What is the good life? In Mumosho, Congo, Riziki, a student in Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop, takes a break from the class to share her story. The front room of the community center is quiet, the sound of the pedaled sewing machines bleeding in from upstairs as the class continues without Riziki. She is 22, and answers questions in Mashi and Swahili, looking at Amani, who translates.
My first day at the Sewing Workshop was a bad day for me, Amani translates Riziki’s words into English, then laughs, and in Mashi, quickly rattles off his question – why was it bad? Riziki replies: “I didn’t know anybody.” She felt alone. One of seven children, she was forced to quit elementary school in 3rd grade because her family couldn’t afford the school fees (approximately seven U.S. dollars each month), and wasn’t used to the strict tone of the sewing teacher. She sounded rude to Riziki’s untrained ear.
Despite a bad first day, she started feeling connected quickly, becoming familiar with her fellow students, learning new skills. Before coming to the Sewing Workshop, she had worked on people’s farms, back-breaking work in Congo that pays around one dollar for a day of labor.
Now, she says, I am gaining confidence. Polepole (slowly) I am becoming a strong woman. She is building her clientele: people are bringing me fabric to make them things.
Riziki leans back into the armchair, relaxing. I had to quit school because of lack of funds, she says. Pursuing an education was a big wish of mine, but it didn’t happen. I wanted to finish school, to live a good life.
What defines the good life? Assuming she will answer as an American might: a house, nice clothes, maybe even a car?
Because I am a girl, she says, a good life is to meet my basic needs: soap, shoes, clothes. When I am a mother, married, it will be to feed myself, feed my family. I don’t want to live like my mother lives. A widow, she works on her own farm, and then goes to work on other people’s farms. My brother travels to mining sites, and sends money back to their family.
How far are we all from the good life? Those of us whose minds have been trained to equate it with things on one end of the spectrum, and those who have yet to know the pride that comes with feeding their kids on a regular basis, of being able to send them to school in hopes that they, too, will have access to the good life.
Learn how your donation to Action Kivu is an investment in creating the good life for girls and women like Riziki, giving them the tools to feed their families, send their children to school, pay for medical care – helping to break the cycle of poverty.
As we enter the holiday season, we reflect on the generosity of our Action Kivu family – you! Though we can’t all gather around a table to celebrate and thank you in person, we gather online, in emails and Facebook posts and Instagram photos, to share stories of the lives of the children and women, siblings and mothers, who have new hope because of your support. We’re asking you to help us reach our $3500 goal to gather 300 kids together in Mumosho to celebrate with a pair of shoes, clothes, and a holiday meal, often the only shoes and clothes they’ll receive all year.
Many of the children in our Action Kivu family have lost a mother, a father, or both parents to the ongoing conflict in Congo. They are “silent victims of violence,” as this NYT piece reports, and “over 4 million kids have been orphaned in Congo.”
“These children have grown up amid conflict fueled by ethnic strife and the fight over Congo’s valuable minerals. The violence and displacement are eroding the tradition of families caring for their own.
“The breakdown in family means some orphans are forced to look after themselves and their younger siblings. Some are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. And many also face sexual exploitation, in a country where rape has become commonplace on the streets.
“‘They are the orphans with a story of violence since 1994 — it’s a generation of victims that continues,’ says Francisca Ichimpaye, a senior monitor at the En Avant Les Enfants INUKA center. And the children ‘lose their story in the violence.'”
We’ll share some of the stories of the kids we know to let them know that their stories are not lost. Kids like Arsene, who last year told us: ”I am so happy again today because the red t-shirt I am wearing was given to me last year at the Christmas Celebration. I have nobody since my father passed away 4 years ago. I am in school because of your support, every year I get a new pair of shorts and a shirt or a T-shirt and a pair of shoes.”
Please visit our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page to help us share their stories and ask others to join you in investing in the kids and women of Congo. And please consider giving this week to buy shoes, clothes, and a meal for 300 of these kids in Mumosho!
When Amani asked what this water tap means to this little boy, he replied: Let me show you!
Our partner Amani Matabaro’s leadership in his local Bukavu Mwangaza Rotary Club made water flow into areas where people previously had no access to clean drinking water. Thanks to a Global Grant facilitated by the Montecito Rotary club, Amani was in charge of overseeing the project implemented by the Mumosho Local Water Committee. The task was to build one large reservoir and repair three existing reservoirs in Mumosho, where Action Kivu works with Amani in vocational training, education, and community building programs.
Amani does not settle for what is, but asks: what might be? And in this case, his community organizing turned the 22 water taps scheduled to go in to six villages into 51 taps that now serve 12 villages! Mark Magid, a representative of the Montecito Rotary Club, traveled from California to Congo to witness the work, and was amazed by the success of the project, that also included repairing 30 dysfunctional taps, so there are 81 newly working water taps.
How did Amani more than double the impact of the grant? We witness this in his work with Action Kivu every day – how Amani engages people in his passion, giving them ownership of the project. He invests his time: connecting with individuals, community leaders, church priests and pastors, and small groups of people. Once they’ve embraced the vision, in this case – access to clean water for their communities – they reach out to bring others on board. The community also talked to their children who had moved away from Mumosho, and found one person able to donate 150 pipes to the project. Local workers volunteered their labor.
The water project now provides the Mumosho Health Center with a water tank and a tap to ensure clean water is available there, especially for the maternity clinic. The grant requires training for the water committee to maintain the reservoirs and taps, as well as instruction in water testing, sanitation, and the components of water and peace, and the protection of water infrastructures.
In more ways than one, water is life. The project is also training the community on gender equality: shattering myths and long held traditions, the training teaches men and boys that collecting water is NOT only women’s work, it is everyone’s responsibility. The training also highlights the importance of education – children should be in school, not walking long distances or waiting in long lines for water. The increased number of taps means shorter wait time for life-giving water.
We’re honored to work with Amani and invest in the various ways his tremendous community building leadership creates lasting change in Congo. Please read more about his life-changing programs on our blog, and consider investing in this work through a one-time or monthly donation today!
The rainy season in the Sub-Saharan country of Congo makes many of the dirt roads in its eastern corner impassable, and the journey to school almost impossible. The road to an education for girls, in a culture where they are not valued as equal to boys, is fraught with even more barriers, from extreme poverty to early marriage. But Mama Adolphine never gave up hope.
In 2012, a study conducted by UNESCO and UNICEF revealed that 52.7 per cent of the 7.3 million children out of school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — some 3.8 million children — are girls. Among the obstacles to girls’ education are low family incomes and lack of school infrastructure. And according to A World at School, in some areas of the DRC, “around 70% of children who start primary school will drop out before the end of school. If you’re a girl, the risks of dropping out are even higher – as many as 77% of girls drop out of primary school in some areas of the country. … Early marriage contributes to the low secondary school attendance for girls.”
Aldophine doesn’t need to be reminded of these statistics – she lived them. Her parents did not think it important to spend money on their daughter’s education. “Women did not have any right to go to school,” she says. “But I liked studies so much. I never lost hope that one day I would study.”
Adolphine is 60 and the mother of six. Two of her daughters are married, four of her children are in school, and Adolphine is now a student in Action Kivu’s Literacy Program.
“I am learning how to write and read,” Adolphine reports. “I am very happy because now I can read my bible, I can choose and write the name of the candidate I want when there is an election in my country.”
The Literacy Program is the entry point to all of Action Kivu’s vocational trainings – teaching girls and women to read and write gives them the first tools needed to run their own businesses upon receiving skills training in sewing, bread baking, basket weaving, and the micro-loan project. To support this critical step in the road to equality for women and girls, please consider a monthly donation!
Adolphine is an inspiration: it is never too late to learn!
Read more about Brigitte in the following stories:
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