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Tag Archives: education in Africa

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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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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