South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo feels like one of the greenest places on earth. I’m writing to you after a lengthy trip through Congo visiting International Medical Corps’ work in this war-torn country. While traveling, I was struck by the stark contrast: green rolling hills for miles and yet malnutrition is a common problem for the people of South Kivu. At our health centers, doctors and nurses told me of the steady stream of emaciated children.
I heard the same frustration repeated over and over among the Congolese I met: the potential and desire for positive change versus the continuing insecurity after decades of conflict. Chance, a student volunteer at International Medical Corps’ office in Bunyakiri, is fluent in Swahili, French and English and will soon graduate from college. Yet despite representing Congo’s promising tomorrow, he asked me: “How can I plan a future, when I know that my family is not secure?” At the same time, I also had the opportunity to meet some incredible people striving to overcome these challenges and build a better tomorrow for Congo. Like Josiane, who specializes in helping communities combat gender-based violence. She says she knows her work is making a difference because “we see women coming here from further and further away, so I know that our messages are getting out into the community.” She keeps working every day because she believes that in 5 years, women in her community will have more rights.
Or the police officers in Bukavu, determined to break the cycle of violence, who brought their wives and children to our training to learn more about women’s rights and gender-based violence. The program works with police officers, as well as soldiers, religious leaders, lawyers, judges and teachers to turn community leaders into advocates for change. So often people view Congo as a failed state, beyond hope. Yet to do so would ignore this country’s greatest asset -- the determination of the Congolese people to secure a brighter future for their country.
To learn more about International Medical Corps’ efforts in the Congo since 1999, and some of our inspiring staff working to create lasting change within their own communities, visit our hub page.
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Resource Development Officer