(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)
When I write about the Congo, the Princesses come up often. Usually I refer to them without comment or explanation. Like when they exclaimed about my eating, or when I quoted one saying “Education Is Life.” Describing who they are is not so simple.
At first they were among early entrants to our education center. Some were sponsored by our Belgian grant to attend school. Several helped with VBS for the children (vacation bible school) during the summer. Several are featured on our website homepage photo. One has become our Operations Director’s assistant.
The simple answer is to say we have two groups of Princesses with some overlap. The first group is those who are sponsored to go to school. They are in the Princess Program. The second group is the Princess Club which is made up of girls and young women who come together at the education center for everything from movie night (my shock here) to hygiene classes to discipleship.
Why Princesses? As children of God (the King of Kings) all the students are important, valuable, and either a prince or a princess. While the Prince Club has just started, the Princesses are ready to change the world.
Here’s what they say via translation:
Most of what we learn here is not learned other places. We learn how to face life, how to be ourselves. And personally I would like this learning to follow us all our life. In the future we won’t be here like we are now. Some have gone to study, other will take other commitments for life. Wherever we go we hope to be like stars that never lose their life.
We don’t learn for ourselves alone–we learn for others. I would like to see and hear wherever each goes that we are a good testimony. Women on which the world, the church, our families can count. And transfer that to the community. Because communities are suffering. (Evalyne)
From here I go back to University (in Kenya). So much is corrupt. Many people and girls are very different, do things I know are not good for us, as Princesses. We have learned to stand. (Carmel)
When we started Education ASBL it was difficult. We worked hard with all our hearts b/c what we are doing is important. One thing that’s helped alot of children is we didn’t pay attention to social classes. We treated all the children the same. Children who wouldn’t appear before others, here we welcomed and treated the same. For me, I can’t stop thanking God for Education ASBL. (Odette)
How can anything I write top that?
One additional thing I cherish about our work together is that it is grass-roots. I may be the president of the board, but the Princess Club was begun by four students who worked at VBS, relaxed by Lake Kivu sitting in the grass and the idea (homepage photo).
Someone in the US donated a guitar, but it was a young man at the center who picked it up and said, “I’ll teach the children music classes”–and he did and wants to do more.
It’s the Princesses who decided to write a handbook for the club to pass on to younger people, for others to take to university. They have the ideas and do the work, and we support them.
Many organizations could not work with this sort of flexibility. Perhaps we are able because we are small. But we also see God’s direction in what He lays before us, the opportunities that grow organically as we reach into community.
It is always amazing me, and never more so than when I visited East Congo.
Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.