News from my friend J, who's at Heal Africa for six weeks:
"I spent Saturday morning with Noella Katembo, she continues with her work of teaching and accompanying moms of more than 970 foster families through the Choose Life (HIV) network, helping their $50 grants not only keep the family fed, kids in school, and a “pay it forward” by $2/mo contributions back ---but also solidarity group meetings where each woman brings 100cf (about 20Cents US) and it’s given weekly to the woman in the group who needs it most. There are so many women being outrageous in their very BEING…being a solid force for encouragement, for teaching—whether it be how to read, how to sew, how to calculate profit & loss, how to listen, how to accompany others in their sorrow, how to mobilize, how to confront a culture which views rape as normal behaviour for men…
"The widows’ groups in the Ubangi are now building each other houses. When a woman has a desperate need for a house, they call a “housebuilding”…the women save money for the doors and windows, women cut and bring the grass for thatch. ( Charlotte has a string to measure the size of the bundles!) Others bring the sticks for framing the house. Then they gather to set it up (hire some men) and make the mud. I heard Charlotte describe it. Some women cook, some bring water to make the mud, others apply it…a huge event for the village. They hire men to do the actual roofing. But it’s the womens group that does it! It’s pretty spectacular !!! In Goma widows are saving to help buy tin roofs for the women who need it most. Now the groups are capped at 25. If there are more, they split and make another group. They’re keeping the groups small so that they can really support each other."
I am so inspired by stories like this, and by Heal Africa's determination to build self-sufficiency in the local cultural context. How amazing!
The Choose Life program that J mentions works to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region. Choose Life is huge and does a lot in education, pallative care (in which individuals from different religious groups take the responsibility of visiting those who are sick in their neighborhoods - if a Christian is sick in a neighborhood where a Muslim is reponsible, the Muslim will visit her once a week), and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the disease.
Another part of the program is helping to provide foster homes for HIV/AIDS orphans. Since taking in another child poses a huge financial burden to most families in Goma, Choose Life gives $50 grants to families who are willing to take in a child. The grants are for starting or building up a business, the revenues from which send the foster child to school and support the family. The family is responsible for paying back the grant, the money from which is then used to give another grant to another foster family. The plan is genius. It gives orphaned children a home, an education and a chance, it helps families to improve their economic situations, and it supports the ideals of strong community and caring for one another.
Almost a thousand children are NOT living alone on the streets because of someone's vision to start this program. Because of $50 apiece.
(You could live without an iPhone like you always have and save six kids with a one-time donation. I'm just sayin'.)
If you'd be interested in funding a Choose Life grant, shoot me an email and I'll put you in touch with J.