Arriving in Africa
As I lie on my hotel bed typing my thoughts for the day, I am struck by how different the reality is from what I imagined. Today we met the team and the children at the orphanage and that was just absolutely amazing after having worked on this project for over a year.
Where it all Started
I heard about two men David and Hosea, who have both lost their families in the rebel war, and were going back to Congo to take care of war orphans. While teenage refugees in Kenia, they were sponsored by an Australian missionary to complete school. She also sponsored them to get further training at YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in South Africa.
My first contact was an e-mail passed on by a friend describing how David and Hosea had just returned to the rented house with 38 orphans after fleeing into the woods to get away from rebels who were moving through the area. I felt compelled to do something! In July 2013, with a few business associates, we incorporated International Widows and Orphans Fund (iWof) to start supporting the children. On October 20th 2014, I left on a trip to Congo to meet the team, the children and to see first-hand what the situation is.
Arriving in Africa
We arrived at the Burundi/Congo border around 11:00 a.m. on October 23rd. I have to admit, it was a little tense with very serious officials and some machine gun toting security. (I so missed the “Welcome to Canada” sign and the smiling passport control, as you arrive at Vancouver International). We made our way through a series of small, stuffy, sparsely furnished buildings as we moved from one department to the next. I was so thankful having David, the orphanage Director with us as he spoke the language and knew the procedure.
Driving on Congo Roads
On the other side is the Monusco (UN) constructed dirt road to the city of Uvira. The orphanage is only 2km up this road. The potholes have people now driving and walking on the sides of the road. The sound of car and motorbike horns and even bicycle bells fill the air as pedestrians are warned of their approach. In our 10 days we have only seen one pedestrian struck by a vehicle, which in itself is a miracle.
Lack of Government Support
The eastern part of Congo is very poor with almost no evidence of government support. Electricity is only available for a couple hours per day. Clean running water is almost non-existent. Surprisingly even the main street through Uvira city does not escape the huge potholes. It is a gut-wrenching experience as my abs were put through a work-out moving with the taxi suspension negotiating endless ups and downs.
The contrast with the crazy driving is that the people look fairly content and not aggressive at all. Each day is a struggle to find enough food, but relationships are valued and people seem to respect that they all are just trying to make a living. I realised that the war was not really a “civil” war, but a matter of aggression, mostly by neighbouring militia who had crossed the border into Congo after the Rwanda genocide and caused most of the chaos.
Closing Thoughts on my Impressions of Congo
I don’t know why I suddenly felt an urge to start helping in Congo (well, I do know). All I know is that each one of us can make a huge difference in the lives of these children as we share just a little bit of what we have in such abundance. Being in school is a privilege in Congo, and our kids are there. Having 3 nutritional meals a day is a privilege for only a few, and our kids are almost there. We need another $450/month to reach that goal.
Thank you so much to those who have already signed up to support the kids. Every little bit, from the $16/month breakfast support to the $95/month full child support add up to take care of the basic needs of 38 amazing kids. Without you, none of this would be possible.
Please visit www.grace-orphanage.org to see how you can get involved and really make a difference!
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to IWOF and a clickable link back to this page.