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
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.|
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50 women gathered at the Mumosho Women’s Center to meet their goats. Given to each through Action Kivu’s partner ABFEK, the goal is to breed these lovely lady goats with a billy goat, to improve the milking productivity, and to grow the goat family.
When a baby goat is born, the family caring for the goat will return the baby to ABFEK to pass it on to another neighbor who is waiting. Paying forward the good in their lives, providing more milk to drink and sell, the community will grow stronger, Amani explains. Which is why the project is called, “My goat is your goat.”
Creating community is crucial in our work. But sometimes, in the midst of life, it can be easy to forget the basics: “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” ~ Robert Fulghum (All I Really Needed to Know I Learned from Kindergarten)
To hold hands with the women in eastern Congo, help grow the community and the goat families, please consider a donation to Action Kivu! All funds donated are tax deductible in the U.S., and go directly to the programs on the ground in the Congo.
Walking out the door to the local market to fill up your cupboard with locally grown fruits and vegetables – don’t you wish you could pick up one of these beautiful, hand-made baskets for your market day?
The women at the Mumosho Women’s Center have begun to learn basket weaving. Depending on the size, they can sell these for 3, 5, 6, or 8 dollars. A bundle of the colorful cords that are woven into the patterns costs between $50 and $70, used to create approximately 12 large and 2 medium baskets, that sell at $8.00 USD and $5.00 USD, respectively.
Connect with the women in Congo — post a comment or tweet @ActionKivu with your words of support for the women in eastern Congo, weaving their way to empowerment through earning regular income, sending their children to school, and being the change we all want to see in Congo! We’ll send your thoughts forward, where your words will be printed out and translated, posted in the women’s center to encourage the women on their journeys.
To support the weaving women, consider a monthly donation! Every dollar makes a difference in the lives of the women learning to read & write, to sew, to weave, to farm.
Rosine meets with the sewing students at the Mumosho Women’s Center, leaning over a shoulder to check one woman’s work, eyeing the stiching of another’s, offering encouragement and tips on creating gorgeous garments from a bolt of fabric, needles, thread, and a simple Singer sewing machine.
At 22, Rosine is as young as many of her students, teaching a marketable skill to teen mothers and other young women who could not afford school. Rosine had to drop out of elementary school in the sixth grade, her mother unable to pay for further education. Four years ago, desperate for a way to help her family, she found a job on a farm, growing beans for a small wage. Selling her harvest was just enough to pay someone to teach her to sew. Her hard work led to a position as a teacher at ABFEK’s sewing workshop in the Mumosho Women’s Center, supported by Action Kivu, which offers free classes to train women in eastern Congo to start their own businesses.
“By training the other women,” Rosine says, “I am always thinking that the women and
rest of the community will become able to take care of themselves, their
families and why not the community.”
Rosine learned about ABFEK’s work from her brother, a student who is sent to school through Action Kivu/ABFEK’s sponsorship. “I also know that ABFEK built the Mumosho Peace Market,” a safe place for the community to gather to sell their fruits, vegetables, fish, and goods. After she attended last year’s sewing graduation ceremony, she was interested in teaching at the workshop.
“Being a sewing trainer makes me happy,” she says, taking a break from work. Rosine has seen the benefits of what she teaches directly, through her ability to help her family with her income, especially after her father passed away a year ago. “I help my mom to take care of the rest of my family. Whenever my mom is unable to buy food and I have some money out of my savings from sewing, I jump in and fix the issue. If one of my brothers needs to pay school fees, I am able to help from time to time.”
When asked what their greatest needs are, and how the partners of Action Kivu might help, Rosine reminded us that they need support to make sure they have all they need to continue training the women, to ensure the sustainability of all the programs hosted by Action Kivu through ABFEK.
Rosine’s story is just beginning, as she plans for her upcoming marriage, and worries about how to continue helping her mother and brothers, while she starts her own family. We work to surround Rosine, and all the women working and learning and living in the communities of eastern Congo, with support.
You can partner with the women and children of Congo by donating here! To start their business, sewing graduates are each given a sewing kit, including a pedal-powered machine, fabric, scissors, thread, and more, totaling $195 USD. (Action Kivu is a U.S. 501c3, and 100% of the funds go to the programs on the ground, minus nominal banking fees.)