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Category Archives: Africa Education

R is for Rwanda vs. DR Congo

Driving through Nyungwe Forest National Park on the best road I've ever seen in Africa.

Driving through Nyungwe Forest National Park on the best road I’ve ever seen in Africa.

#AtoZChallenge  April 2015 – Back to Africa

The journey to our educational mission in East Congo is six hours long–six hours driving through Rwanda. So even though the Democratic Republic of the Congo is our destination, most of my sight-seeing is in another African nation. Initially I think this is great.

We named our organization Future Hope Africa, not Future Hope Congo for a reason. The Hope we represent does not recognize national boundaries. On my first trip to the Congo to meet my new sons, friends told us that the DRC is not only physically in the heart of Africa. “As it goes in the Congo, so it goes in all Africa,” they said.

On this trip, I’ve landed not in the heart but in the left lung, where people breathe easier.

Rwanda seems bursting with hope. Everywhere is construction–roads and homes and businesses–building today for tomorrow, even in the mountains, this “Switzerland of Africa” they call it. Terraced hillsides full of agriculture line the roads as far as the eye can see, except in the national park.

I see all this cultivation and I am jealous for my Congo, where the mountains grow rebels. Why are these nations so different?

Perhaps when a country rises from depths, from times so bad–not bad–no, evil–such that the whole country must wake up and say “We are better than that. That is not who we are. That will not be our legacy for our children’s children.” Then one voice joins as the nation.

And the world? When the shame of the world that looked the other way as Hutu’s murdered Tutsi’s and even moderate Hutu’s by the hundreds of thousands finally moves from guilt to action, the world doing what it can where the conflict originated–perhaps that makes the difference. Perhaps it makes the work easier in a country where the lingua franca is English?

Like Future Hope Africa on our page (linked here).

Like Future Hope Africa on our page (linked here).

It is never too little too late when people hope for a better tomorrow. –Dr. Kristin King

Despite the work of the Panzi Foundation, the Oscar nominated documentary “Virunga” and the world’s notice of Dr. Denis Mukwege (“The Man Who Mends Women” ), most of the world’s blind eye is now for the leftovers from that very genocide. The rebels in the East Congo mountains, the atrocities continue, the families torn asunder.

My heart is broken.

Tears roll down my cheeks in the mountains of Rwanda.

What must our driver, Papa Justin, think of this strange white woman who takes so many photos, scribbles notes constantly, asks about the flora, and warns (via translation) she will scream with delight if she sees a monkey–what must he think as she sits beside him and weeps fat tears that drip to her shirt?

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 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.

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M is for Melodies of Children

(A to Z April Blog Challenge – Back to Africa 2015)

Remember seeing your child sing with a group? Or seeing your niece, nephew, younger sibling? Can’t help but smile and feel my soul rising on the wings of joy. That’s what today is about. Any melody sung out from the hearts of children can do this for us, when we listen with love and delight regardless of ears.

BTW, I’ve not had good luck with technology and thus haven’t posted video before. However, I really wanted M is for Melodies of Children to be a short clip of the children outside our education center in East Congo practicing a song with motions. Here’s the link to visit if the video won’t play in screen here.

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 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.

 

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K is for Kamologa

Mrs. Kamologa monitoring the fuel supply for the generator that provides our education center electricity.

Ms. Kamologa monitoring the fuel supply for the generator that provides our education center electricity.

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

A huge part of my trip to Africa was meeting the team who works in country, encouraging them, and thanking them. The people like Ms. Kamologa who are the face of our organization, who believe in a brighter future, who are giving every day to make a difference in their community with the help of supporters.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce to you Viviane Munyeruku Kamologa (in blue dress above). Ms. K serves as librarian, receptionist, teacher and cashier for Future Hope Africa since 2009. The team calls her Mama Education @sbl. They told me about her during a meeting dedicated to teaching me what everyone does on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She registers the books, knows what supplies we have where, oversees borrowing and return of books.

With the children she knows every child by name, their problems, background and their parents.

A firm presence offering discipline, she is also the one the children go to with any difficulty.

She is open to everyone and is the 1st person people see and interact with because she works the desk at the front door.

She does everything, and is humble, cleans or does whatever work needs to be done.

A flexible, comprehensive worker.

Shelves of books line the longest wall of our education center in an area of Africa where most schools have no library.

Shelves of books line the longest wall of our education center in an area of Africa where most schools have no library.

When FHA began, people like Ms. K worked for what little we had, sometimes receiving some pay, sometimes volunteering, but always doing all she could. Our group of supporters was small, but eventually we were able to pay $50 a month and be regular. Recently we were able to increase most of the team salaries

Although the pay is a great benefit for those with positions at the center, their families, and the community, the drive to accomplish and do “whatever work needs to be done” is the real fuel behind our endeavors. Ms. K embodies that with firm love for the children and caring for their families.

“When we began,” Bintu Mujambere, Operations Director, said, “Vivian frequently held things down alone [at the center] because I could not always be here.”

Because I expressed a desire to see her son, Vivian had the nanny bring him to the center one day. Robust and wanting only to be in his mommy’s arms, I held the squirming fella who still needed guiding hands to walk.

How precious is this child, full of potential. As Vivian K. gave the bus fare to the nanny and sent her son home, the burden of bringing him in to meet me at the center came home to me. How precious is Ms. K who gives so much for all.

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 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.

 

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J is for Jambo!

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 10.50.01 PM(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

Language in Africa can both unite and divide at the same time. I saw this in action in East Congo and neighboring Rwanda.

It’s terrific when a lingua franca (i.e. bridge language or language of trade) crosses barriers. Take “Jambo” for instance.  I learn to say this to folks outside our education center. It’s basically “hello” in Swahili and will serve you well in lots of places across Africa (i.e.Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, Somalia, and the Comoro Islands.) Even though Swahili isn’t the language of Ethiopia, I clearly remember people using it there as well. I suspect the greeting is common across many more countries.

Inside Future Hope Africa’s center, I use the French greeting “Bonjour.” The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was once part of the Belgian Congo (also Zaire) which established French as the country’s language of interaction with the western world. Within the country, though, it draws a dividing line between those who are educated, and those who are not. And how well someone speaks French can give an employer, or anyone else, a measure of the person’s level of education.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 10.51.48 PMIf you’re a local and happen to speak English very well, you might be Rwandan. Since the town in which we’re located is right on the border. Crossing in and out of the 2 countries the languages create a demarkation as clear as the river–an impediment that may be crossed with the right effort and know how. However, many folks from East Congo fled the over-flooding genocide of the 90’s to places where English was spoken, and a good number of others have studied English. Again, it’s a mark of education.

But if you think you can come as an aid worker with your French and reach people, you might be wrong. For example, one young woman who came to our education center out of curiosity ran away when she was greeted and asked a question in French. Later she explained that she was “ashamed” because she could not understand what she was being asked. After hearing about her, I switched to using “Jambo” the most. We want to make connections across the world and draw people in rather than drive them away.

Poignant to me, we interviewed two newly sponsored students (about 4th and 5th grade/year) in French so we could send their sponsoring family a video thank-you-get-to-know-you. When we asked their parents if they would like to say a few words, they were all eagerness…except that they could not speak French, only Swahili.

That’s when it really struck me how language can even divide a family. What does a mother feel when she does not understand what her child is saying? In this case, I think it was hope, because those French words in combination with the funds to continue school could mean a better tomorrow for her daughter.

Then, with my soul-sister’s family, I tackled another langauge. I always thought Swahili was Bintu’s first language, the one she used at home growing up. Turns out I was right and wrong. Her family’s group language is Mashi and fairly wide-spread in the area I visited. When I used this with her family, they laughed and laughed to hear this local tongue from mine. Rather than separating us, though, they embraced my efforts and nodded with understanding at how Bintu and I became family.

Visit Future Hope Africa for more information about our mission.

Visit Future Hope Africa for more information about our mission.

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 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.

 

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H is for Hairy Situation in East Congo

Everyone wanted in, boys and girls alike.

Everyone wanted in, boys and girls alike.

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

Have you ever wanted to touch someone’s hair? Maybe even a stranger’s hair? Ever want to squish those dreadlocks in both hands? Press your flat hand all the way down in an Afro? Run silky lengths through your fingers?

Many of us are more tactile in our experience of the world. Others of us are just plain curious. My best friend is both and recently told me how often she’s wanted to touch the hair of people with whom it’s perhaps not the most appropriate thing to do. Especially hair that is ethnically different from her own. I reassured her that she is in no way alone.

Take a shy, quiet, downward glancing group of children who have arrived early at our education center in East Congo. Introduce them to two white strangers (i.e. my niece Jaime and me).

How can you break the ice? Or get them to break a smile?

The teacher asks loudly, “Who wants to play with Mama Jaime’s hair?”

This ice breaker turned out to work with adults too!

This ice breaker turned out to work with adults too!

All hands go up. Smiles break out everywhere. New children come in the door and want to join in.

Jaime’s Native American heritage and the fact that her hair goes down to the back of her thighs make this a phenomenon she is used to. Folks are always asking to touch her hair. In the crowded fabric market in East Congo, though, strangers were slipping through the crowd and caressing her tresses on the sly.

How does she feel about that? “Awkward.”

About the children? Their enthusiasm was over the top for the whole trip, and Jaime was all smiles.

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 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.

 

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G is for Gates (Congo Security)

Rebar view from inside our education mission.

Rebar view from inside our education mission.

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

Alone in our room, my niece and I stay up late talking. At one point there is a lull and my gaze rests on the window, the screen, the metal frame built around the glass and the bars outside. Gates and bars are everywhere. In the US a “bad” neighborhood is sometimes recognizable by such additions. If we keep thinking that way, all of this East Congo city we’re visiting appears to be the bad neighborhood.

Every property a gate, every window with bars, every gate a guard. Security? The rebar view of life.

The decorative window bars on our room.

The decorative window bars on our room.

“The bars should make me feel secure,” I say to my niece. “Instead the need for the bars makes me a little anxious.”

“Yeah,” she says. “I was thinking the same thing. It made me wonder if I was going to wake in the middle of the night to someone trying to get in.”

“No,” I say.

We play a game on my iPad and talk till midnight. Then we both sleep very well.

Solid metal gate, though most I saw were dark and had one small section that opened for the guard or folks on foot.

Solid metal gate, though most I saw were dark and had one small section that opened for the guard or folks on foot.

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 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.

 

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E is for Education Is Life

Reading to two young gals at our center. My French was so poor, one of them took over for me.

Reading to two young gals at our center. My French was so poor, one of them took over for me.

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

Zawdi

Mujinga

Visiting the education mission to encourage and support, that’s what my trip to Africa was about. Whether it’s French, math, hygiene, dental care or home finances, if there’s a teacher willing to teach the subject we do it. If there are funds to sponsor girls, we keep them in school. And now one boy too. A micro-loan for a young woman to help her work through University.

Zawdi

Mujinga

Perhaps the best insight is from one of our Princesses, one of our youth students. Evaline says:

For me this is not just an organization. It is a place of refuge, a light. Education is life. I remember the first time I cam here, all we talked about, the activities we did. That has changed my life very much. That’s why I come, because I hope it will do big things for other people too. In other places…those are corrupt. But here  light is on–here we have hope to put things back right.

Zawdi and Mujinga may not have meant anything to me before, but now I see them. See these two girls doing their studies, finding a refuge at our center in East Congo, and needing whatever we can offer them at Future Hope Africa.

Zawdi

Mujinga

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 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.

Visit Future Hope Africa

Visit Future Hope Africa

 

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