Transitions to Peace: October 2016

As a follow up to Congo Kids Initiative’s back to school September focus on education, we thought it would be helpful to share a bit of background about the work we support at St. Kizito Orphanage in order to understand the broader issues children face in the transition out of conflict.

 

War impacts not only combatants, but also everyday citizens who need access to food, shelter, and medicine. Conflict-related displacement destroys infrastructure and educational systems, making it difficult for societies to rebuild once peace finally arrives. As always, it is the most vulnerable members of society who are the most impacted by violence, very often this means children. 

 

As a result of living through decades of war, many of the residents of St. Kizito have known a large amount of destabilization in their short lifetimes. Older children, both boys and girls, may have had direct combat experiences and younger ones have all been impacted by indirect consequences of war. It is estimated that over 5 million people have died in the DRC due to conflict, roughly half of those are believed to have been under five years old according to SOS Children’s Villages Organization.

Making time to play for kids impacted by war is a high priority for Congo Kids Initiative.

Making time to play for kids impacted by war is a high priority for Congo Kids Initiative.

 

The St. Kizito team works hard to focus specifically on the needs of those experiencing the effects of conflict. While residing in the orphanage, children are given large doses of love and a chance to regain a childhood filled with learning and play. For older children who have missed years of education, the school offers opportunities to discover the joys of learning for students of all ages. As conflict subsides, every effort is made to reintegrate residents to their home communities. Follow up monitoring is done to be sure that once children return home that they have the support they need to be successful.

 

With your help, CKI supports these children and the positive futures they have ahead of them. To learn more, visit www.congokidsinitiative.org, or contact us at congokidsinitiative@gmail.com

 

Education Is Key: September 2016

The back-to-school campaign launched in August has been an extreme success! Everyone at CKI and at the St. Kizito school are extremely grateful for all of those able to contribute to the campaign. The funds raised will being going towards the daily needs of the St. Kizito school to help kids get ready to learn with strong bodies and school supplies! Every dollar helps the orphanage, clinic, and school function properly and allows the children to maintain their lives in Bunia. We thank those who have chipped in and welcome those who want to join in with a donation of $1 or more by clicking here!

 

This month at CKI we would like to focus on understanding conflict within the Congo that led to the need for CKI. War in the Democratic Republic of Congo has a long history with roots in colonial exploitation and competition for resources by neighboring countries. Multiple elements contribute to its complexity and can make the current situation hard to comprehend without further learning. We believe that by understanding this vast, beautiful, and resource-filled country and its rich culture the CKI family can better assist in the creation of sustainable futures for its children. We also feel that lessons learned from Congolese who are building peace and stability in their country offer us tools that can used around the world.


To assist in this effort to educate, CKI has created a lesson plan, presentation, and literature guide. We are looking for schools or organizations that wish to learn more about the Congo and CKI. If you or anyone you know would like to arrange a presentation or take advantage of the resources we have created, please contact us at: congokidsinitiative@gmail.com.

 

Back to School: August 2016

As children return to school for the next step in their education, it seems fitting to introduce the education occurring at the St. Kizito School and two of the children benefitting from the Congo Kids Initiative Education Fund.

 

Within the St. Kizito School, there was a desire expressed from students to continue into higher education. As Michael Hrzic, one the founders of the Congo Kids Initiative Education Fund, says, “ In talking with the older children at the orphanage, I realized that they truly need options to get outside so that they could learn to take care of themselves and others.” Thus, The CKI Education Fund was then created.

 

Early funding was secured to launch the program with two students, to be selected by the St. Kizito school teachers. Seeing great potential in Josephine Neema and Juve Ngave Brigitte, two female students, they the teachers named them for the pilot program. Neema and Juve both chose to enter into medical vocational school, as they were given the opportunity to choose the path in which they were most interested. Through this fund the women are guaranteed paid tuition within their chosen field with the sole condition that they must pass their exams.

 

Neema and Juve were also provided with a mentor, Elyse Pifwa. She has provided guidance and support throughout their first school year and acted as a connection between CKI and the students. This support is key so that Neema and Juve know they have support through all of these new experiences.

 

One of the first, and most interesting hurdles that the students had to tackle was the significant travel time to the university, which is quite far from the orphanage. Instead of letting this discourage them, the girls and the mentor came up with the solution of driving a motorcycle to school, which CKI was able to purchase. The first lesson after high school for both of them was learning to drive a motorcycle, making the commute to school easier and safer!

Neema in the Lab.

Neema in the Lab.

 

Recently, CKI received letters from the students describing what they had learned during their first year at university. Neema chose a medical path in laboratory work and Juve chose a path in pediatric medicine. In her letter, Juve expressed that she is now able to consult a child that is sick and provide him with treatment through taking his or her temperature, putting in a catheter, inserting an IV drip, and give injections into muscles and veins. Neema wrote that she is now able to take a blood sample, to perform malaria and tuberculosis tests, to check the group and rhesus of a blood sample, and check the hemoglobin of a blood sample. Both Neema and Juve have made significant progress and are currently focusing on their exams that occur in September. They thank the CKI Education Fund for the support it has provided to them.

 

CKI has committed to continuing this college experience for Neema and Juve – and to expanding the opportunity to other residents at St. Kizito Orphanage. We hope that you will join us in this effort. As one Chicago supporter expressed, “After learning about the St. Kizito Orphanage, and hearing about the older girls aging out of its care, we decided to contribute to the CKI education fund in order to support scholarships for these strong young ladies. As we have benefitted from generous scholarships over the course of our American educations, we are happy to be able to "pay it forward" in a way by helping these students on their journey.”

 

Juve at the Hospital

Juve at the Hospital

In keeping with the “back to school” theme, CKI is launching a “Back to school” fundraising campaign to help us support St. Kizito at every level of their studies. For further details, visit the Congo Kids Initiative Facebook Page or http://www.congokidsinitiative.org.

News from Norway: NKH for CKI - Foto for Kongo

Last year we embarked on our first international collaboration in which students at the Norwegian School of Creative Arts (NKH) in Oslo and photographer Marcus Bleasdale created the photography project, NKH for CKI – Foto for Kongo. The project idea was to take the powerful medium of photography and use it as a platform to support CKI.

NKH students in the process of installing the January 29th exhibition. 

This year a new class of students has continued the project at the NKH campus in Bergen. Considering the size of the project and because the class is composed of only 8 students, it was a major learning curve for everyone involved. Sunniva, one of the participating students and head of the communications team, said that by sharing the work with each other and understanding the vitality of teamwork they were able to succeed and achieve their goal of supporting CKI and the children.

Since the inception of the project in Bergen, students have organized workshops, drop-in portrait sessions, and company partnerships. In their most successful company partnership they were able to make a deal with a local gym; the gym donated all of their proceeds (from an entire day!) to Congo in exchange for photos of their gym members in action.

In addition, the students organized and installed an art exhibition that took place on January 29th. The exhibition featured 48 photos and drawings, all of which were for sale and had been donated by students of the photography and illustration classes at NKH, teachers, and local artists. All in all the students were able to raise a total of 16.000 kr (1,895 USD) for CKI through the exhibition!

We’re excited to watch NKH for CKI continue to grow and we look forward to seeing how the funds raised by the project will support children in Congo. For more news on what’s currently happening with the project and to see where it’s headed next, make sure to follow NKH for CKI on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In peace,

The Congo Kids Initiative Team

Congo Kids off to College

Thanks to the support of the Congo Kids Initiative global community - Brigitte and Neema, two St. Kizito residents, are attending college this fall! Both young women are attending ISTM Nyankunde (High Technical Institute of Medicine). Brigitte is studying nursing, and Neema is training to work as a lab technician. 

As St. Kizito's children grow up, an important part of CKI's work will be to ensure that they have the professional skills to lead sustainable and healthy lives.

Brigitte

Brigitte was also raised by the nuns of St. Kizito after both parents passed away. She says she hopes to repay all those who helped raise her by returning to the orphanage once she graduates. Brigitte aspires to be a nurse or possibly a doctor.

Neema

image.jpg

Neema was brought to St. Kizito orphanage when she was seven years old after her parents passed away. There the nuns cared for her and sent her to school. Neema was always a very bright student and, with CKI's financial support, she was able to complete secondary school. She looks forward to continuing her education to become a lab technician.

 

Meet Elysee Pifwa

She is our coordinator in the Congo, currently helping arrange the transportation for Neema and Brigitte to get to college each day. She has previously worked with a variety of other NGOs, providing social services, addressing domestic violence, and helping children who have been through trauma. We are very lucky to have her on our team.

Elysee Pifwa (right), with Leslie Thomas- a CKI board member      (photo by Jiro Ose)                                                            

Elysee Pifwa (right), with Leslie Thomas- a CKI board member      (photo by Jiro Ose)                                                            

It All Starts with a Good Night's Sleep!

As every parent knows - making sure each child has a clean, dry, warm bed to sleep in each night provides a key start to the day. Thanks to the support of Congo Kids Initiative family, all of the children at St. Kizito now have a new bed!

Pastor Marrion and helpers figuring out how to get these great gifts home! Logistics in the Congo are a fine art and the St. Kizito team are always up to the challenge. 

After the mattresses are home - Sister Catherine and the residents tackle the installation with a smile!

Update on our Project ”NKH for CKI – Foto for Kongo”

Amazingly, we have collected over 56.000 kroner (so far) for Congo Kids Initiative since launching the project! Last week we worked on our individual photo shoots and two of our students arranged a photo session for babies and children in our studio at NKH. We had 14 children show up on this day making it a huge success! Photographers, parents and children were happy with the photo shoots and excited to show their support of our project in this way! We are very grateful to all who showed up this Saturday to get their pictures taken!

We’ve also been working on planning the exhibition next week. The arrangement will be promoted on social media and displayed on posters in our local area. We hope to see as many of you as possible! The purpose of our exhibition is to sell printed images, taken by the students, that will hopefully end up on the walls of living rooms in and around Oslo. Marcus Bleasdale will also be conducting a speech about Congo and the project we are undertaking. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this will help increase the financial support to the orphanage.

Public response continues to increase and we even have an upcoming interview on the project at www.fotografi.no (http://www.fotografi.no/arkiv/foto-kongo). It has been fantastic to see how many people have shown their support of the project through social media. Just look at all these selfies that people have tagged with #fotoforkongo!

#fotoforkongo

CONGO KIDS INITIATIVE announces our first international collaboration:
NKH for CKI - Photography for Congo

A photography-project by students at Norwegian School of Creative Studies in collaboration with the renowned documentary photographer Marcus Bleasdale (National Geographic / VII agency) and Congo Kids Initiative.
The project "NKH for CKI - Photo for Congo" is now underway!
 

After an inspiring meeting with documentary photographer Marcus Bleasdale in May 2014, we decided to start a project that would financially benefit people in need in the area and we chose to collaborate with The Congo Kids Initiative. The organization is gathering funds for the orphanage, St Kizito, in Eastern Congo. 

We decided that through photographic work and activities related to photography as a communication and medium, we would endure a project that would help raise money to this organization and the orphanage as such.

First and foremost it was important for us as photography-students to use the knowledge we have and produce photo-related work in order to contribute to this project. The project supplies both funds for the orphanage, but also it provides us with a deep understanding of running and managing the project, work experience as photographers and a valuable insight in both the history of, and the challenges of The Democratic republic of Congo.

An important part of the project is to raise awareness and knowledge of the project it self and what Congo Kids Initiative is working on.
In addition we need to communicate how people can donate and contribute into this project. The general idea is to swap our knowledge of photography and our service as photographers with donations from the people we photograph or teach. We have created various accounts on multiple channels in social medias like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This way we can reach out to as many people as possible and it gives everyone an opportunity to show their commitment. We have also created a hash tag:  #fotoforkongo, which we hope can contribute to getting the audience to feel included in this important project. We are campaigning both verbally and socially in addition to the channels online in order to create as much awareness as possible on this project.

We are using Facebook and Twitter to post important information about events we organize to collect money, document the work we do along the way and regularly remind the audience what the money goes to by linking to www.congokidsinitiative.org.

The first week resulted in 259 people liking our Facebook page and we aim to double this by the second week of the project. We have sent press releases to several Norwegian newspapers and are lobbying to get them to spread the word even further on our project. We have obtained sponsors for a sales exhibition that also marks the end of the project (for now) and so far (the first week) we have raised almost 30 000, - Nkr (4 000 USD) and this is before we have started swapping pictures for donations.

Marcus Bleasdale has been supporting us and have on several occasions shared his images, knowledge and experiences from working in Congo as a documentary photographer and this has given us a even greater motivation to do everything we can to help the best we can! We look forward to addressing all challenges in the coming weeks and hope to reach as many people as possible to provide Congo Kids Initiative the attention they deserve!

When the project is finished, we have a plan to challenge departments to NKH in Bergen and Trondheim to follow up the work and take the baton so that Congo Kids Initiative will get further support and attention in the future.

Do you feel Challenged? 

Kind Regards

2nd Year graduates (Photography) 
Norwegian School of Creative Arts (NKH)
Oslo, Norway

Sunday Afternoon

All over the world kids on a Sunday afternoon play football. In the US it's called soccer, but beyond that – it’s all the same thing. St. Kizito’s orphanage is no different. On a recent visit we got a chance to play a pick up game and learned a lot. One thing that’s pretty fun to realize is that the nuns who run the orphanage are always game. And I mean GAME. Not only do they make sure that the dozens of children in their care, from tiny newborns to teenagers off to college, are healthy, fed, and educated, they also make sure that fun is part of the daily curriculum. Between the little toddlers taking their first running steps on the field to a nun who found practicality the key (yep – that means lifting up your skirts just a bit!) the afternoon was fun for everyone – probably my husband Michael and I most of all!

Of course, a quick peek across the road to the “big” field just proves how good you can get at this game if you play locally. The community was gathered for what was clearly an ongoing series of games that get very exciting – we were lucky we were only getting beat by nine and ten-year olds!


That said, the most heartwarming part of the day was after the game when you really meet the community. All throughout the afternoon people come to visit St. Kizito’s. Young couples who stopped in on their way from church to visit children.  Neighbors whose own situations preclude adding more family members and yet who do all they can to ensure that the children of St. Kizito know they are party of the larger Bunia community. 

To make a team it takes a village.