Monday, May 14, 2012

Back in Bukavu again . . .

Congolese woman looks to the future

Dear Friends of Empower Congo Women!

I have returned to Congo after nine months and have many good things to report! Although you may have read of rebel outbreaks to the north and south, Bukavu remains secure and our projects are going well.

Research. This year I am accompanied by Ashley Nemiro, a doctoral candidate in psychology from North Carolina State University.  Together we're studying the positive effects of trauma therapy on women war survivors in eastern Congo.  We began our research last week by enlisting and interviewing 24 women; all have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and all are eager to learn how to manage them.

We will be comparing the effectiveness of EFT (energy psychology) and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) in reducing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms; additionally, all the women will receive group therapy. We are training four Congolese caregivers, as well, who will continue the work after we leave.  Our research is being financed by ACEP, the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology.

Ushindi Center. Our women's center is going strong, gearing up to send new products to the USA. After graduating 30 women last July and encouraging self reliance by gifting each with a sewing machine and fabric, the center has embarked on a program of self-reliance.  Ushindi’s staff, headed by Administrator Chantal Kikuni, retained 10 graduates and has recruited 10 new young women to help them build the business of selling hand sewn items abroad.  
Ushindi Center staff (L to R) Verdiane, Denyse, Chantal

Since September, the women at Ushindi Center have sewn 150 aprons and sent them to the USA for sale. We are delighted to report that all are sold and that Ushindi aprons are spread across the US! Many thanks for supporting our efforts!

Right now, we are busy designing items for our new line.  By partnering with two other women’s sewing collectives, we will be able to produce a large number of high quality items. Stay tuned to upcoming blogs to check out our gorgeous tablecloths, napkins, purses, and headbands, all made by Congolese women with colorful African fabric!
Young woman sewing a purse from Ushindi's new line

Mumosho. As many of you know, Rotary International is the source of an upcoming grant to furnish a large vocational school in Mumosho, a war-torn area one hour south of Bukavu. Over the last six months, a number of wonderful women friends contributed their time and fund raising efforts to provide a building to house this project. I cannot thank you all enough for your support!

I am happy to tell you that I visited Mumosho on Saturday, where we looked at available buildings to house the vocational center. Nothing to report yet, but the Rotary Club of Bukavu is on board, ready to finance the project, so the vocational school is fast on its way to becoming reality!

The vocational school is part of a larger project, the Mumosho Peace School, which will house primary and secondary schools, a safe house for young women, and workshop space for community education classes, such as conservation, sanitation  and peaceful negotiation.  Empower Congo Women is working on this project in conjunction with ABFEK, a local charity run by Amani Matabaro, and Action Kivu, a grassroots non-profit based in Los Angeles.
Amani in front of the market we built last summer - 2011

We also visited the Mumosho Peace Market that Amani and Empower Congo Women built last year with the help of several international Rotary clubs. It was early when we arrived, so the vendors were just setting up, but we had the good fortune to meet one of the women farmers who was trained at the Demonstration Farm established by Amani and financed by Rotary Club of Montecito. Look at the pride as she holds up the biggest cabbage I've ever seen!

With love and appreciation,

Mama Vicki

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