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Category Archives: Democratic Republic of the Congo

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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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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Congo Christmas – Dr. King Presents

Congo Christmas – Dr. King Presents

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.07.06 PMBearing the name of someone renown once imbued a sense of hope to many parents, though Martin is not in the top 100 of any name rankings of which I know.  On a recent list from Nameberry.com’s most popular names in the US, which goes all the way to the 1000th name, Martin ranks 263rd. Other historical names one might think popular include: Washington (doesn’t rank), Jefferson (#609), Jackson (#16), Lincoln (#95), Kennedy (#64 for girls), Reagan (104th for girls, 960th for boys), Madison (#9 for girls) and Franklin (495#) have all become common.

Having earned my doctorate, the history rich name I bear is Dr. King. And as I presented certificates of training upon which I signed that name during my Congo Christmas trip, I reflected on our pursuits at FHA Education ASBL and thought that what we were doing would have pleased Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We see educational gaps and inequalities and do whatever little things we can to help folks pursue their dreams.

Proud of our training certificate recipients

Proud of our training certificate recipients

What our educational mission in east Congo does goes beyond the student tutoring, training teachers, and disciplining youth, to providing what the local schools lack including a library, music lessons, and art. We respond to the needs that arise on the ground in country. When one young woman could not afford the bus fare from work to make it on time to her classes, we helped with a micro-loan so she could earn her way and begin growing a small business. Another young woman was never able to complete school but still dreamt of becoming a tailor, and we allotted a sponsorship for the apprenticeship she entered a few months ago.

And those I had the privilege of honoring just after Christmas completed school without ever receiving the practical skills to write resumes, engage in interviewing, and do other things necessary to successfully getting the professional jobs they seek. As I apply my signature on documents for our organization, I aspire to continue to give the name dignity and to honor the man most people remember when they hear someone say “Dr. King.”

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Dr. Kristin F. Chaudoin King is a Christian author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She recently returned from  visiting FHA’s education mission in eastern Congo and is blogging from her travel journal about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Congo Christmas – The Best Souvenir Shop?

Street shot of the shop

Street shot of the shop

My niece’s stay is shorter than mine and she is the first to ask about where we can get souvenirs. Our mission is not near a hotel, and there doesn’t seem to be a touristy part of town. When you travel far, you do want gifts to take home for family and closest friends, for whoever is watching your house or the pets, etc. Papa A and Bintu take us closer into town to a terrific little shop called Likembe Shop.

You might wonder how I knew we were closer to downtown? That’s easy. The shop was beyond where the pavement begins.

Is this shop the best? What would make me say so?

What stood out at first was the posted price list. From Crete to Tunisia, Ethiopia to Kinshasa, I’ve learned that there are tourist prices and the locals’ prices. Although all are negotiable, pale faces and those with foreign accents will pay more. This practice is normal and expected on both sides. Personally I think of it as a visitor tax, simply another expense of travel.

Not at Likembe. Items are marked with a letter and number code (e.g. A 3) and prices are posted on several *signs around the store. (*well-worn A4 paper in plastic sleeves) The shop keeper shows me how to find the code and reference the list which she gives me to carry around.

Oh how refreshing to shop on a budget, find prices marked, and choose among options without concern for being too heavily taxed. 🙂

And the options! They have most everything: wood carvings, woven baskets, leather works, banana leaf figures and art, painted notecards, tribal masks, animal print wooden bowls, jade jewelry, and what might be ivory (illegal to import to US). Lovely reasonable, and profuse.

That’s not the BEST part.

After a small discount haggle on the total and giving our Congo francs to 4 elderly folks with their hands out near the door, Bintu tells us that the Likembe Shop runs the storefront next door which is not a business. Once a week they open that front and run a sort of food bank. A portion of their sales are used to purchase small bags of rice, cassava flour, and other foodstuffs which they distribute to those in need.

Kinshasa, the capital of the country, had nothing to compare. Taken together these aspects (i.e. posted prices, options, and food bank) make the Likembe Artisan Shop the best souvenir store in the Congo.

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Kristin King is a Christian author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She recently returned from  visiting FHA’s education mission in eastern Congo and is blogging from her travel journal about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Visit Future Hope Africa

Visit Future Hope Africa

 

 

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12 Days of Christmas in Congo – Motherhood

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 10.15.26 AMTo be a mother without the means to help your child is gut wrenching. While we were in the process of adopting our sons, the report came that our youngest broke his femur. Merciful, how I remember the misery of wondering if he was being abused at the orphanage, if he was getting proper care for his injury. All I could do was pray and pay the medical bills sent to America.

The mother I met this afternoon can’t pay the bills.

In the Congo children are allowed to go to school whether their family can afford it or not. But the child builds a debt. Talk about student debt, try starting it in the 3rd grade! What happens here is the child doesn’t receive the grades until the debt is paid. Why not drop out in 6th grade when you discover you’ll never receive your diploma even though you rank top in your class?

This mother’s child works hard, likes to learn, but he doesn’t receive recognition for this work–not until his year and half debt if removed. All $185 of it which might as well be a million dollars to this family scraping by with fewer than 3 meals a day.

How can I tell a sponsor, “Hey, we’ve chosen a child for you who is motivated even when hungry and works hard. But the money you gave won’t cover his tuition because he owes more?

I don’t.

Instead, through translation, I attest that the debt will be paid in full in January. The woman’s words are low, jumbled with emotion, in a foreign language, and completely understood by me. Mother to mother. Heart touched to heart. This is God working through the body of Christ.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She is spending what she calls “The 12 Days of Christmas in Congo” visiting the educational mission.

 

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12 Days of Christmas in the Congo – The Children’s Fete Part II

First group of children singing for the Christmas Fete program.

First group of children singing for the Christmas Fete program.

Toward the end of the Christmas Fete program, I am required to give a small speech which I completely blow. I do not begin by honoring the church elders or thanking the guests, or recognizing those who worked with the children to put the party together. What I do say is short but heart-felt. I pray the spirit behind this speaks louder than words.

The children sing again and dance. This what puts smiles on all our faces. For the finale, they gather around Jaime and me to sing the English song again. Yes, they learned a song in English thought they don’t speak the language. It is a Christmas gift to us, the visitors. I don’t catch all the words. In the main they are singing:

We are many

We are one body in Messiah

Loving each other

I smile. I cry. After, I get a few hugs as most go from the church back to the center for snack.

They are precious.

Suffer the little children to come unto me, Jesus said to his disciples. Some adults do suffer when children enter the scene, invading the adult setting. The sticky hands, the inappropriate wiggles, the talking too loud, the mess left wherever they have been. To me it seems Jesus is saying, Let the adults suffer.” Little ones are always accepted by the Christ. In fact, any one of us that wants to be in God’s kingdom must come as a child according to the Bible. That is what we truly are before our heavenly Father, thoughtless wayward children with our messy lives because we do not listen and have no sense of the bigger picture. Yet we are precious to Him.

Precious when we come with simple trust that God is good. Trust that He means what He says. That God wants us. That God loves us. That all of our curiosity, questioning, and desires are just as important to Him as they are to us.

He is approachable God and He speaks to me through these children.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. This blog is about her travel to Africa to visit the educational mission.

 

 

 

 

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Holland Expat – First Christmas

Den Haag Christmas Market Photo © Kristine Noel Photography.

Den Haag Christmas Market Photo © Kristine Noel Photography.

We celebrated Christmas early fulfilling a long-standing childhood dream of getting into those packages early. It was Sunday, December 21st. The small stack of presents under the 3 foot table-top tree beckoned, “Today is the day. Mysteries will be revealed.”

At church that morning we sat as a family listening to the continuing sermon series on Luke which reached Luke 2:

Now it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled….she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger….[to shepherds] And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people; for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord….

Near The Hague this Christmas?  Visit our church for Christmas morning service on the 25th.  http://redeemerchurch.nl

Near The Hague this Christmas? Visit our church for Christmas morning service on the 25th. http://redeemerchurch.nl

The points of the sermon were: 1) Jesus came for all (people), 2) Jesus is the Savior, and 3) Jesus is God with us. There were good highlights brought out and discussed of this scripture which is so familiar to me as I’ve heard several times every Christmas since I was a small child visiting my Grandy in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a sub-point that hit me hard with a life lesson on God. Perhaps I’ll blog about that another time.

After service, my family gathered for prayer with the Pastor and a recent university graduate who is headed home to Zambia for Christmas, to job hunt, and be with family. Then we were off to our house for a special lunch, opening packages, family time and a great feast in the evening.

So why all the change in schedule? the prayer? the gifts early? This actually won’t be my first Christmas in Holland because I’m headed to Africa. It will be a Congo Christmas for me this year. For the first time I will visit our mission (Future Hope Africa) in the heart of Africa–and to accommodate my niece joining me we are both leaving before Christmas, she from Kentucky, and I from Amsterdam. We will meet on connecting flights in Addis Ababa and go forth together.

Will you join us? In your thoughts, prayers, and in this blog? You and yours are welcome–to our Congo Christmas.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and President of Future Hope Africa.

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