So it seems that Rebecca and I have found our first Big Project. I imagine we’ll have this tackled and dealt with in a couple days before we can move on to the next one. Okay fine, maybe it’ll take a week. At any rate we’re excited to tell you all about it.
But first lets talk for a second about the Democratic Republic of Congo. Formally known as Zaire, it is not to be confused with its neighboring country to the west which is called Congo (officially The Republic of Congo). And it gets even more complicated, because when people mention ‘eastern Congo’, they really mean eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Take a look at a map – I find that helpful in sorting it out in my pea brain.
Anyhow, things are not good in eastern Congo. Here’s a quote from the Enough Project’s website:
The International Rescue Committee reports that since the end of the first war in the Congo in 1998, 5.4 million people have died (more than 8 percent of the Congo’s population of 66 million). Every month, 45,000 more Congolese—half of them children—die from hunger, preventable disease, and other consequences of violence and displacement. Over one million people have fled their homes within Congo as a result of the ongoing conflict. Eastern Congo right now is perhaps the worst place in the world to be a woman. Used as a weapon of war, rape in Congo exists on a scale seen nowhere else in the world. Often successful in its intent to destroy and exterminate, rape as a weapon of war is causing the near total destruction of women, their families, and their communities.
(5.4 million people. Rape as a weapon of war. It’s really unbearable to think about. I mean what am I supposed to do with this information?)
Anyhow, I won’t go into the details of the history of the conflict there because others have done a far better job than I ever could; take a look here, and here. And here’s a great video all about the real reason behind the conflict: resources. Namely the stuff in your cell phone and laptop. (If watching that doesn’t make you decide to wait another year to get the latest gadget I don’t know what will.)
But now for the good part of this story. As Rebecca and I have been brainstorming for things we could do to start on our venture to save the world, we’ve tried to think of any and all resources we have available to us. We figured the best way is to start with people we know. And this is when it occurred to me that my friend Kevin Sites was gonna be a good person to go to with this world saving business.
Kevin is a journalist and traveled to eastern Congo in 2005 as part of the In the Hot Zone project he did for Yahoo – you can see his story here. While he was there his interpreter was a man named Amani Matabaro Tom. Amani has started an organization called Actions for the Welfare of Women and Children in Kivu. The organization works to teach women who are victims of the conflict in eastern Congo to become seamstresses. They also work with schools in the area to pay for the schooling of vulnerable children.
Over the past few years Kevin has been working to develop a presence for the organization in the United States. He helped to set up a website for the organization and has held fundraisers. But last I had spoken to him in January he told me that there was still a lot of work to be done, and it seemed he didn’t have time to do the work himself.
While it might seem obvious, it was a bit of a lightening bolt moment for me that I had right before Rebecca and I first met (over some really delicious omelets) to come up with our world saving ideas. “WHAA! Why didn’t I think of this sooner? We can help with that thing with the sewing and the women and the whoziwhatsit that Kevin was talking about!”
After having many discussions with Rebecca and after doing some research (and lets be honest here, ‘research’ means reading up on the organization, area, and conflict), I called Kevin.
So! Rebecca and I have found a project that we’re both really excited to work on. The first things we’re going to be doing is updating and maintaining the website and starting the paper work (oh God the paper work) to get donations to be tax deductible.
The road is going to be a long one before we feel like things are really ‘up and running’, but we’re anxious to get started. And we hope you’ll keep reading, especially once our posts turn into long and terribly uninteresting rants about the ins and outs of “Document 1023: Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code”.
My head hurts already.
Posted by Cate
Photo of women in eastern Congo by Kevin Sites
Photo of Amani by Michael Graham