Julien sews a child's garmet.
The women at Victoria Center have come a long way since I met them almost a year ago. They now have 10 sewing machines, a large, comfortable room where sewing classes are taught, and a dedicated sewing teacher. They are learning to sew well, and soon they'll be able to sell the garmets they make.
And they have their own checking account. Mecrebu Bank in Bukavu has the reputation of being a solid bank with consistent services, so the women decided to deposit money donated to them in the bank for safekeeping. . . not that they have lots, but things have a way of disappearing, even under the best circumstances.
Pasculine (foreground) and Justine at Mecrebu Bank.
The time I've spent with these resilient women has been a big learning experience for all of us. I had no idea how difficult creating stability would be in DRC. (Maybe that should have been obvious, given the circumstances, eh?) Everyone talks about the danger, but the biggest challenge for me is maintaining what we have built together. I think you could say that about the whole country!
When I met the 20 women survivors, they were being managed by two directors and six committee members. Turns out these people were diverting funds sent from Europe into their own pockets, so the governors are gone now. Gone also are two fraudulent sewing teachers, appointed by the directors, who exploited the women's labor for their profit.
Women share a joke.
With the decks clear, the women are making the decisions about their future. All donated money goes directly into their account, later allocated to projects they decide on as a group. As a group, they voted Justine and Pasculine to be co-signers on the checks, so they opened the center's account.
Donations from friends, family, and kind souls around the world have kept this project going. Our next goal is to get their 84 children off the streets and enrolled in school til year's end (poor mothers cannot afford school fees). After that is accomplished, we want to fund small microloans which will lead to self-sufficiency.
So we're all moving forward together, women from very different cultures and backgrounds, growing with each new challenge, learning to trust that the future will be better.
Empower Congo Women is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to helping Congolese women heal and prosper. Your donations will be fully tax exempt. Thank you for your contribution to this very worthy cause.
With love and gratitude,