Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 - A Year of Focus and Continuing Growth

This truly has been a wonderful year for Empower Congo Women! During 2010, we continued to provide long-term, sustainable solutions that empower Congolese women to rebuild their lives through training, health care, education and economic opportunities.
Ushindi women become Certified Trauma Healers

We began 2010 by expanding Ushindi Center, so we now have several rooms devoted to vocational training as well as an office and storage room.  Doing this enabled us to enroll 28 more women into our program, giving them hope for the future. Ranging from 15-21 years, the young women are all war survivors-- some have babies, others attend school, few have parents—yet their enthusiasm for learning is palpable-- my heart 
On March 18th, I joined the Ushindi women to march in solidarity with women all over the world for the International Women’s Day March. It poured that day, but we continued to march in the rain along with  2000 other soaked women from eastern Congo.

In April, my wonderful friends Margaret Johnson and Betty Merner arrived in Bukavu from Rhode Island with suitcases bursting with fabric, stuffing and sewing notions, ready to make dolls for sale at Waldorf Schools. Both school teachers, they organized  the women who learned to cut, sew, stuff, and hand stitch doll parts, after two weeks completing 100 beautiful dolls! Latest word from Betty is that all the dolls are sold and Waldorf parents are asking for more . . . now to get them from Bukavu to the US!

While Margaret and Betty were there, we trekked to see the Lowland Gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park, an amazing experience.  Impressed by the poverty of a pygmy village nearby, they took action to help the tribe buy its own land by creating the Pygmy Land Project.  Working under the auspices of Empower Congo Women, they plan to raise $50,000, so the pygmies will have a place to call home.

 The pygmies of Kahuzi Biega need a place to call home.
Rotary International played a big role in our lives this year.  As a member of the International Service Committee of Rotary Club of Montecito, I was able to speak to 30 other clubs about the dire situation of women and children in eastern Congo. 

The clubs’ generous support provided vocational training and equipment for women and girls survivors of sexual violence at Ushindi Center in Bukavu and the Kivu Sewing Workshop in Mumosho, a groupment of villages south of Bukavu. Mumosho was also recipient of Rotary funding that improved a primary school, bought goats for 25 families, and outfitted a demonstration farm that teaches environmentally sound farming methods.

I was honored to receive the District 5240 Direct Service Award from Rotary International this year, as well as to be named a Paul Harris Fellow for my international service work. Ushindi Center was also honored by the visit of District 5190 Governor, Maria Marceline, who although District Governor of 10 countries made a special visit to our Center in support of women’s projects worldwide. 

I am proud to say that we sponsored 126 children in school this year, which means we saved 126 children from becoming rebels, bandits and prostitutes—at least for one year! Your continued support of Empower Congo Women’s Educational Fund guarantees these children the hope of a better future! DONATE NOW!

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