Archive | October, 2013

Amy Parker – in memory of Eraste, Tite, Musore and Gifota

4 Oct

“Two years on from the tragedy that struck Children in Crisis and Eben Ezer on October 4 2011, I continue to be astonished, sad, immensely proud, frustrated and full of hope all at once.”

 

I have made some extraordinary journeys to and on the Plateau this year. I walked for 11 days across the Marungu high Plateau with my two colleagues from Eben Ezer Ministry International (EMI), Rubyagiza and Pastor Samson. We were carrying out workshops with different communities, speaking to girls, boys, women and men, and learning about the change the Children in Crisis / EMI education programme has brought about over the last 6 years.

Another trip was to Kisombe village on the Bibokoboko mid Plateau where we are constructing our tenth school, Bora Primary School. Two years on from the tragedy that struck Children in Crisis and Eben Ezer on October 4th 2011, I continue to be astonished, sad, immensely proud, frustrated and full of hope all at once.

I am astonished every day at the courage and determination of our Congolese team. The massacre of seven Banyamulenge, including four of our project team; Eraste, Tite, Musore and Gifota, rocked us to the core. And yet the team not only continue to deliver an extremely comprehensive teacher training, community awareness-raising and school construction programme, we are also constantly striving to improve ourselves through listening to and learning from what people on the Plateau tell us about their priorities and continuing challenges.

I am sad because four of our original team are not able to see what the work they started now means to the development of the Plateau and the hope of people living there. My visit to Bora Primary School was especially poignant; this was a school I had visited with Eraste just one month before his senseless murder and it was my first time back. A village made up primarily of women widowed during the war in 1996, their first words to me were of condolence for my loss.

Children welcome us to their new primary school in the DR Congo

Children welcome us to their new primary school in the DR Congo

I am immensely proud that we are working with three communities this year in our school building programme, including constructing Bora Primary School. We will work with a further three communities next year and the one after bringing the total number of primary schools rebuilt or rehabilitated since 2007 to 18; something no other organisation has been able to do in an area still so isolated from the rest of the country.

I am frustrated at the fact that this continued isolation impacts negatively on Plateau communities and especially children; families live precariously on the line between abject poverty and a hopeful future. I can honestly say that I have never met children so thirsty for education and mothers so determined for a better future for their children. Communities here have lived for decades without any external support, building up a resilience I expect I will never see anywhere else in the world. In spite of tough times, I am always welcomed by people with open arms, wide smiles and raucous laughter, brimming with ideas and I feel hopeful.

We are coming to the end of the second phase of our education programme. We have come so far and yet there is so much more to be done with the Plateau communities. We will continue to work with primary schools; the changes that have taken place since 2006 are amazing, but still more support is required to build on the improvements to date. Secondary schools are knocking on our door having had no support since the 1980s. Economic development is extremely difficult in an area with so little infrastructure, yet changes are afoot with an internet connection in Minembwe and rumours of a mobile mast there too. We are planning to work with communities to look at how we can support income generation and skills development.

The current EMI team

The current EMI team

There is peace at the moment on the Plateau. A very fragile peace following decades of, often externally motivated, conflict. A peace that could pave the way for a happy and prosperous future for the children with whom we work. A peace that needs to be supported and nurtured through positive, community-driven actions bringing together all people, young and old, male and female and a true melting pot of ethnic communities. Everybody working together for a Plateau to be proud of.

Our work on the Plateau has always been about supporting the most vulnerable children to achieve their potential. The events of October 4 2011 brought another dimension to the project. Children in Crisis and EMI continue to push and work with Congolese and UN bodies in the pursuit of justice for our murdered friends and we are encouraged by the fact that an official investigation has recently been carried out. It is in the memory of Eraste, Tite, Musore and Gifota that we will continue to strive for a Plateau free from fear and hatred and instead, full of hope and compassion built on mutual respect.

Learn more about Children in Crisis’ work in DR Congo, by clicking here.

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