It’s spring and Action Kivu’s programs in Congo are growing!
The new Mumosho Women’s Center is up and running, and offering a new outlook on life for the women taking part in the classes offered there. “What we like the best with this Center is that we are offered free trainings whereby we acquire skills, and the men who abused us are now going to respect us. Being here means no longer being worthless.” And from Amani: “Sewing, farming, literacy: the women are so proud they are able to write their names, read and write a few sentences!”
|Writing practice in Action Kivu’s Literacy Program. Photo courtesy Emma O’Brien – emmaobrien.com|
But we can’t grow without you – and the best way for you to support the women and children in eastern Congo is with a monthly donation. Under Amani’s leadership, the community has so many ideas of how to learn and grow and thrive, but they need our support. With every dollar going to the work on the ground, your tax deductible donation of $10, $20, $50 … $100, $200 per month means that you’re investing in a better future for the people of eastern Congo.
Planting Seeds of Hope
What will your kids be doing to fill the lazy days of summer? The kids in ActionKivu’s Education Sponsorship Program in eastern Congo will be on vacation starting July 2nd to August 30, but have no camps to attend or pools to swim in. With your help, over 130 school kids who are able to get an education because of your partnership, will grow vegetables and flowers this summer, and the harvest will belong to the children. Planting seeds is in itself a symbol of hope – holding in your hand a small, shriveled brown seed that holds the possibility of life, of a flower to open slowly to the sun and add a bit of beauty to the day, of a ripe vegetable to bite into after tending the plant and watching it grow. In groups of 10 to 15, kids from different schools and different villages will form their own summer camp, where they will learn lessons of growing food as well as sharing stories and making new friends. Their camp counselor is a local woman who studied rural development and will guide the kids in agriculture lessons as they meet for lessons at the Mumosho Women’s Center, and grow their gardens three days a week.
The Community School Garden’s seeds will cost $1350 for the whole summer, plus $200 / month for the supervisor’s salary, at three months, totaling $1950.00. The supervisor will start work in June, preparing the seed beds, from which the kids will transplant the seedlings to each community garden. The project gives them hope and a sense of responsibility and success, as they work together, investing in the future of their land, and contributing toward feeding themselves and their families.
Mumosho Women’s Center
With your help, we will reimburse the community who gave talent and materials to complete the new Mumosho Women’s Center. A beautiful, safe space that now houses Action Kivu’s multitude of programs, including literacy classes, job and skills training workshops like sewing, embroidery, soap-making and more, the center also provides a gathering place for the community to address social problems such as domestic violence or women’s rights. Empower Congo Women partnered with Amani to help build the center, and started a Teen Mother’s 12-month program, while Action Kivu is partnering with the newly formed Peace Exchange to start a Fair Trade program, where the top graduates of the sewing workshops will create fantastic products for you to purchase! The outstanding cost from finishing the Women’s Center remains at $8,200.00.
|Mom and child – Mumosho. Photo courtesy Emma O’Brien – emmaobrien.com|
It’s a very exciting season of growth, but we can’t do it without your partnership. We need to meet ongoing basic needs: to pay the program instructors, hire a program assistant, expand our education assistance so more girls go to school, and purchase kits for the graduates to can start their own small businesses. Visit “how you can help” and click on the drop down menu to choose a monthly donation amount here.
Giving shows the women and kids that their stories matter. Giving reminds us that we’re all connected, that what we do with our time and money impacts others, so we’re all sharing a better world.
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Please share with friends, colleagues, strangers, the woman on the subway platform! A great way to introduce our work is through introducing Amani via The Enough Project’s beautiful video:
(Many thanks to Emma O’Brien for the use of her gorgeous photos from a recent trip to Mumosho with Amani!)
This past weekend in Ethiopia, a Peace Accord was signed to attempt to end decades of conflict in Congo. According to reports, despite this encouraging step, the accord does not specify enough detail or plan of action, and there are signs of a return to fighting between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels.
That same weekend, a celebration of peace was held in eastern Congo, as the Bukavu Rotary Club honored 108 years of the Rotary Foundation. Dr. Denis Mukwege, the main speaker at the event, is a hero of healing whose Panzi Hospital has served multitudes of women in the war-torn region. Mukwege only recently returned to Bukavu after an attempt on his life in October of 2012. Amani, a member of the Bukavu Rotary and friend of Dr. Mukwege, noted that the doctor is a great inspiration to him.
Mukwege addressed the Rotary gathering in light of their theme, “Peace and Global Understanding,” and Peace through Service. “I was renewed by his moving speech,” Amani wrote. “[It] gave me hope again in the fight to end war and poverty and injustice by not only empowering the most impoverished communities to help themselves here in the Eastern Congo, starting in Mumosho, but also making our voices heard to the international community and regional policy makers! I was encouraged when Dr Mukwege said: ‘It’s high time we stood up and fight corruption, impunity and injustice and no, no to the balkanization of Congo.'” Amani added, “Violence against women should stop once and for all!”
|Dr. Mukwege addresses the Bukavu Rotary Club, Feb 2013.|
The Rotary’s celebration of peace started Friday in Mumosho, where Rotary leaders met with ABFEK / Action Kivu’s hero of healing and peace, Amani Matabaro. In honor of the celebration, Amani opened the new Mumosho Women’s Center. Still needing funds and work to be completed, Amani gave a tour of the center, which will house Empower Congo Women’s teen-mother program, giving a year of safe shelter and skills-training to 10 young mothers, empowering them to provide for themselves and their children. The center will house Action Kivu’s multiple projects, including our literacy programs, skills-training workshops, and a workspace for graduates of the sewing workshop. It will also serve as a community gathering place, hosting forums and trainings toward building peace in the family, in the community, and in Congo.
|Amani explains how the Mumosho Women’s Center will serve the community.|
|A leader of the Bukavu Rotary speaking at the Mumosho Women’s Center.|
|A group of young mothers in Mumosho.|
More to come on the opening of the Women’s Center! If you’d like to partner with us in covering the costs of the construction, please note that in a donation. All donations go directly to the programs already running, but the need is great, and we’re excited to grow with your partnership!
|Ntaboba, before his surgery, with his aunt and mother.|
Ntaboba is 14, a slight boy with a wide smile that is often masked by his look of concentration. Ntaboba, who attends school with the help of Action Kivu’s education assistance program, is focused. Focused on school, on his dreams of becoming a doctor, and on walking without the crutches he used to depend upon. At age 14, he should be in grade 2 of secondary school, but because of physical setbacks, he is in grade 5 of primary school.
When he was six years old, Ntaboba, whose name means “no fear,” stepped on a live grenade in the jungle near his home in eastern Congo, mangling and twisting his leg, forcing him to walk with a metal pole for support, which further twisted his spine. Because of the injury, he often missed classes and fell behind in his education when he could not navigate the five kilometers to his school.
Margaret Johnson and Betty Merner, two Americans visiting their friend Dr. Victoria Bentley of Empower Congo Women, met Ntaboba in Mumosho, through Bentley’s work with Amani. They quickly connected to Ntaboba’s soft spirit and strong character,and were determined to do what they could to help him. Thanks to the emotional and financial support of these women and school kids they work with in Rhode Island, Ntaboba received a surgery on his leg from Heal Africa in Goma, a hospital renowned as one of only three referral hospitals in the DR Congo.
|Ntaboba, Summer 2012, after his surgery.|
Though the surgery was successful for as much damage had been done to his leg, Ntaboba still misses school during the rainy season, which turns the dirt roads of Mumosho into deep, slick mudslides.
According to Amani, there are few solutions to this problem. One is to board Ntaboba near the school, which costs around $400 USD each quarter. The longer-term sustainable solution is to find a place for his family to live after we build the Peace School. The Peace School will offer the traditional Congolese curriculum, as well as teach alternative courses in human rights, giving orphaned and vulnerable kids like Ntaboba a place to study and play in peace, growing the future generation of peace builders for Congo.(We’re currently working with Amani on a budget and outline for the cost to build and staff the school, looking to raise approximately $185,000 USD. More to come, soon!)
Ntaboba is doing his best to walk without crutches, determined to finish school so he can live his dream to become a doctor. No Fear.
Thanks to Margaret, Betty, the school kids of Rhode Island, and everyone who partners with us! It’s only through supporting each other that we make a difference.
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.)