A Story of Hope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Thomas Kelley Foundation Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo targets vulnerable families working together in local development and agricultural associations in the Kabare and Walungu territories of South Kivu Province. Just outside of Bukavu town, in a village called Buhozi, lies a fertile valley plain where FH has recently helped a new local association acquire and irrigate land through the Thomas Kelley Project.
UCPD (Union de Conscience pour la Paix et le Développement/Awareness Union for Peace and Development in Buhozi) was started by parents of malnourished children who were receiving care at a local feeding center. These parents along with other community members came together to figure out how to improve their lives and better provide for their families. The population of Buhozi is very dynamic, always changing since new people come in from villages in the interior toward the city whenever there is a threat of violence or insecurity in the villages. One woman, we’ll call her Mama Nani, ended up in Buhozi after running away from her village in the south of the province. She had been living peacefully with her husband and two children when soldiers came and invaded their home, killing her husband and raping her—fifteen men one after the other. When her family and community rejected her because of the constant urine smell and social stigma surrounding rape, she took her children and ran back to her mother’s home. Her mother convinced her to go to Panzi Hospital near Bukavu, where Dr. Mukwege repaired her torn body. God started the healing process in her body, but she still had a long way to go.
Her mother didn’t want Mama Nani and her small children running around “like rats” in the house, so she had to leave. After some time of wandering around, stealing and doing favors just to feed her kids, another man accepted to marry Mama Nani. They had another child, and then one day he suddenly passed away, leaving her with the children and no way to provide for them. His family, who had never liked her, kicked her out of the house she had been living in and Mama Nani thought that she would die in the streets. She begged, and the family ended up giving her another small piece of land with no house. She went around looking for money for at least a tarp, and one man accepted to help her, but only if she slept with him. Someone from a nearby church gave her another tarp, so she added that to her small tent where she stays with her now four children. Unfortunately when it rains the water leaks in everywhere so her children are often sick and Mama Nani has to search for medicine. Being somewhat crippled from her operation, she can’t even join other women in transporting 40-50kg loads 12km to Bukavu for a dollar or two a day. She has no way to get food except by begging, and when she does, men just want sex. She’s terrified of getting HIV and has often gone to get tested. It’s a miracle, but her results have never come up positive. She thanks God for protecting her from this disease!.
While going around begging people to help her, someone pointed Mama Nani to the UCPD association, where families help take care of each other and where she might be able to get a field through this project in Buhozi—another light of hope. When Mama Nani went to Baba Fiston, the UCPD president to ask if she could also be apart of their group and have some of the land being divided among members, he willingly accepted. When she realized that she would be getting a small piece of fertile land along with a hoe and a rake, as well as seeds, she cried out with true hope and joy for the first time since her days with her first husband back in Kaliba! God is answering her prayers and she felt like the world was hers!
Though the field is just now being prepared for planting, Mama Nani declares that she feels as if the whole world is hers - now that she has a place to grow food for herself and her children. She will now have an avenue to pay for her children to go to school, so this project gives her hope that God has many blessings still in store for her!
From Food for the Hungry, one of the organizations Southland has chosen to partner with in countries such as the DRC, Haiti, Japan, and many others