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Sep 20, 2018

A Mother-and-Daughter Song of Hope

Esperance in her Literacy classroom
Esperance in her Literacy classroom

Gearing up for our official program kick-off for the 2018-19 school year, we pause to reflect on how we’re making an impact on lives in Rwenena. To demonstrate, we offer you an extraordinary duo: One of our primary-school girls, Veciane Chantal (derived from song); and her 30-year-old mother, Kanane Leocadia Esperance (meaning hope). Together, they make a song of hope.

Veciane is the eldest of 5 children. At the end of the 2017-18 school year, Veciane finished first in her fourth-grade class, scoring more than 10 points higher than the year before. She received special recognition at the end-of-year school ceremony.

What made the difference?  Esperance’s story, while unique to her, is not unusual among mothers in Rwenena. By changing parental mindsets, the path is open for girls’ education to become more respected.

At the conclusion of last spring’s literacy class for mothers, Esperance reported (translated from Swahili and French):

"I only got up to second grade because it was then that my father died. After his death, my mother abandoned us and went to marry again. I was 7 years old. Immediately I was sent to do field work. At the age of 19, I married. Now I have 5 children. Because of my literacy training, I help and encourage my children to study at school. Without delay, each evening I get them to review the material they have studied. Our trainer [Ariane Moza] has taught us to do this. As a result, my daughter Veciane was the first in her class. It is a good thing to be able to express delight to our initiators [the SAFECO team] and our supporters [including GlobalGiving donors]. Now I know how to count from 1 to 500. Thank you to everyone!"

Esperance (left) & Venciane (penultimate right)
Esperance (left) & Venciane (penultimate right)
Jun 21, 2018

Literacy Progress!

Literacy Class B
Literacy Class B

What a long way we’ve come since our last report! In April, the women and children of Rwenena returned home from a monthlong displacement. Encouraged by our program coordinator and “Girl Ambassador for Peace” Moza, the school community elected a new parent committee of 4 women and 3 men. The group is dedicated exclusively to safeguarding and monitoring our Rwenena Kids program to ensure proper implementation. Moza has made great progress in earning the confidence and trust of the community as she motivates them to take responsible actions to improve their well-being.

While the children continue their studies and prepare for end-of-year exams, women are thrilled about their own status as students in our new literacy program. Moza is the lead teacher, with two secondary-school-educated assistants – young women of Rwenena - who continue teaching classes when she periodically returns to her home in Bukavu 6 hours away. Our two classes consist of Class A for those with no schooling, and Class B for those with at least a partial primary school education. The students are particularly happy and proud to be able to help children with their studies and, in particular, to better understand the importance of educating girls. Ages range from teen mothers to grandmothers and other women guardians. One teen, Malikiya, was orphaned at a young age and never attended school. Moza describes her as "very happy and punctual in class" because, according to Malikiya herself, ‘This is an opportunity not to be missed!’” 

Thus far, the women have learned to count to 100, recite the alphabet, write at least their names, know dates, and tell time - so they know when to arrive for classes. They read passages from the Bible and count and manage money.

Among the most exciting components of the class so far has been the 3-day module on human rights. The women learned how to distinguish between rights and duties as they apply to their husbands, children, community, parents and parents-in-law, and country. They posed many questions and deliberated thoughtfully within the confidential enclave of the classroom.

Thank you for continuing to support us through our challenges and, as importantly, enabling us to change lives for the better. The theme for this month's "Day of the African Child" is, "Leave No Child Behind for Africa's Development." Please consider a special donation to support our contribution to achieving this goal, particularly in serving the remote and overlooked village of Rwenena that otherwise would be left behind.

Moza distinguishes between rights and duties
Moza distinguishes between rights and duties
Students react to Moza's lighthearted moments.
Students react to Moza's lighthearted moments.
Literacy Class A (Malikiya, front-center )
Literacy Class A (Malikiya, front-center )
Mar 26, 2018

Alarming Times in Rwenena

The Road to Rwenena
The Road to Rwenena

Life in Democratic Republic of the Congo has never been easy, but increasingly, political unrest has sparked renewed armed clashes, including in South Kivu, the region of our project. At 4AM on February 28, the Rwenena community experienced a skirmish between the Congolese army and rebel groups. The event was initiated by the plundering of cows, so critical to the local economy (for more on cattle-related conflicts in the area, see article link).

Following the skirmish, the women and children of Rwenena fled while the men stayed behind. Thanks to the welcoming generosity of the more secure village of Luberizi, our school relocated to the church there, where classes have been held. One can only imagine the fear and trauma that the community has experienced.

With security so uncertain since our last report, we postponed the prolonged stay of our Girl Ambassador, Moza. This week she traveled to Luberizi to assess the feasibility of her 3-month stay to serve the community, including with literacy training for mothers and a workshop for parents. Unfortunately, communications systems between Luberizi and SAFECO headquarters in Bukavu have been too unstable to receive her report. We will provide that information in our next report to you. Please know that we put safety and well-being of our staff ahead of non-essential services. In the meantime, the children are still learning.

Why continue to support such an unstable community and a generally unstable nation? Funders and investors often freeze all developmental activities in such environments. But for the single village we serve, it’s personal. The children and parents need your support now more than ever. We still plan to lead two literacy classes for mothers. We still plan to hold a community workshop informing the parents of their rights and responsibilities regarding their children's education. And we remain vested in providing for children’s education where otherwise there would be none. Our timeline may be uncertain, but our commitment is not. Thank you for your critical support during this challenging time.

Our Empty School - For Now (2017 photo)
Our Empty School - For Now (2017 photo)
Men like this one remain in Rwenena (2017 photo)
Men like this one remain in Rwenena (2017 photo)
Cows in Rwenena, 2017
Cows in Rwenena, 2017

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