Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Empower Congo Women
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Nurturing the Smiles of Congo

The Dark Side

By now most of you know that terrible things happen in Democratic Republic of Congo—that it may be the worst place in the world to be a woman or girl.

This description of Congo is used most often by the media to get attention, or by charitable organizations to garner donations, a publicity ploy dubbed “pornography of the poor,” because it exploits the poor by always showing them desperate and suffering. I too have been guilty of perpetuating that impression in my last two fund raising emails. 

Let the Light Shine

So today I want to describe to you the Congo I know and love. This is another version, which may be surprising because we are accustomed to hearing the worst about that country. Yes, terrible things happen there, but there are also kindness and joy wherever you look. Of all the places I’ve traveled, Congo has the most vitality, is the most alive place--its people, animals, forests, and jungles—I’ve ever been.
Contrary to what you may imagine, the Congolese are sociable people, not prone to rape or war. There was no rape to speak of in Congo before 1995 when over one million Rwandan Hutus, perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, relocated to refugee camps in eastern Congo. Eighty percent of them escaped into the surrounding mountains and the reign of terror began. It is said you could identify which terrorist group attacked a village by the type of torture they inflicted on the women.

Against this tableau of suffering, there are many good Congolese people working hard to make their country a better place, safe and peaceful for all who live there. These people are warm, friendly, and gracious. . . and just like my good friends pictured below, they are lots of fun!  

 Amani Matabaro, Director of ABFEK and President of Mwangaza Rotary Club

 Hortense Barholere and adoptees, UN Security Officer

Dominique Bikaba, Conservationist, Executive Director, Strong Roots Congo 

It is said that when two or more Congolese get together, there is a party. They certainly love to gather together in small groups to talk, laugh, sing, and dance.

Mamas at Centre Ushindi, DR Congo
Women and girls who have been violated suffer grievously, but with kids to feed, they must continue on. The strength and resilience of these women is legendary: they carry loads heavy enough for pack animals, yet they can flash smiles of joy that disarm you.

Woman carrying bananas, DR Congo
This is your opportunity to support the joyous spirit of the Congolese people. Instead of focusing on the dark side, let’s encourage their strength, resiliency, courage, and most of all their smiles.

The Congo Trauma Healing Project is being created with the intention of bringing inner peace to the men, women and children who suffer from trauma. It also has the broader intention of reconciling the various tribal groups that live in the Mumosho area.  As daunting as it may sometimes seem, trauma healing is doable in Congo. So let’s make it happen together! 

With love and appreciation,

Victoria Bentley
Executive Director – Empower Congo Women

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