It’s hard to tell who is more excited about the first day of school this year: the kids or Papa Amani, as the students in Congo call our partner in Congo. Amani lights up when he talks about sending children to school, giving them hope for a better future and the means to pursue their goals and dreams. He knows that educating children, and specifically sending girls to school, often denied education simply because of their gender, is one of the best ways to break the cycle of extreme poverty furthered by decades of war in this corner of Congo. Thanks to a generous grant from Jewish World Watch, many of the children we serve in eastern Congo, kids who are orphans or whose families are unable to afford school fees and supplies, are back in the classroom this week!
Amani often echoes Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
We’re thrilled to post our own Back to School photos. Meet Cibalonza, who is six years old and so excited to begin her education, entering grade 1 in elementary school this year. She’s surrounded by the school kits each child receives: a school bag, a uniform (many sewn by the students and graduates of Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop), copy books, a pencil, two pens, a mathematical box, and a ruler.
We’re happy to share an update on Ntaboba. 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 Congo with their friend Dr. Victoria Bentley of Empower Congo Women, met Ntaboba in Mumosho. 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, in 2012, 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. He continues to walk freely with “no fear,” stepping into grade 2 in secondary school.
Read more about our programs, and how your partnership and donations support life-changing work in Congo, here!
Meet Mamy in a video from our Sewing Graduation Day, 2015
Meet Cikwanine, Nadine, & Chanceline – three teen moms who are back in school!
Meet Claudine, and read her story of coming “back to life”
Meet Grandma Mwayuma and see some of the children at play
Meet Amani through the Enough Project’s “I Am Congo” video series
Meet the goats in our animal husbandry program, Your Goat is My Goat
The women of the Mumosho Women’s Center danced, welcoming the Jewish World Watch team to their community. JWW met with some of the students they support via ABFEK’s Education Assistance programs, and watched the women weave baskets and sew in the center.
Read more about the power of education here, and learn how just $10 / month will help change the future: Back to School Stories – Hope and Thanks from Congo.
We are so thankful for Jewish World Watch, their work, and their partnership with Amani and ABFEK’s educational assistance program! Read an excerpt from JWW’s recent visit by Diane Kabat to learn about how funding education is changing these kids lives, giving hope, and shaping the future of a peaceful Congo. The kids in the education assistance program speak with confidence about their goals, teaching us never to give up hope.
“As we leave Bukavu, we must say ‘au revoir’ to our dear friend, guide and translator, Amani. He has been with us every day and has managed every detail on the ground with Naama in the JWW office. Amani makes things happen here in Bukavu, not only for his JWW partners, but for the people in the South Kivu region.
“…One of the successful projects that Jewish World Watch sponsors with ABFEK is the Educational Assistance Program. Yesterday, for over an hour, we once again maneuvered the difficult hillside roads of Bukavu to Amani’s village of Mumosho (comprised of 6 districts) to see ABFEK. JWW has sponsored 52 secondary students (50% girls, 50% boys) during the last school year (2012-2013) by paying school fees. In addition, we supported 113 younger primary school students with school supplies and uniforms.
“After another celebratory greeting, we gather in the community room to meet the older students, many of whom are ‘double orphans,’ a phrase used to describe the loss of both parents to the war. All of us are eager to share our stories. The first student to speak is Bamanye, a dynamic 16 year old girl who says (translated from French), ‘I finished the last school year without difficulty (fees paid). I was able to concentrate on my studies and work hard. I want to be useful for society.’
“We are all very surprised when she continues to speak in English, ‘My mother has to care for everyone by herself and work very hard. But, she does not see much improvement for her family. She prefers the ABFEK action for her children. She knows that it will improve the well-being of women and children in Kivu.’ Bamanye thanks us for sponsoring her this school year, and hopes we will continue. After hearing from about 20 students, we are left with the feeling that these teenagers, all wanting to be lawyers, teachers, doctors and engineers, will be able to make societal improvements for their generation and the generations to follow.”
If you’d like to support the education assistance program, consider a monthly donation! Just $10 / month sends a secondary student to school, giving kids, and especially girls, previously denied an education, the opportunity to change their lives and impact their communities.
|The Jewish World Watch team with students and Amani, and our new Action Kivu intern Shatreen.|
Read more from our blog:
|Ernata, January 2012. Photo by Cate Haight.|
Ernata graduated with her sewing certificate in June, 2012. When we met her in January, her story echoed that of a society where women have very little rights or value, and can be divorced without recourse for not bearing a male heir. “My first marriage, I spent two years in my household,” Ernata told us. “I didn’t have any children, and I suffered a lot from my husband. He kicked me out because I didn’t have any children. After being kicked out by my first husband, I returned home, and spent six months at home. Another man married me. After about 6 to 7 months with my second husband, I could not conceive. He also kicked me out, divorced me.”
Then came another man, from a different village, whose wife had died and left him with seven kids. Ernata married for the third time, and after only three months, she conceived. “I was blessed to have one child, a boy, but it was after surgery (a cesarean delivery). After two years and three months, my only child died. I was there, living with my husband, but I was afraid. Six months had passed after my child died, and I hadn’t conceived again. I was afraid, and things had changed again, become negative, with my husband.”
Though he already has seven children, he wants another from Ernata. “And me, too,” she said. “Because if I have a child, I’m stable there.”
“I have a big wound inside my heart,” Ernata told us. “If I don’t have children with my husband, he will kick my out. I’m noticing some changes, bad behavior, from his family members, who might urge him to chase me (from the home).”
|Ernata supervises Cikuru, sewing school uniforms in Mumosho.|
|Sewing Workshop graduate Alani prepares the fabric for a school uniform.|
Were you ever THIS excited to go back to school?
When you’ve been kicked out of class because your family can’t afford the $7 – $8/month it costs to go to school, an education becomes even more precious.
Your partnership and support means that these kids have hope for a different future, filled with dreams of being doctors and teachers and nurses, oh my! In addition to the 115 primary students Action Kivu / ABFEK sends to school, thanks to a partnership and generous grant from Jewish World Watch, ABFEK is now sending 52 students to secondary school. Finishing a high school education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty that permeates eastern Congo, poverty that stops girls from achieving their dreams. (Read more about the positive results of educating girls at Women Deliver.)
Your donations began a cycle of good. Because you support the women studying at the Sewing Workshop and purchased sewing machines for them, they are able to make school uniforms for the children so eager to attend school. “What a big day!” Amani writes. “Our campaign was ”Young Girls, Stand Up, It’s Time!'” Amani and his colleagues have spent the last two years raising awareness and encouraging girls, families, and local leaders to make sure girls are sent to secondary school immediately after graduating elementary school.
“Today I was happy, so happy and more than happy again,” writes Amani. “In one secondary school where 26 students are recipients of the JWW grant, there are 380 students total. 240 are girls and 140 are boys. 67.3% of students here are girls. This is a big success in our everyday work!”
Two of the girls share their stories:
SHUKURU: “I am 13 years old, grade 1 secondary and have been getting education support by ABFEK for about three years now. I very much like Maths because I want to become a medical doctor one day in my life. I am from a family of five, among four sisters and one brother. Only two of my sisters and my brother are in school . My elder sisters got married [too young] because nobody could send them to school. I am lucky and I want to achieve my goal — to be become a medical doctor. I like ping pong. For this school year, I want to succeed with a high score at the rate of 99%. I am determined to achieve my goal. I want to become able to help my mum. I do not want an untimely marriage. As long as I have someone to help me stay in school, I will make every effort to succeed. My thank you words are sent to each and every single person who has donated his or her money to pay for my education this school year. May God bless and keep them strong.”
NOELA: 17 years old, grade 3 secondary school. My uncle has been struggling to send me to school. I very much like French and want to become a French teacher. I am from a family of five, three are in school and two are not because I have no father and mum is unable to afford school for us. My purpose for this year is to succeed with 80% and challenge all the boys in my class who think they are more intelligent than I. I like domestic work and want to become a secondary school teacher. Look, I am 17 now, I should now be in grade 5 secondary school, but I had nobody to take care of me, put me in school, but I have HOPE. Thanks for people who do not know me but are paying for my education.”
Primary school fees, including uniforms, copy books, pencils and slates = $6.25/month, or $75.00/year per student.
Secondary school fees, including uniforms, copy books, pencils and slates = $8.00/month, or $95.00/year per student.