Judy's Corner: It's Independence Day in DR Congo!

Today, Congo celebrates 55 years of since Belgian Congo declared independence. It's been a long story...

 Innoss'B of Maisha Soul recently wrote and produced "Cha Cha" as an homage to the original song celebrating Belgian Congo's liberation, Independence Cha Cha, played by  Le Grand Kalle' et L'African Jazz 60 years ago:

When I was in Goma this April, Innoss and his brothers told me they were going to do a series of concerts for peace in the cities to the north of Goma, where conflict stopped future plans for so many. They wanted to raise awareness among Congolese, and raise money to help orphans left behind. Orphaned children cannot go to school. Schools in places where there is violence close, because it’s hard to keep a curriculum going when teachers and students are on the run. 

So InnossB and Maisha Soul are doing a series of concerts for the public. $1 admission will go to a fund for scholarships. Any contributions earmarked “InnossB Peace” will go to them to support this effort.  How great to see Congolese putting their talent on the line for messages that encourage people in a warzone, that entertain, of course, but the message is Amani (Peace.)

Amani.

Below is Independence Cha Cha as recorded 55 years ago:



Posted on June 30, 2015 .

Judy's Corner: Honoring Mothers Across the World

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Mother’s Day.
 

Think of the women who’ve taught you, encouraged you, loved you, befriended you, mentored you…I am thankful for my mother, and for my grandmothers, and my aunts, and the women in the larger circles who’ve been models and mentors at different stages in my life.
 

So take a moment and thank them, or thank God for them.
 

We celebrate Mothers in the US this Sunday.  In Europe it’s the end of May.  Or maybe it’s the whole month?  We should be thankful for those who’ve mothered us every day. 
 

Here is a song from a young Congolese musician from Beni, Rogatien Milord, written for his mother in Swahili, French and English.  He has given us permission to use it.  It was recorded in Goma by Maisha Soul Records. 

 

So from Congo and us, Happy Mother's Day to you and yours --

 

Enjoy!

Posted on May 9, 2015 .

Judy's Corner: The Power of Integrated Support Networks

Why is an integrated support system crucial to empowering lives? Doesn’t job training and microcredit do that? Both help, but lasting development is not that simple. People need ongoing support from their mentors and community if they are going to thrive.

This is why HOLD designed an ongoing support system. This network lasts far beyond graduation, and provides continuing education to help grow businesses, find resources, and lend a hand when times get rough. HOLD’s graduates form bonds that they can count on for a lifetime.

Our partners at HOLD-DRC are changing lives. HOLD is local to the community, and understands better than anyone that business training and microcredit alone will not guide people through all of their tough times. They understand the obstacles their graduates face.

"Deanna” is an older woman, married to a man with several younger wives.  Her husband cast her aside, and she was left to live on the street. She found HOLD, and became a Culinary Arts student. When she graduated, she got a job at a restaurant – but the owner forced her to quit when she refused his sexual advances.

Because of HOLD’s support network, she was able to obtain a loan that kept her from becoming homeless a second time. In fact, she used that loan to start a catering business of her own! She is also learning to read and write through HOLD’s Literacy Program.

This experience was so powerful, and her life was so transformed that she became a peer educator at HOLD. Now she sells her cakes and specialty food – and in her spare time, she teaches others about health, hope, and how they can have better lives. She has all of this because she is connected to a community through HOLD, which she now calls her family. 

I thank you for helping to make Deanna's opportunities possible. Your support of ACT for Congo goes to people like her through our partnership with HOLD-DRC.  It’s an integrated support system that continues way beyond the “intervention”.

Posted on April 11, 2015 .

Judy's Corner: Teen Moms, Policy, and Politics in Congo.

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This month in Congo has been marked by public protests around the country objecting to a law which would bypass the Constitution and require a census (not officially done since Independence) before the next round of elections.  People have been killed, jailed and “taken into custody” and disappeared. Thee girls who are part of HOLD were injured; two are in the hospital today.  But politicians have listened to the voice of Congolese people.  They removed the requirement for a census. It's a start. This was achieved through advocacy and collaboration in Congo.  This is the result of grassroots organizing, courage, and hope. 

Our partner HOLD has been working at the local level to give voice to girls who’ve never been heard. HOLD teaches them that Congo needs their ability, and they’re learning how to work together for change…. HOLD also teaches the law, provides mechanisms to practice governance, voting on leadership and holding elected leaders accountable.

ACT for Congo supports integrated development partnerships that improve health and well-being for women and their communities.  HOLD-DRC’s vision for change in Congo targeted young girls in Goma who are single mothers, alone and facing the responsibilities of parenthood. Moms want to feed their kids.  Moms want to see their children have a future.  Our support includes frequent communications with HOLD leadership, encouragement, mentorship, accompaniment and introductions to new options. We rejoice in the triumphs and we mourn in the losses.

HOLD just began the 5th cohort with 85 young mothers.  421 women have already completed their training and been certificated by the state for their skills.  They all had children. Some have more than six children. Each of these children is better off because their mother has more ability to earn income, and is connected to a support system through the HOLD Human Development Clubs.

We have helped HOLD improve the quality of the data they’re keeping through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Allison Sambo’s most recent trip (December 2014) resulted in an Impact Evaluation based on their survey and collected data.  They’re now keeping track of the fourth cohort for 18 months, and this will be ongoing. Because the women understand that this will help improve the program, they’re actively collaborating with HOLD staff. 

Young women can have tremendous influence in their societies, especially if they’re respected. HOLD is working on societal change.  Whose fault is pregnancy?  What impact does it have on the life of the girl, who’s automatically expelled from school? On the child?  These questions have been discussed at numerous meetings HOLD staff and peer educators have been having with educators and community leaders since February last year.  The goal is policy change at the Ministry level.   Last week, a play by peer educators and their own testimony afterward resulted in 20 educators from the city of Goma representing 20 secondary schools and universities agreeing to work together for this change.   This is integrated development that will lead to improved health and well-being for women and their communities.
  
Thank you for being part of making change possible!!  Let’s see what the new year holds!!
 

Posted on January 29, 2015 .

Judy's Corner: Micheline arrives for iLeap Fellowship

Modestine Etoy

Modestine Etoy

As I attend the Quality Improvement Institute at the University of Wisconsin with Modestine Etoy, I am reminded of when she came to the US the first time in 2012 to attend the iLEAP fellowship.  That experience was so valuable for her, helping her to understand effective leadership practices and also to reflect on her experiences working with women recovering from fistula repair surgery in Goma.   She met others from around the world  who were working to improve the lives and health of others. Through reflection and sharing, she developed a greater understanding of the depth and strength of the programs and principles of the work. The ability to connect with others from various cultures and stay in touch through social media has enabled the network of those working with women in Congo, Rwanda, and Kenya to flourish.  Modestine learned the importance of taking time for herself and caring for those with whom she works.  She gained insight into some of the culture of the “West”, including how much the reporting matters to people at this end.  Her program for teen moms has helped hundreds of young women, who’d been ostracized and disrespected, re-enter their communities as confident and competent young women.  From her experience at iLEAP, she was able to take stock of where they were, and plan for the next steps - She’s a champion!

Micheline Mwendike

Micheline Mwendike

The value of the iLEAP experience for Modestine has made us even more excited for this week’s arrival of Micheline Mwendike, who will attend iLEAP this fall! It will be a very important time for her. She’s young, she’s passionate, and she brings great experience to the fellowship. Micheline’s passion for improving Goma has led her to follow her convictions at all costs; she’s been beaten and jailed for advocating for cleaner air and more water for the people of Goma.  She brings great knowledge of the context in North and South Kivu, including having visited the mining areas in eastern Congo.  I look forward to watching her as she meets, works, learns and collaborates with other fellows from various cultures. This is an investment in a woman who has been and will continue to be a significant part of the change in Congo’s future.

Will you help us?  Your donations will make a big difference.  It is tax-deductible.   You are directly investing in leaders for Congo’s future! 


Posted on October 16, 2014 .

Judy's Corner: October 2014 Newsletter

The beard says out loud in broad daylight  what the braids told him at night.  Kongo proverb

Ce que la barbe dit au grand jour et à haute voix, c’est ce que les tresses lui ont raconté la nuit : Proverbe Kongo

Too often women are kept quiet or not allowed to participate in decisions that affect their lives.  The proverb above acknowledges the influence a woman might have, but it is sideways.  (The “power of the pillow” is a universally accepted phrase, isn’t it?)  The tragedy is that too often women don’t recognize the voice they do have, or don’t know how to use it effectively. The result can be fear, frustration and isolation. Young women who’ve become mothers too early are often shunned or shamed. As a result, they lose faith in their own voice and capabilities.  They drop out of school, they no longer participate in their faith group activities like youth group or choir, and are often relegated to the periphery of society.  This can breed resentment, apathy and hopelessness. Sometimes it erupts in violence toward their children and family.

ACT for Congo is working with Congolese partners who recognize the value to society of including—and empowering—these young mothers and their children. It provides information to them –and through them to the wider community through a peer education program that changes the dynamic from ignorance to power. Learning about preventing the most common diseases, how sexual reproductive health works, basic hygiene and sanitation, and how to prevent pregnancy can make a huge difference.  This is building long-term capacity in the community which

  • improves health,
  • is linked to the public health system, and
  • it is locally-owned.

Modestine Etoy, who is Program Manager of our partner in Goma, comes to the US next week.   We’ll be attending a Quality Improvement seminar at the University of Wisconsin to learn and share, improving the ways our partner can gather and use data to make the work more effective, and more ably share it!

Will you help us do this?  Share this information.  Donate here with a credit card or PayPal, or simply write a check and send it through the mail. Your contribution makes a difference!   

Peace to you,
Judy
 

Posted on October 4, 2014 .

Judy's corner: September 2014 newsletter

Clear skies and a little crisp tinge to the air in the Seattle area.  Fall is coming...I just found the name and phone numbers of the president of the Internally Displaced Peoples' camp in Buhimba that I visited in November almost a year ago. I wonder where he and his family are today?  Have things changed that much in the area around Goma?  Basic safety and security will take a long time. It will take more civil society leaders and more grassroots organizations in DR Congo to demand better service from their government, and more accountability from their elected leaders.  That's why we started ACT for Congo, to work with Congolese leaders who're doing this work on the ground.  They can educate better because they know the languages, the culture, the challenges and difficulties. But it's long-term work and takes a variety of approaches. That's why we are investing in leaders for generations.

*        Great news.   Micheline Mwekami will be coming to Seattle for an iLEAP Fellowship October to December, 2014.  We've known her for five years as journalist, photographer, activist.  (link to website story)  We believe that Micheline will continue to make a difference in this world-and for Congo-- for the rest of her life.

*        Alison Sambo, who has been volunteering with ACT for Congo for several years, was in Goma for six weeks working with HOLD-DRC.  She's set up the relationship with U of Wisconsin and will host us in Madison next month.  See her blog on our website...

*        Our partner, HOLD-DRC, has been invited with us to two opportunities to learn and share.

o   Modestine and I will attend the "Quality Improvement Leadership Institute" at the University of Wisconsin in October, 2014.   We are trying to bring her to Seattle prior to the time at U of Wisconsin.  Your donations will make this possible

o   Modestine and I will attend a partner's retreat in Cameroun to share our experience and meet other partners of Covenant World Relief, in November. We will then continue on to visit Goma and the work of HOLD there.

Working with Congolese professionals on world-class solutions to teen motherhood, poverty and opportunity linked to public health messages.

Please share this news with anyone you think will be interested in what's happening in Congo and what ACT for Congo is doing.  We believe in investing in the people who are already committed to action, to change, and to doing it well.  Thanks for your support and word of mouth!  We need your help to change the dominant story of Congo as a "basket case". We see it as an energetic, creative people who are looking for good leadership. ACT for Congo is working with those leaders, to bring them to the forefront and enable them to extend their work.

Judith A. Anderson
bridge builder

Posted on September 20, 2014 .