A picture is worth a thousand words:
Meet some of the kids in Mumosho, DRC, who take a break from their play to clown for the camera at the playground built through our partner’s work. How can we state in just a few words what it means for these children to have a safe space to just be kids, without worry for their safety (besides a scraped knee), playing with abandon?
We are grateful for the grant from our partners in Sweden from Direktionen för Nytta och Nöje in Strömstad that created this playground in Mumosho, DRC, who connected with our work through Gunilla Hamne of Peaceful Heart Network.
And grandma Mwayuma is grateful as well, to have a safe place to drop off her grandchildren while she goes to the Peace Market!
There are many places for people of all ages to find community in Mumosho, Congo: the church, the local elementary school yards, or a hot day at the Peace Market, where people are happy to be crowded under the market’s roof, selling or buying peppers and fish, bananas and plastic woven bags, happy for respite from the relentless sun or downpour of rain. If the women who are learning sustainable farming on Action Kivu’s Organic Food for All (OFFA) demonstration farms aren’t there at the Market, selling beautiful fruits and vegetables, they may be found down the road, at the Mumosho Women’s Center.
Over at the Center, the place is swarming with, well, women. They move from the sewing workshop to take a break and stretch their limbs outside. They walk down to where the literacy class meets in the afternoon. They swap caring for babies so the teen moms who live at the center get a break.
Outside the Mumosho Women’s Center
But at least once a week, both women and men gather at the Center, where they meet for the community’s weekly empowerment session. Men and women, often with children in tow, gather together at the center to discuss how mismanagement is hurting Congo. And more importantly, how to take ownership of their own actions, the behaviors and relationships that will affect the community and eventually, the entire country.
“We talk about the worth of sharing in the community,” Amani explains. With Action Kivu‘s animal husbandry goat program, the families are required to return to the Women’s Center when the new kid is born, to set into motion the title of the program, “My Goat is Your Goat.” Amani shares the example he shares with the men and women at the weekly meeting. “If you sell the goat without telling the organization, you are just like those who embezzle funds / resources in Congo.” It starts with you. Amani’s face lights up: “The women and men LOVE that. They respond to that.”
Nearby village chiefs are invited to attend, to share the sessions with their communities.
Through this center, these weekly meetings, the entrepreneurial courses and literacy classes, Amani and his staff are providing the education, training, and safe space for people to explore what it means to be those leaders in their own lives, in their personal relationships, in their families, communities, provinces.
“It starts at the micro level,” Amani says. “Change in Congo has to start in our households. If I’m a bad father, in my household, then how am I going to act in the greater community of Congo? We inspire people to be honest in all their transactions, in relationships, in promises, in contracts, to create the Congo we want for our kids.”
I was reminded of the empowerment trainings in Mumosho, Congo, while listening to a re-broadcast of Brené Brown’s conversation with Krista Tippet about the strength of vulnerability, and stepping into hope and the fear of unknown at the same time.
…”It starts by an openness to seeing ourselves and seeing kind of how we’re protecting ourselves from vulnerability. I think that’s where it started. I think … even for me today, I am the most successful doing, you know, this work and trying to be real and transparent and me and feel good in my own skin when I stay very aware of what kind of armor I’m throwing up or when I feel afraid.
“I think maybe the definitive piece of knowing that has helped me with this is that I was raised in a very kind of binary culture. If things were good or bad, you know, you were brave or you were afraid. You were courageous or you were fearful. And I think for me, one of the definitive moments in my life was realizing that most of us are brave and afraid in the exact same moment all day long.”
We’re so honored to work alongside our friends in Congo, who through your support are stepping into and helping create a better present and future for Congo. Read more from our blog to learn about the entrepreneurial programs, the informational meetings, the Peace Market, and more!
If you’d like to set up a recurring monthly donation to support these projects, click here! Every dollar makes a difference to create sustainability and a better future for those we work with in eastern Congo!
Maombi sits, baby in lap, her foot rocking rhythmically back and forth to power the sewing machine, practicing the latest in what she’s learning at the Mumosho Women’s Center sewing workshop.
Life became very difficult after her father died in the 1996 war in Congo, and she helped her mother cook, clean, and farm, too poor to attend past the fourth grade in elementary school.
One day, at the Peace Market, where neighbors from the various villages that make up Mumosho gather to buy and sell vegetables, fruit, fish, and small items, she learned about the sewing workshop. Maombi started to dream of the day that she could start her own business, and support her mother and her new child.
“Being part of the sewing program has helped me gain hope again,” Maombi says. “When I meet with others I feel I am not alone. Every day I am clean because I cannot come to the group dirty, my mother is encouraging me to be a loyal participant in the group! My life has changed and I am hoping for a future now!”
There is such dignity in choosing, daily, to show up. To be loyal, and to pursue your goals. Maombi is an inspiration. What would you like to tell her? We’d love to pass along your support to her and the other women in Congo – leave a note in the comment section, and Amani will translate and post them at the Women’s Center, so they are surrounded by your encouraging words!
We’re raising money to buy Maombi and her fellow sewing students kits upon graduation. $195 purchases a pedal-powered machine for them to use, despite having no electricity, as well as the fabrics, scissors, and threads and tools to launch their work. Every dollar makes a difference and changes the lives of these women. Please consider donating today.
Read more stories here:
While the M23 rebels moved just kilometers outside Goma in preparation for negotiations, a tense and perhaps temporary peace settled into the towns and villages in North and South Kivu. But as a recent Los Angeles Times article reports, the region, “swept up in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. … has become the scene of one of the great tragedies of the last century: Wars fueled by a toxic blend of resource riches, ethnic hatred and interfering neighbors have killed 5 million people.
“In recent years, the area settled into a fragile peace. But militias still drain the country’s wealth. There now are fears that eastern Congo could spiral into another long and bloody conflict.”
Now, more than ever, is the time to educate and empower the people Action Kivu serves, to help them stand for peace. The work is even more important with the recent wave of violence in eastern Congo. The programs there tell the women and children that their stories matter, and gives them the hope and the actual tools to change their home life, their villages, and eventually their country from a very personal place of empowerment and knowledge.
Early this December, the local Catholic church organized a demonstration for peace and justice in South Kivu, inviting Action Kivu’s partner ABFEK to participate as one of the most active groups working toward peace and a civil society. Gathering just outside the Peace Market, women and men, the young and the elderly, danced traditional dances, imploring peace.
“Together with no weapons but as ONE, we are stronger than those shooting bombs innocently against us, dispersing us like a herd whose shepherd is almost non-existent, sending us to exile unwillingly, forcing us to become homeless, raping our daughters, sisters, and mothers, pillaging our resources …destroying the entire fabric of our society! The truth will triumph, but only when we stand up and shout against whosoever is against peace, those who are not honest with themselves and with us.”
“The white color symbolizes Peace, these children do not want AK47s, but need to learn about their rights and how to make their country and the globe a better place for everyone to live.”
Will you join in the dance? This holiday season, consider giving a gift to the women and children through Action Kivu – $10/month sends a secondary student to school with a uniform and supplies. A recurring donation helps programs like the sewing workshops move forward, training women in the skills necessary to earn an income and provide for her family, supplying her with a sewing machine upon graduation to start her own business.
|The Peace Market latrine, prior to construction.|
What? You didn’t know that November 19th is World Toilet Day? I didn’t either, until I read Amnesty International’s post about “giving a crap for human rights,” and immediately thought of Robin Wright and Amani Matabaro. Neither one who approved my using his/her name in conjunction with “crap,” but both have given time and money toward making sure the women, men and children who use the Peace Market have a safe and sanitary place to … well, poop.
It’s an unsavory subject, but one that is critical to health and human rights. I never thought I’d be so passionate about the toilet, but lately I can’t forget the fact that 2.6 billion people don’t have access to basic sanitation. Next time you flush, consider that open defecation leads to outbreaks of cholera, which is a horrifying threat to the lives of children, especially in eastern Congo, where 1 in 4 children who die before their fifth birthday lose their lives to something entirely preventable – cholera and acute diarrhea.
Immediately after Robin Wright heard of the need and generously donated the money, the latrine started started construction at the peace market! Amani, who met Robin during her visit to eastern Congo with the Enough Project, sent us the photos of the construction and another thank you to Robin, saying “that she has saved lives with the donation!!!”
Asked about the importance of these latrines, the leadership of the Market committee happily replied:
”These latrines are so important that they are going to prevent people from getting very dangerous diseases such as cholera. And we will be selling our goods, especially food, with no fear of contamination of any disease — these latrines are going to save lives! They will prevent us from getting problems with people living nearby the Market since they were already complaining about merchants. A crowd of upwards of 300 people gather at this market every day.”
And Amani’s thoughts about the importance of these latrines:
”A market is a place with large populations and when it has no latrines, it simply becomes a public danger. Building these latrines … is a great sustainable solution to the health threat which was already there since community members started using the Market with no latrines. Many community members come to buy food, buyers and sellers both had no rest rooms and they were coming to use the Health Centre rest rooms, and the danger here is there are many communicable diseases in the area. Patients admitted to the Health Centre sharing latrines with sellers and buyers puts everyone at risk–these latrines will minimize and stop once and for all the risk of communicable disease contamination among sellers, buyers, patients, children at school and those who come to attend the church nearby since all these facilities are very close.”
Cate and I are excited to visit the Peace Market in person later this month to see the completed project, and share more stories with you.
In the meantime, you can support human rights on World Toilet Day by supporting the Water for the World Act. Take ACTION and sign Amnesty International’s petition today!