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Category Archives: East Congo

Your #VBS vs. #Congo VBS Pt 2 – Facilities

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(Written by me and originally posted on our nonprofit’s blog)

Your Vacation Bible School:

– is probably run by your church or chapel and held at those facilities.

– the classrooms used are the same ones used for Sunday School and Life Groups.

– the tables & chairs are rearranged and everything decorated.

– the church kitchen is snack central.

– the sanctuary is the site for opening and closing ceremonies using the sound system.

– you pray for good weather so game time can be held outside in the grassy areas around your building.

This is how I remember VBS in the US, but it’s not like that in the Congo.

Vacation Bible School is actually a bit of a foreign concept in many parts of the world including east DR Congo. The churches do not put VBS together.

Bintu, our Operations Director, volunteered and worked many Vacation Bible Schools while attending international churches in Europe. She saw what a fantastic program this is for children, and returned to Congo determined to provide children there with this special summer time learning about God.

So it is not a church that does VBS, it is our very own Future Hope Africa folks who put this all together. Although we rent a small building from the church next door to use for our Tutoring Center, we do not have access to numerous classrooms. Our facility has only one room which can only be divided into two sections.

Facilities we often take for granted in the US and joyfully fill to capacity each summer aren’t available in Congo without going out into the community to find, negotiate the use of, and rent a place.

Previously we had to turn children away from VBS, because we just could not fit anymore in our building. This year our FHA team found a school willing to rent to us for a very small feel, because they’re willing to help support our summer program.

There are so few productive activities for the children of Congo when school is not in session. During my visit I saw no parks, no YMCA or recreation areas. In fact, the church and school next door to our Tutoring Center had no grass. Classrooms opened on barren ground and some of them had no doors. The long row benches could not easily be rearranged.

Was there a kitchen? Not at our building. Only one lone sink in the single restroom for almost 60 children.

Our team has organized this summer’s VBS to take place at the local school, rotating through classrooms and operating a little more like you and I see in our communities. It is a fabulous blessing! This blessing of space so that we can have three times as many children this year. With helpers and children, we are touching 200 lives. Your prayers and gifts make this expansion possible.

We only have 7 days left for our crowdfunding campaign and every gift is currently being matched.

Click here and check out our crowdfunding page:
https://razoo.com/us/story/Congo-Vbs-2016

Please think of us as you reflect on your VBS this summer and please share about Congo VBS with your church family and friends on Facebook, in email and other social media.

Thank you so very much for your support.

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Only 5 days left for crowdfunding and a couple pledges have come in getting us closer to our goal. Thank you! –Kristin

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Public Transport – Spotted in Africa

Public transport in Africa is fairly diverse. These were just some of the options spotted in East Congo during my trip to our educational mission. Hop on a cargo truck, take a ferry up Lake Kivu, pay the man hanging out of the white bus window, or get through traffic the quickest on the back of a moped. I confess the only one of these options I sampled was the white bus.IMG_0769IMG_0813 IMG_0809

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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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Z is for Zoomed By

IMG_0725(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

I love completion yet have an aversion to finishing things. So here it is half way through May and I’ve yet to post my last letter for the A to Z April Back to Africa. Today is the day, but I know there will be other posts. This last one, Z is for Zoomed By, will likely go on–become it’s own category perhaps. For now, though these are my closing sights from my trip to Africa.

  • Was that a Rwandan barn swallow? It swooped over the tea field to our right
  • An adobe type home has a silver metal circle set in the plaster to decorate above the front door entrance. It takes me a moment to realize it is a hubcap. Wonder if they saw that on Pinterest? You never know.
  • We follow a large flatbed truck with a short container. “67,200 lbs MAX,” the container’s rear says. Emblazoned on the side “Emirates Shipping.” We pass several of these.
  • Our driver accept 1/2mybeignet. We break bread together, Justin and Kristin. This moment of connection makes me smile.

    Hill side banana sales in East Congo

    Hill side banana sales in East Congo

  • A boy, maybe 8 or 9, with a staff is herding 11 goats.
  • So many little girls in their dresses and bald.
  • See a nicer building? Ask what it is. Answer, invariably, “A school.”

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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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X is for X’ed Photography in Africa

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.20.42 AM(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

That to which we give our attention creates our world view. Or our Africa view. There is so much focus on what’s wrong, we can miss what’s right, what’s beautiful, what’s interesting. X’ed photography meant that I didn’t take very many pictures of trash in the streets or ditches, evidence of poverty, or oppression. Was it there? Certainly. Could our nonprofit use those views to pull at heart-strings? Maybe. We’re about hope, though, using education to build for the future today.

Fundamentally, though, I come back to looking for the positive. In the streets of Paris a couple weeks ago my youngest son said, “Yuck! Look mommy.” He was pointing at the cigarette butts, dog poo, and trash that it is legal to drop in the gutters which are cleaned daily (and stay that way for 10 or 15 minutes).

“Yes, I said. I see it. But look in the bakery window, the designs of the balconies and buildings. Do you know what we’ll see soon?”

“What?”

“The Eiffel Tower!”

He wasn’t terrible impressed until he actually saw it.

My morning vista

My morning vista

Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. A top destination, yet lots of folks can’t see much beyond the dirty gutters. There’s so much more to Africa, to Congo, to the people, culture, and beauty, potential and realities that are there. So I photographed flowers, birds, vistas, shy smiles, and food.

A TED Talk my husband sent to me recently said:

Poverty isn’t getting worse. Food isn’t running out. Volunteering overseas is not the best way to help. Simon Moss debunks six myths about poverty and asks a series of new questions to reshape the way we think about relief. (Africa is poor and five other myths link.)

Sometimes you can change the world by changing how you look at it. Future. Hope. Africa.

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

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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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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in A to Z Blog, East Congo, Travel

 

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W is for Water Congo vs. Alaska

It was just one glass of water in DRC, but this is where the taste took me.

It was just one glass of water in DRC, but this is where the taste took me.

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

What I was tasting was rainwater from a roof in East Congo. Where it took me was Alaska right to the top of a glacier. How could that be? Whether it’s bottled or from the tap, our water tends to have any number of additives. Potable tap water is clean rather than pure. Bottled water is often the same. And although rain water can collect impurities as it comes through the air depending on where it is collected, I think our palates are used to the chemical cleaners of the modern age–and frankly don’t know what they’re missing.

For taste, though, nothing can match what I drank from a glacier stream in Alaska. At least I thought nothing could, until my host handed me the boiled and chilled rainwater in Congo. In the same way smells can transport us, so can tastes. What a strange phenomena to be sitting in the heart of Africa and experiencing a glacier at the same time.

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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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V is for Views in Africa

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

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The towering flower bushes captivated me even when surrounding security gates. Visit “F is for Flowers” http://wp.me/p8Fvh-xv

As I come to the end last few letters of the alphabet in the #AtoZChallenge, I see so many more notes in my travel journal that are yet to be communicated. So V is for Views of things I saw to take note of during this last trip to Africa. Tidbits straight from my journal.

  • Used to the safety videos in flight? Here’s a new one on me. The larger Ethiopian Air planes have a new lavatory that is complicated to get in and out of and has several touchless-automatic features that confuse people. Now you will watch the “How to Use the Toilet” video on each of these flights.
  • Strapped to bicycles in the mountains we spot a hog-tied goat, roped containers for empty water coming down, stacked high with the person walking and pushing the bike uphill containers full of water, bound loads of sticks bigger than the people transporting them. Bikes and manpower for commerce and survival.
  • A small boy runs into the road right in front of us. The driver is fast to hit the breaks. The boy’s mama retrieves him but the child is all smiles like it is great fun that the car had to stop and she had to grab him.
  • A roadside "store" that we passed several times but was not in use.

    A roadside “store” that we passed several times but was not in use.

    Two boys about 7 or 8 years old are hacking at a tree with an ax.

  • Houses have yards of banana trees, or cassava bushes–occasionally even a front yard of tall corn.
  • Three boys sit in a dry drainage ditch on the side of the road, eating a snack (perhaps chewing on sugar cane pieces?). Their entertainment is watching the cars and trucks go by.
  • Sunflowers are planted a few here and there by houses–not the big single-headed kind but multiple blooms. I wonder if the smaller flowers mean smaller seeds.
  • A pile of orange bricks on the side of the road for sale. It’s huge and notable because usually we see rock piles (African Quarry). Earlier we saw bricks laid out behind a house to dry.
  • In two hours we see only one speed limit sign–80 kilometers per hour. What is that 45 mph? Everyone disregards.
  • After almost finishing my Coca-Cola I notice that the writing on it is Amharic, one of the first languages of my oldest son. This little bit of American-Ethiopian makes long to bring him with me next time I come.

More of these items of notice from Africa will make up Z is for Zoomed By.

We see the UN cars and compounds, but no one seems to know what they actually do locally.

We see the UN cars and compounds, but no one seems to know what they actually do locally.

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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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U is for Utilities (Africa)

Gathering rain in...totally did a double take.

Gathering rain in…totally did a double take.

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

My friend warned me, “It’s the rainy season, so the utilities will be a little…you know.”

I didn’t know.

I figured from a previous visit to Congo that if the capital city of Kinshasa lost electricity and water for short durations fairly regularly that being all the way on the other side of the country meant more of that–especially given the season.

Sometimes we were without electricity for longer periods (like hours or maybe half the night), but our hosts had a generator they would run if they or we needed it. We ran the generator at the education center a good bit and went through a lot of gas which bothered me more. Like we were pouring money into a machine when beautiful bight sunshine was all around waiting to be harnessed. A little bummed that solar panels are so expensive, but I understand the need and the benefit in a different way now and am praying for supply.

The great thing about the rainy season is that when the running water stops running, there is still plenty. Our first few nights in East Congo the rain came down and the two 100 gallon(?) drums on each side of the house filled to over flowing by morning. I kind of wondered how many times you wash out a hydrochloric acid drum before you’re confident about drinking its contents, though.

When you travel in Europe you learn to take advantage of the restrooms at your lunch, cafe, snack stop because they aren’t available to anyone but customers. In Congo you learn to hop in the shower if someone says there’s hot water running. Otherwise our kind hosts lugged a 5 gallon bucket of piping hot water from the stove up to the bathroom for us. If I wasn’t doing the #AtoZChallenge for my blog, I would have entitled this “Standing Bath, Sitting Shower.” For bucket bath I find it easier to stand and run water by the cup-fulls as needed from the position where the water covers the most area. For the showers I sat though.

The shower head was what I tend to think of as European since I first saw them here and they are very common. They are the ones with the head mounted on a flexible hose that are terrific when giving the dog or a small child a bath since you can hold it at any angle and get in close where needed. What I don’t get is why they are mounted about a meter (or yard) above the bathtub. To relax under the stream of hot water, to wash out my waist length hair is to sit.

Our timing and schedule being as full as it was, we were mostly standing this trip. Bathing from bucket is not new to us–as my niece pointed out, she used to use the bucket method when visiting her grandparents on the reservation back before they got running water. Used frugally, the bucket had enough in the bottom to turn my head upside down and dunk my hair for one wash and rinse.

It was fine. We adjusted and came home with a greater appreciation of what we have so readily and often take for granted. Still I have to say I am especially grateful to whoever it was that invented “Dry Shampoo” that works for brunettes like us. Thank you!

At some point I told my Congolese friend, “I thought the utilities would be more of a challenge since it’s the rainy season and all.”

She frowned like she didn’t understand and I reminded her about the warning she gave me before arrival. “Oh no,” she said, “things are much better in the rainy season with all the water and everything. I meant to prepare you because it wouldn’t be like what you’re used to.”

Oh. Guess I got it all wrong–and I’ll pack more dry shampoo when I travel next time.

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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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