I succeed to get my own sewing machine, I can start a small business such as making school pupils uniforms,make [outfits] from fabrics when there is a wedding ceremony, make my own clothes without paying as I was doing before. We need to start learning embroidery and then people will not be taking their fabrics to Bukavu if they need embroidery. I am very happy and I thank everyone who has donated his money to provide us with the sewing equipment we are using in this centre.”

(*Names are changed to protect the identity of women in the workshops.)

Pass the buck. Action Kivu on Philanthroper.com – log on to donate a dollar!

Do you philanthrop?  (Philanthropize?  I’m always attempting to coin new verbs.)  Philanthroper.com is sort of like those daily deal sites, but instead, they give you the option to do good, one dollar a day, if you choose.  And today, Friday, July 22nd, they’re featuring Action Kivu!

“Passing the buck” is generally not a flattering phrase, so we’re re-defining it, and asking you to pass along a buck to the women and children of eastern Congo. $1.  100 pennies.  You’ve got that to give, right?  Log in at Philanthroper.com, give a buck and tell your friends.  (If you missed our day and, naturally, you want to philanthropize for Action Kivu, you can always donate here.  In fact, you can make it a recurring donation  — 4$ / month, the cost of a latte, will send one child to school.)

Since we’re volunteers here in the U.S., every bit of your donation goes to the work on the ground in the Congo. (PayPal takes a tiny percentage, as does the bank fee for wiring funds.) Here’s a glimpse at where your money goes: to teach women who are victims of the ongoing conflict and violence how to sew, and embroider! Last year, with your generous donations, Amani bought an embroidery machine for the students at the Bukavu sewing collective. And just this week, Amani informed us that with the partnership and grant from the Rotary club, ABFEK bought another embroidery machine for the Mumosho sewing center. Amani’s wife Amini is training the advanced students in this art; as the demand for embroidered fabric and clothing is higher, the women will be able to earn more money with this skill.

So go on.  Log on to Philanthroper.com (if it’s Friday, July 22nd, 2011) or anytime at Action Kivu, and pass the buck.  This time it’s good for your soul.

Photos from the Bukavu Center

Peace Market Prayers: Time for Hope

“I cannot wait to see this market construction complete. I have been selling clothes for about 4 years here. Every time when it rains, we have no place for shelter. During the dry season, the sun causes a serious problem. When it rains my goods are wet and nobody buys. My friend lost a basin of palm oil because of rain 3 months ago. She no longer comes here because that was the only money she had. I am very excited about this market. We have a place to shelter. Now I believe there’s time for suffering and time for Hope. We thank ABFEK and their supporters. We’ll be selling calmly [in peace].”

The words of just one of the many women whose lives will change because of the creation of the Mumosho Peace Market.

The women (and a few men) of the Mumosho Peace Market at the opening ceremony.
Opening ceremony – Mumosho Peace Market, July 2011

Tangible Dreams: Mumosho Peace Market is Open for Business!

The first thing we discovered when we met Amani was that he’s a man of many dreams with one overarching vision, to give hope and a future to the women and children of his community in eastern Congo.  Then, he told us of a place that he envisioned as a “Peace Market,” a safe, communal space along the border, where the Congolese and Rwandans could come together and work alongside each other towards peace and  a stronger, healthier economy.

Through ABFEK’s partnership with Empower Congo Women, Falling Whistles, and a generous donation from the Rotary Club of Montecito*, Amani’s dream of a Peace Market in Mumosho has become a reality. Last weekend, he witnessed his vision become literally solidified, as the community that supports the project traced their names into wet concrete, to mark the spot and space where hope can grow. 

We’re so excited to witness the changes that are growing out of Amani’s visions.  From the following email and the abundance of exclamation marks, he’s pretty excited as well:



“The Market project is gradually being completed!!! We opened it last Saturday but we still need to do latrines and stalls inside. So many people came to attend!!! Children are also very happy,they told us a market was a real need in the community. After the opening ceremony,we asked people and the organizations who donated and who want to donate to sign in the concrete, and the reason why you’ll see AK (Action Kivu) on the banners and in the concrete is because you have been supporting ABFEK and they implemented the project!!!! This project is so important that it will help the women in our sewing centres to sell the fabrics they make. The plans are: while school children are on vacation, the women in the sewing centres have to make school uniforms for the kids and will sell some in this market!!!”

To all of you who support Amani, the women and children in eastern Congo via Action Kivu in spirit and generous funds, thank you.  YOU ARE making a difference.

Peace Market under construction – supervised by Mark of the Montecito Rotary Club, an engineer who oversaw the project.

(*Read more about the Peace Market and the other generous Rotary Club donors including Santa Maria Rotary, D.5240, Korea D.3270, and Rotary Club of Wakefield RI, as well as private donors at Empower Congo Women.)

First Action Kivu Intern Arrives in Bukavu!

It’s official – Action Kivu / ABFEK has an intern, on the ground, volunteering to assist Amani in all the work, change and growth that he’s creating in eastern Congo.

A big welcome to Miriam, who arrived via Rwanda (and Nepal, and a short rest in Germany) just this week, to unexpected rain, open arms, hearts and hope from Amani, his family, and all women and children in the community they work with!

Miriam in the DRC (in purple pants, 3rd from left) with Amani (blue hat, 2nd from right)

In Miriam’s own words:

“I’m 27 years old, from Germany. I’ll stay in Bukavu from June to December 2011 to work with Action Kivu.

“The fight for women’s equality and against gender-based violence has always been a passion of mine, and this is what brought me here. I was part of the staff of the international NGO Women Against Violence Europe for two years when I decided to explore feminist work on a grassroots level. During the research for my final exam for my master’s degree in media science I came across the war journalist Kevin Sites. It was through his reports that I became aware of Action Kivu. I had already read about women’s situation in Eastern DR Congo so when I learned about Action Kivu I knew I had to get in touch with them.

“Before my stay in DR Congo I spent half a year in Nepal to learn about the situation women are facing there.

“I refuse to let frustration and resignation take over in the face of the overwhelming plight of Congolese women. Instead I would like to learn from the Congolese people and try to support them, one by one and face to face. “

We’re thrilled to welcome Miriam, thankful for her giving spirit and adventurous, open heart, and excited to see, through her eyes, camera, and experience, the challenges facing the people of eastern Congo and the changes being made.