Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to Bukavu

Today I’m taking off for DR Congo, this time from Boston’s Logan Airport, after spending 10 days here on the east coast visiting friends and fund raising for Empower Congo Women.

Before beginning my African leg of the journey, I want to thank all the “large-hearted” people, to use President Obama’s term, who have contributed to my projects in Congo in the last 3 months:

First, I want to thank my Bay Area friends for their generosity: Bill and Gloria Symon, John and Judy Black, Robin Fine, Cara Brown, Karen Friedman, and Gena O’Neil. . . and Gary Paudler, who although not from northern CA has given generously to ECW.

My trip east has been both beneficial and lots of fun, full of new and old friends. Many thanks go to three special women who graciously hosted events to support Empower Congo Women: Ellen McCurley, from Newburyport MA, Executive Director of in Malawi; Margaret Johnson and her loyal group of friends in RI; and Pam Driscoll, of Concord MA, for the creation of her brilliant new non-profit, the Singing Bowl, which sponsored an event that paired me with Iyeoka , a beautiful woman of Nigerian descent with enormous talent as singer and poet, and a fellow sister activist.

Many thanks also go to the Dawson Clan: Charlie in Montclair NJ for his generous donation and loyalty to my cause, to his parents who opened their home to me and taught me how to celebrate Labor Day “Italian style”, and to his two lovely young daughters who are activists in the making!

Wonderful folks and new friends along the way include: Michele Bonner, who is helping import bags from Ushindi Center to Salem MA; Alice Locicero, an email acquaintance who turned into a good friend and talked me into getting a GPS with my rental car; Mark Johnson, husband of Margaret, for introducing me to the Wakefield Rotary and serving on their International Committee for me; Ashley Johnson for helping me bake 3 cakes for the event; and John Swallow, last but not least, the best friend/cousin a girl could ask for.

Thanks for Larry Thompson, of Montecito Rotary, who is now carrying the ECW torch for me to the District: Go Larry, and Good Luck! And to Carolyn and my awesome daughters, Kether and Sarah, for hanging in there with me, doing “just one more event” cheerfully! The last 3 months have been very busy while Empower Congo Women got non-profit status, a website, and an amazingly poignant DVD, directed and edited by Mark Manning.

I am learning there are many large-hearted folks out there, people who did not know me or anything about the women’s plight in DR Congo, but who support our cause nonetheless.

I am traveling to Bukavu again, this time to expand the Ushindi Center so that it can be both a training center and retail store. This will allow the women to become financially self-sufficient and the Center to become self-sustaining. I feel like this project has turned a corner, become more substantial with more potential to achieve its goals than ever before. So stay tuned to this blog—I am committed to bringing you all along with me on the journey, wherever it is headed.

With love and gratitude,

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