December 29, 2016
Three years ago, we formed ACT for Congo to serve a start-up humanitarian organization in Democratic Republic of Congo. We knew the founding members, because we had worked with him them on projects in Congo for more than a decade. These are professionals. They are change makers.
Here are some highlights...
Succeeding Together is our founding partner’s (HOLD-DRC's) first program. They offer a fresh start to teenage moms, abandoned mothers, and their children in Goma. This includes a seven-month, state-certified vocational training program that includes training in managing a small business and personal savings and credit. The mothers also receive training in life skills such as literacy, preventing disease, human reproductive health, and knowing their civil rights. It's an integrated approach, and that includes childcare, counseling, and legal assistance for moms who need it most, and an ongoing advocacy network and community they can count on after they graduate.
This year Succeeding Together counts eight program cohorts, 897 graduates, and expects that another 87 women will graduate in January 2017.
Women who feel valued, with more opportunity to learn, become engaged in community issues. In these few short years, Succeeding Together has grown in several directions as their graduates become peer educators and participate in actively improving their communities.
HOLD works to change policy about pregnant girls in school:
In DR Congo, a girl who becomes pregnant is summarily expelled from school. Two years ago, HOLD began an advocacy campaign to change this policy
HOLD's Peer Educators developed an education campaign that performs in assemblies at schools, churches, clinics, and markets. As of today, this program persuaded 27 High School Principals in Goma to become Peer Educators and engage ALL schools - State, Private, Catholic, and Protestant - in Goma to allow pregnant girls to stay in school. The state is following the process closely, and encourages HOLD to continue this advocacy. The state can't change the policy if the schools aren't all agreed. The right to education is guaranteed to all under the constitution of 2006. But schools have their own internal governing policies, which is why the advocacy campaign is working with all parts of the community for this change. Pregnant girls have the right to an education.
Girls who are expelled are a loss to the community. Their children suffer, and are more likely to end up in militias if they don't get an education and feel part of the community.
LUCHA wins Amnesty International’s 2016 Ambassador of Conscience Award.
LUCHA, the youth movement co-founded by Micheline Mwendike, is working with young people around the continent toward nonviolent change in their countries. This year, LUCHA received the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award. They shared the prize with two other organizations from Senegal and Burkina Faso as well as with the musician Angelique Kidjo.
Fred Bauma is our Scholarship for Congolese Luminaries awardee for 2016:
Fred Bauma represents a new generation of leadership in DR Congo. He and his colleagues were able to galvanize and mobilize youth on a scale hitherto impossible, largely because of the existence of cell phones and internet through social media. They are connected and aware of all the efforts for change around the world today. They are well-educated and connected with peers around the globe. Because of this, it might just be possible to enact change on a scale never before possible. And we are glad to be able to encourage and support them through ACT for Congo. Stay tuned in 2017. Read Voices of the Humanosphere 2016: Fred Bauma of Congo to learn more today.
ACT for Congo has a new partner! Meet Congo Nouveau:
Congo Nouveau is a non-profit started by Congolese youth leaders including Fred Bauma and Micheline Mwendike to teach youth groups about civics, civil rights, and how to help their own communities forward through community mobilization, conflict transformation, and non-violence. They work with active youth groups across DR Congo.
The median age in DR Congo is 17 years. This is the future of Congo.
Innoss’B and Maisha Soul:
We have always understood that the arts have a powerful role. Artists are forerunners for change. As such, we have supported Maisha Soul and Innoss’B for many years. Maisha Soul began their careers by using music to encourage people in refugee camps. They help us by connecting to local organizations like HOLD to encourage artistic expression, increase media skills and opportunities.
A year ago last fall, Innoss’B and Maisha Soul scheduled a series of concerts in eastern Congo to promote peace. They wanted communities to know that they could stand together for peace. "Kwetu Beni" means "Beni is our home; our place. When you harm the people of Beni, you harm our family, whether you're from Goma, Beni, or Kinshasa." This means a lot in Congo, as different locations have been associated with different ethnic groups. There have been massacres in Beni and other cities there this past year as well. Targeted killings to inspire fear and consolidate power on one side or other.
The Environmental Club continues its outreach!
The Environment Club began with one woman who realized, "It matters what we do in our homes, it's the air we breathe!" and then began by teaching in her peer group, neighborhood. Then she thought, "the children need to learn this!" So the children's Friends of Nature Club began...It meets weekly during the academic year and does field trips to teach at local schools. It meets during vacations and they do projects, make art from recycled material, write songs and plays, and have fun.
This has grown into an impactful local outreach program about environmental stewardship.
In this video, the women at HOLD are repurposing plastic bags from the trash to make beautiful accessories that people can wear. These fashionable totes aren't being shuttled off to get sold in the developed world. People in Goma buy and wear them!
The “Friends Protecting Nature” Kids’ Environmental Club meets during school breaks, too. Here they are playing a game. Kids write songs, poetry, and drama and practice them during vacation so they can present them in schools and for community events during the rest of the year.
What does ACT for Congo do for our partners?
- Act as a cultural bridge; provide contacts and introductions, supply context and information.
- Bring people together- for exchange of ideas across international lines, to help each other, to learn from each other, and to provide training.
- Provide technical services that make our partners in Congo able to operate more efficiently.
- Enhance our partners’ web and social media presence.
- Provide a fiscal agency (provide a safe way to donate to the work and provide tax receipts for US donors) for our partners in DR Congo, and perform accounting and communications in English.
- Regularly travel to Congo and evaluate together, exchange ideas about their work.
- Translate reports and documents when needed.
- Maintain daily/weekly contact by email and phone when not in Congo.
- Facilitate -- we network on behalf of those who can't do it from where they are, we help with things that make their work easier, and we make it easier for you to understand what they’re doing and why it matters.
That's why we created ACT for Congo. You can trust that the money you've given is doing what you've given it for because womens’ lives are being changed visibly. I feel confident that the people I'm working with are doing an outstanding job, because their heart is in it! And it's their vision, their work! Together we're a great team! We could not do this without your help, so thank you if you’ve been helping us this year!!!
Do you want to help us? We welcome your ideas and support!
Thank you for the privilege of working with you!
Peace to you, Peace to Congo.
Judy Anderson, Executive Director