what to do?
In the comments on my post on the reality of the situation in the Congo, Texas in Africa reader Judy asked a great question:
"Give us specifics. If you could see immediate action on my part, what would it be."
Judy is right. I've forgotten one of the most important aspects of writing about global poverty. You need to give people action to take.
So...here are some ways you can help the women and girls of the eastern Congo who are suffering at the hands of the world's worst epidemic of rape:
- Pray. Pray for the victims and pray for those who attack them. Pray for healing in their bodies, minds, and hearts. Pray that their families won't cast them out, and pray that they will find ways to support themselves and their children. Pray for peace in the region, and lasting solutions to longstanding conflicts over land and citizenship. Ask your church to pray for the people of the Congo.
- Learn. Learn about what's going on in the eastern Congo, and tell others. For a basic explanation of the conflict, try the BBC's D.R. Congo country profile. For more in-depth information, check out the Enough Project's eastern Congo resource page.
- Advocate. The Enough Project suggests that you write or call your Senator or Congressperson's office and ask him or her to "support the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) by providing more funding and technical assistance in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR) and press for high level diplomacy, in coordination with our allies, to resolve the crisis in eastern Congo." You can reach your Senators and member of Congress at 1-202-224-3121 from 9:00am–6:00pm EST, Monday through Friday.
- Donate money. Heal Africa Hospital in Goma and Panzi Hospital in Bukavu are dedicated to helping women and girls who have been raped and who need medical treatment as a result. Both are church-supported hospitals, and both help women in all aspects of their healing. It doesn't take much to help - at Heal Africa, $10 will buy shoes for five women who have been raped. $30 will buy food for victims of violence living at a safe house for a month. $300 will pay for one woman's fistula repair surgery. As little as $1 will help Global Strategies for HIV/AIDS Prevention provide a dose of nevirapine, a drug that can prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies at birth. It doesn't take much.
- Donate airline miles. Heal Africa would love to have unused frequent flier miles to transport personnel. More information is available here.
- Sponsor a child. My trusted friends C and E run a ministry which helps street children and orphans in Goma. $100 a year "connects your child with a loving, church-based child sponsorship program that not only provides an education but will allow the child to hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God." 100% of your donation goes directly to support the child - there is no administrative overhead. For more information on the program, click here, or send me an email.
But the most important thing, I think, and what I was trying to point to earlier, is this: be changed. Let the reality that innocent people suffer so deeply break your heart. Live with the tension that comes with realizing that our comfortable lifestyles come at a cost, and that the choices we make about what to do with our money, time, and energy have a very real impact on other people's lives. Don't be afraid to let this disturb you, and don't be afraid to do something.
Judy, thanks for your very important question.