A MESSAGE FROM OUR CO-Founder & PRESIDENT
Dear Friends of Congo Initiative,
Congo Initiative is home to a unique community of Congolese leaders and international partners committed to the holistic transformation of lives and a thriving Democratic Republic of Congo. Our passion and hard work springs from our belief that together and united in action, we can write a new narrative for the Congolese people. A story of a people rising from despair to hope, from suffering to rejoicing, from exploitation to freedom of action and prosperity. By God’s grace and enablement, we have created a unique environment where this new story has already begun--a community of bold and committed people where both faith and intellect matter as we search for real solutions to the challenges of Congo.
The work of Congo Initiative spans a broad range of activities. We educate a new generation of Congolese leaders who have integrity; invest in a sustainable, vibrant society; and develop innovative, grassroots initiatives for peace, hope, and justice. We work in, and with churches, civil society, and businesses; and with professionals, students, and vulnerable people. We have created an atmosphere of tuko pamoja (“we are together”) in order to release the potential of each one of us in this journey of hope and Christ-centered transformation.
I am pleased to present you with this report that outlines some of the achievements and progress accomplished in this past year. We would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of our board members, executive leaders, and staff in the USA, UK, Congo and elsewhere, and the students at our main institution, l’Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC). They are the future of Congo!
Our achievements would not be possible without the prayers and support of our partners. To all of you, I say, thank you for your sacrificial and generous commitment to the vision of Congo Initiative. I want to assure you that this report also serves to renew our resolve for a transformed and flourishing Congo. Our challenges are many, but together, united and believing, we can make a difference for people who need it most and now.
David M. Kasali, PhD
A recent survey conducted by the newly established UCBC Alumni Association reveals the variety of ways in which alumni are using their knowledge, skills, and vision to create change and write a new story of hope and transformation in Congo (see below). In addition, the Alumni Association has committed to raising $10,000 locally over the next year to contribute to UCBC’s first endowment.
UCBC is committed to equal opportunities for men and women. Though almost all Congolese universities are dominated by men (students and professors), UCBC aims to have an enrollment and graduate class that is 50% women. In the past, the ratio has been close to this mark, although it dropped this past year to 33%, in part due to the disproportionate effects of regional insecurity on women. UCBC’s Women’s Voices student group continues to lead and encourage secondary school female students to pursue higher education and positions of leadership.
FEMALE STUDENTS & ALUMNI
Every year on March 8, Women’s Voices participates in International Women’s Day activities and organizes a conference on themes related to women’s rights. This year, the conference theme was “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope,” encouraging collaboration and working together across genders with a particular call for men to contribute to gender equity.
THE UCBC TEAM
100 STAFF MEMBERS
7 FACULTY/STAFF participated in advanced studies in Kenya, Uganda and the U.S..
2 FACULTY completed their advanced studies and are now back as full-time teachers.
ENGAGING AND SERVING THE COMMUNITY
INTEGRATED RESEARCH INSTITUTE (IRI)
UCBC’s Integrated Research Institute (IRI) conducts and promotes research that’s transformative for the communities and people of Congo. Some of the IRI’s activities directly benefit UCBC as an institution, while others assist UCBC with accomplishing its goal of engaging social issues through intervention-based research and public policy.
SHARING THE LAND (STL)
Sharing the Land (STL) continues to support land reform and promote land rights for all land owners, tenants, and squatters in Beni’s Masiani neighborhood and Goma’s Volcan neighborhood. As a result of STL’s success and presentations to local and national land affairs administrations, STL is now contributing to the land reform process at the national level!
In February 2017, STL launched the Sharing the Land Resource Center at UCBC. The purpose of this Center is to provide the university with resources related to land conflict and mediation, land tenure security and rights, urban planning, rural development, and gender issues. The Center hosted two training workshops that equipped and certified 43 people, including 13 UCBC students, in the Social Tenure Domain Model, land mediation, and gender evaluation criteria.
THE AGRIBUSINESS CENTER
Agribusiness activities are integrated into UCBC academics, service learning, and research. While Congo’s agricultural wealth is clearly evident, there is a lack of research on how to develop innovative business practices to leverage that wealth, resulting in a significant missed opportunity for integrated economic development. To address this need, IRI’s Agribusiness Center is strategically providing educational resources for students and farmers to help Congo’s agriculture (particularly coffee and cocoa) and farmers flourish.
The Agribusiness Center developed coffee supply chain maps for an interactive coffee atlas that is now used widely by coffee farmers and exporters in eastern Congo. The atlas helps promote outside investment and interest in DRC’s coffee that will continue to revitalize the coffee industry and ultimately improve the livelihoods of growers.
The Center helped ESCO-KIVU - the largest exporter of cocoa from Congo- by collecting data on 30,000 farmers and producers to improve the certification process. This enables ESCO to better track the cocoa they buy from the producer, which results in improved production practices, higher quality cocoa, and therefore higher premiums for the producers.
In partnership with Eastern Congo Initiative, the Center created an agribusiness education and research curriculum, funded 10 scholarships for female students in Agribusiness, and facilitated internship placements for 11 students with businesses, cooperatives, NGOs, and government organizations working in DRC’s coffee and cocoa sectors.
INNOVATIVE LIBRARIES & INFORMATION LITERACY
Throughout 2017, IRI helped enhance the capacity of UCBC’s library staff, improved regional library infrastructure, and promoted a culture of research, information, and data literacy. IRI sent library staff to regional conferences on library development and management, and faculty received advanced training in library science.
RESEARCH ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA
IRI conducted 3 focus groups in Beni Territory (North Kivu Province) and in Bunia (Ituri Province) and also collected data in Goma, Beni, and Butembo on sexual violence and trauma, supporting research for a Master’s student at the University of Michigan.
In addition to our annual Creation Care promotion week in June during which the UCBC community focuses on creation care education and activities, UCBC also organized multiple tree-planting events, including one on International Forest Day in March. With the help of a multi-year grant, UCBC continues to pursue a long-term strategy of environmental sustainability for all of CI’s programs through advanced training for faculty, staff leadership positions, and designated capital through Wakisha (CI’s business accelerator) for environmentally-friendly business start-ups.
More than just a program at UCBC; Service Learning is an ethos - a way of learning that is highly practical, where academic knowledge meets real-world problems and opportunities. We take seriously this integration and are thrilled with the 22 projects completed this past year that served the community. For example, students responded to to political and social instability by visiting secondary schools and distributing stickers with a message of nonviolence. In collaboration with Sharing the Land (STL), they also sensitized the surrounding neighborhoods about land rights and securing land titles.
VOCATIONAL TRAINING AND COUNSELING
CI serves vulnerable women by providing training opportunities in sewing, baking, and literacy, empowering them to earn a livelihood that will provide a better life for themselves and their families.
2 vocational training programs were held on sewing skills and embroidery throughout the year.
A one-month counseling workshop also resulted in 23 women joining our sewing classes.
In addition, we secured initial seed funding to establish a tailoring business with the goal of transforming the existing programs into a viable enterprise that creates jobs for the women served by CI and contributes to long-term self-sustainability.
LA CHARITÉ PRIMARY SCHOOL
Due to poverty, unemployment, and other hardships, many families in Beni and the surrounding area are unable to afford school fees. La Charité serves close to 250 children who otherwise may not attend school.This past year:
ENROLLMENT & GRADUATION
- 245 students enrolled (41% girls).
- 176 of 207 (85%) passed their final exams. (52% girls.)
- 30 of 35 (85%) 6th graders passed their exams and graduated. (57% girls).
- The school increased personnel from 7 to 11.
VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
For three weeks in July 2017, we offered a Vacation Bible School for 100 children from five local schools. Weaving, bead-making, shoe repair, and baking were some of the skills the children learned.
ABC PRIMARY SCHOOL
Affiliated with UCBC, ABC seeks to apply its transformational vision of education in the lives of Congo’s youngest learners through character development, community engagement, and critical thinking.
Our growing school community was a source of hope for the future in uncertain times. Despite periods of unrest in the region, our 62 students were able to successfully complete their coursework and exams.
We employed 15 local teachers and staff and were able to provide daily meals for each student.
We also received 1000 books for our library through a partnership with Books for Eastern Congo.
BETHESDA COUNSELING CENTER
We believe that counseling interventions are critical for personal and community transformation. Launched in 2016, Bethesda Counseling Center provides caring, loving, and compassionate Christian counseling, including individual and group counseling; play therapy for children; grief and trauma services; and training for local church leaders. Through our work we seek to bring hope, healing, and restoration for wounded individuals and communities.
- Weekly individual counseling served 70 people.
- Quarterly grief counseling and sharing served 200 people.
- Seminars served 115 people.
- Trauma debriefing served 30 people.
- Weekly widows group served 12 people.
- Weekly play therapy served 60 children and parents.
- Twice a month counseling served 24 pastors.
Neema (Swahili for "grace") is a resource and capacity building program that fosters entrepreneurship activity and engages in robust monitoring and evaluation of small business ventures.
CURRENT NEEMA PROJECTS
Since 2016, Neema has impacted 153 beneficiaries, including 38 women now trained in basic business skills, and enabled five families to send their children to school through a pig and goat breeding project.
Other Neema Projects include:
- Chicken and egg production project benefiting 46 women and their families.
- Soap manufacturing project employed 18 people.
- Motorcyle-taxi service employed 6 people.
Neema invested 348 hours in business mentoring and coaching, and employed 8 staff members.
The business accelerator of CI, Wakisha (Swahili for "ignite") provides financial and mentoring support to emerging entrepreneurs to scale high impact, innovative startups.
"LEOPARDS LAIR" - FIRST COMPETITION FOR START-UPS
These new businesses will ultimately create jobs and grow the economy, while also providing a steady stream of income back to CI as a means of operational sustainability. Wakisha launched its first competition for start-ups in August 2017. Candidates presented their detailed business ideas, and 10 finalists were selected and participated in a two-day training workshop in business models, market research and marketing, and creating a culture of collaboration in Beni.
Ultimately, three of these finalists will be chosen to receive initial seed funding for their projects along with six months of rent-free co-working space with other Wakisha entrepreneurs and access to mentoring through Congo Initiative’s local and global network of partners.
We equip lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals to be transformational leaders within a broken and corrupt legal system.
Our grassroots legal associations in the cities of Beni, Bunia, and Butembo meet together on a regular basis for support, solidarity, and sharing best practices. They offer pro bono services to the poor and actively defend widows whose property rights are unjustly denied. The Bunia group has secured the release of 207 unjustly convicted or imprisoned prisoners and 75 imprisoned children. In Beni, where more than 200 citizens have been killed this past year, the group educated the population about their legal rights as victims of these atrocities.
International Justice Conference
Every other spring, CI hosts an International Justice Conference at UCBC. Attendance in April 2017 doubled that of the 2015 conference with 150 attendees, and we anticipate even greater numbers at the 2019 conference. Unique to this year’s conference was the participation of UCBC’s first cohort of law students.
CHURCH RENEWAL & GLOBAL MISSION (CRGM)
Church Renewal & Global Mission (CRGM) facilitates activities on church leadership training, healing, and reconciliation in northeastern Congo and Beni Territory.
CHURCH LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
- 18 workshops were held on capacity building in servant-leadership development, marriage enrichment, trauma and healing, and delivering sermons.
WORKING WITH THE YOUTH OF CONGO
- 6 youth conferences brought together hundreds of youth to encourage their role and participation in creating change.
RESPONDING TO VIOLENCE AND DISPLACEMENT
CRGM ministered to 269 children whose parents were killed in Beni territory during the year and distributed food and soap in Oicha (15 miles north of Beni) to 2100 internally displaced households in December 2016 and January 2017.
In northeastern Congo, CRGM now has 655 organized prayer groups that facilitate reconciliation, prayer and economic development.
CAMPUS & LAND DEVELOPMENT
Blessed with a 95-acre campus, UCBC seeks to use the property to its fullest. In 2017, students raised 12 goats and 8 pigs and planted 1000 cocoa trees through agribusiness projects that will generate income for the university in the future.
This past year, we completed 2 new seminar classrooms in UCBC’s University Chapel and Community Center and constructed new office space for the CI staff.
With the generous support of several donors, we purchased 5 acres of land as the future campus of La Charité Primary School and our vocational training and counseling work with women.
10 YEAR CELEBRATION OF HOPE
At the end of July, UCBC and the wider community celebrated a decade of hope and transformation since UCBC first opened its doors in November 2007. As the 2016-17 academic year came to a close, we not only recognized 73 new graduates, we also celebrated the transformational impact made on and through the lives of over 500 alumni. The community heard powerful stories of hope and change from UCBC students and alumni who are making a difference by investing in their country through business innovation and entrepreneurship, serving in public and private institutions, working in local and international NGOs, and continuing their education.
10 YEAR CELEBRATION
Photos provided by a number of Congo Initiative's staff.