Ensuring the Future, Educating the Youth
Empowering and educating youth is an integral part of sustainable development. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), young people have been especially hard hit by the effects of over 20 years of conflict. Of the approximately 6 million people killed in the DRC to date, about half of them are children and countless children have become orphaned. Children are also recruited to become soldiers and are often used in the front lines and taught an incomprehensible way of life in the forest. Rape, used as a weapon of the war, is used indiscriminately and is perpetrated on little children as well as old adults. This use of rape also leads to many children born of rape who are given no status in society and often feared. Finally, many children are forced work in mines to extract blood minerals such as gold and coltan, which eventually makes it into many of the products we use every day.
Fortunately, there are local organizations that have taken on the responsibility of caring for the most vulnerable children who have been affected by the war. One of Mwendo Congo's partners is Let Africa Live (Laissez l'Afrique Vivre, LAV). Founded in 2000, LAV has helped over 3,000 youth through professional training programs and psycho-social support that give victimized youth the care and skills they need to support themselves and be productive members of their society. LAV also gives financial support to enable young children to attend school and they engage in community education efforts to teach people about the value of women and children in the community. LAV's philosophy, capacity, and success make them an ideal partner in implementing projects toward our mission to support education in the DRC.
Learn more about Let Africa Live and their programs in the DRC here
This summer, Mwendo Congo raised $5,000 to provide 9 women and 1 man with sewing machines and all of the materials they would need to start their own businesses using the skills they learned at Let Africa Live. Mwendo Congo representatives were at the presentation ceremony (pictured right) where they saw the hope that these youth inspire in the community and the support that the community gives to these youth. Families, community members, representatives of local government and others showed up to celebrate the potential of these young people and the gift they have been given to start a new life in the community.
Ms. Bonne Année Marceline (17 years old), one of the beneficiaries of this project:
“When I was 15 I was the victim of multiple rapes by armed groups who had taken control of my village, Nindja, in the east of the DRC. Abandoned to my suffering for more than a year with my daughter who was born of these rapes, traumatized and suffering from malnutrition, orphaned from my mother and father, I was close to committing suicide. By God’s grace I was selected by the organization Let Africa Live. I was trained in sewing and tailoring for 8 months and I was also given counseling to help in my detraumatization. At the end of my training, in August 2015, and because of the financial aid of Mwendo Congo, I received a full tailoring kit for my socio-economic reinsertion. This kit contained a sewing machine, some fabrics to start my own business, rolls of thread, and other items needed to do quality work. Less than six months after my reinsertion, I am very proud of my integration in the community where I was previously rejected by everyone and traumatized by poverty and hunger. I am becoming a solution for the tailoring needs in my community. My work is very useful for everyone, I make clothes for growing children and young adults too. People in my community give me respect because of the quality of my work, which is well received by my customers. Yes, Mwendo Congo, with its partner Let Africa Live is serving those who are vulnerable, those who have been abandoned to their suffering. Their work responds directly to those in need and the community. They are close beside us to understand the needs and to find good solutions. The community has confidence in Let Africa Live because of its transparence, the effectiveness of its interventions, and its work against the poverty and marginalization of girls and children victimized by the horrors of the wars in the Eastern DRC.”
Peder returned from the DRC in November of 2014 filled with stories of what he heard and saw of the suffering of people affected by the conflict, and the efforts of organizations like LAV to build hope for the future through education and community reintegration of vulnerable youth. Six months ago, Liz, Steve and I retraced his steps, an embodied message that “We heard the story of LAV. We too see hope for the DRC and its youth.” When we, with LAV staff and community leaders, presented ten graduates of the tailoring program with a “reinsertion kit” of sewing machines and materials purchased by Mwendo Congo, we also gave these students the message that “We heard your stories. We - your teachers, community leaders, and friends from Mwendo Congo - see hope for the future of the DRC through your courage, resilience, and new skills.” During our time with LAV, staff took us to its training centers throughout the South Kivu region of Eastern DRC to meet more of their dedicated students and teachers. We heard staff explain how they integrate trauma healing into vocational training, and how they educate both students and community leaders on the rights of women, household gender dynamics, HIV/AIDS, and conflict resolution. We saw halted construction of a dormitory at the center in Bukavu, and heard that LAV lacks the funds to complete construction. We heard how providing safe housing contributes to the education and healing for young student mothers, who would have a stable environment to focus on their studies while in the program. We heard how they will no longer fear for their children’s safety during the school day, knowing they are cared for on site by childcare providers. We heard how providing this basic need affirms the dignity of students, whose inherent worth was denied by perpetrators of the conflict and communities that would not accept them back after rape and violence marred their lives. We saw an opportunity for Mwendo Congo to once again embody the message of our shared hope for the DRC through providing the resources needing to complete safe housing for education. May our eyes, ears, hearts, and imaginations remain open to our friends in the DRC.
Find out more about our education initiative Project SHE and how to support it here.
How the War Has Affected Youth?
The Work of Let Africa Live