PROJECTS > DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)
At 2.3 million square kilometers, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the 12th largest country in the world by geographic area, the fourth most populated country in Africa, and the 18th most populated country in the world [population of 60,764,000]. Life expectancy in the DRC is 48 years and the literacy rate is 66%. An estimated 5 million people have died as a result of the ongoing conflict continuing to wreak havoc. Lack of basic services and infrastructure in eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, is exacerbated by the conflicts causing enormous humanitarian needs. 40+ armed groups continue to operate in the eastern provinces, including North Kivu. An estimated 6.5 million people are at crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity and UNICEF estimates that 2.5 million children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished. Cholera and measles outbreaks are repeatedly reported and malaria is endemic. There was a recent two-year Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and now the area is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cathy Cleary visited the city of Goma in the province of North Kivu in the DRCongo with well-known Canadian artist, Heather Haynes, in February of 2014. After interviewing ten women, Cathy felt she must do something to support the women whose lives were consumed by poverty and violence. Over the next few months, Cathy worked with Kizungu, a local leader and connector to the women. Land was found, buildings repaired, and staff, including a teacher and a security guard, were hired. This was the beginning of the Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre (TWTC). In May 2014, sixteen women began their seamstress training over a two-year period. The goal is for the women to become seamstresses and generate income in their individual or cooperative sewing businesses. The Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre is a partnership project between the DRCongo non-governmental organization, Volunteers for Mission in Child Care (VMC) and the Canada Africa Community Health Alliance The project was initiated through World’s Collide Africa now under the umbrella of The Art of Courage
The TWTC land and building were purchased in May 2015, with many thanks to Salute Financial Entrepreneurs, and are registered in the name of VMC. This provides stability and continuity for the women and the project. It also provides the opportunity to expand the training centre. In September of 2015, through the generosity of Pure Ingenuity Inc., a security wall was erected around the training centre, ensuring the safety and security of the women as well as protecting the valuable equipment and supplies housed at the centre.
As of January 2021, 65 women have graduated and began their cooperative sewing businesses. Each cooperative consists of 3-4 seamstresses working in a group.
Reusable Sanitary Pad project
In 2020 Cathy contacted doTERRA Healing Hand Foundation who agreed to match funds that Cathy could raise up to $10,000 USD to fund a reusable sanitary pad project. Menstruation remains a taboo subject in many countries making it difficult for girls and women to access sanitary products. Add to that extreme poverty and living in a conflict zone and the need for support is this area at the very least allows girls to attend school and women to work. Through our partner CACHA, Cathy was able to raise $12,000 CND which doTERRA matched for a total of approx. $24,000 CND. Kizungu, our local project manager, Clarisse, our TWTC assistant, and Cathy have applied to enter a partnership with Days for Girls to develop a reusable sanitary pad project. We are awaiting the results of the application. Whether we are accepted or not, we will be implementing a Reusable Sanitary Pad Project in 2021. All 65 of our graduates (5th group graduates in January 2020) will train in this project which will provide an income generating opportunity for our sewing graduates.
In 2017, we were able to raise funds to build the Cura Health Clinic on the land through funding by Cura for the World and doTERRA Healing Hands . Many people in DRCongo suffer from health issues related to such things as malnutrition, ongoing conflict and sexual violence, lack of access to clean water, HIV, and extreme poverty. Progress has been slow and we have encountered delays and setbacks including recent Ebola outbreak, continued conflict in the area and the current COVID 19 pandemic. In the meantime, we are working tirelessly to find the funding to purchase needed supplies and medications to get the health centre running and seeing patients. A medical caravan from North America hopes to visit in 2021 and work together with the local health practitioners to provide health services.
There is a second health clinic which was built on Idjwi Island a ferry ride away from the city of Goma. Idjwi Island is a remote island in Lake Kivu with some of the most vulnerable people living in DRCongo. It is home to a village of Pygmy people, a group of people who have a long and desolate history of discrimination. The Clancy Clinic is sister to the Cura Clinic and we are looking for funds to open both clinics.
The women’s advisory committee of the TWTC determined that a minimum level of education was necessary for a woman to join the training centre. Many women in DRCongo have not had an opportunity to attend school or if they have they have had to leave early due to family poverty, early marriage or violent conflict. Cathy asked the women what they would like to earn and they said Basket Weaving. A group of 11 women have completed basket weaving training. Unfortunately, we learned late that with the cost of materials, the sale of baskets earns very little for the women. We continue to search for other income generating options.
Tie Dye Training
When asked what they would like to learn after graduation all the women declared that tie dyeing would be a good skill to have. Thirty-six women completed tie dye training, and use it in their income generating businesses.
In the summer of 2019, a representative from each of our 15 sewing cooperatives completed micro-finance training. The representative then took that learning back to the other seamstresses in her sewing cooperative. This provided the women with some basic financial training, helpful in running a business.
COVID-19 Mask Making
With the world wide threat of COVID-19 in the spring, Cathy sent funds to the women to purchase materials to make masks to help keep everyone safe. The seamstresses made masks for all of the women. Children and men associated with the Tchukudu projects. The hope was that they could then sell some to make a small profit. The women looked around their neighbourhoods and saw many people in need and they felt compelled to make and give masks to those who could not afford to buy them. Living lives of need themselves they are touched by the poverty and vulnerability of others.
The women hope that we can build a working shop, where they can sew and work together. This would provide the women a place to create new ideas and new income earning projects. This building will be furnished to provide a home for our reusable sanitary pad project and other income generating projects including possibly jewelry making.
For more information please visit http://www.cacha.ca/projects/tchukudu-sponsorship-project OR https://couragecongo.com/