Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back in Bukavu DRC

Women survivors stand in front of Victoria Center, Bukavu

So much has happened since I last wrote that I don't know where to start! And it's all good news, so hold on for the ride!

First of all, I want to thank everyone-- family, friends, and the good people of Wakefield, Rhode Island --whose contributions are making it possible to finish the schoolhouse in Mushenyi, give 9 goats to widows in Walungu territory, another 4 goats and 10 chickens to midwives in Nyangezi, and microloans to women survivors of sexual violence at Victoria Center in Bukavu! We did it!

Your kindness and generosity are deeply appreciated, especially in these financially hard times and knowing that Congo is a long way away and often outside our understanding. But you guys came through nonetheless, and I have immense gratitude to each one of you who donated to help these resilient people get back on their feet. To be sure, your donations will improve the lives of many people.

Women sing and dance their greetings.

When I returned to Bukavu a week ago, the women were excited to tell me that they marched in the International Women's Day Parade on March 8th. Not such a big deal in the USA, this parade is very important in developing countries, where participating in it means that women have reached a level of respectability and inclusion. Each group wears their own identifying cloth and carries a banner of their making.

Women proudly march for first time.

Hortense, my translator and Administrator who is employed by Women for Women International, helped with the banner, walked with them, and took photos along the way.

Hortense marched twice in the parade.

I am bursting with pride for these women, who one year ago were dressed in rags, abject, unable to meet your gaze. Now they are filled with hope and confidence, willing to work hard to become self-sufficient. With Hortense's help, the center made its first small loan to each woman in February; so far 14 out of 15 women have repaid 20% of their loan. Repayment funds are being put into a special savings account that will be used to cover medical emergencies.

Their banner expresses my sentiments exactly!

Yahoo, thanks to you our train is moving!

With love and gratitude,