Dem. Rep. of Congo, Africa

DRC04 - Centre Amani: Partnership Reports



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Report Date: October 16, 2014

Update from Stephen Windsor 

 

Recent Events

Foster Families

19 of the 33 children cared for by Centre Amani are now staying in foster families. Most families have been willing to accept only one child, so in some cases brothers and sisters have been separated. Most of the children in foster families are in Bweremana or Minova, but there are two much further away in Bunyakiri and some in Kyabondo. The remaining 14 children stay at Centre Amani. 

School

30 of the children were of school age last year and they all attended school. This year 31 children started school in September – 29 are in primary and two in secondary. 

Income Generating Activities

mill houseThe mill:
Last year Bright Hope World contributed US$4,078 to Centre Amani. US$3,700 was used to buy a mill and to transport it from Kampala to Bweremana. The mill can grind cassava, maize, millet and sorghum. It was necessary to build a shelter for the mill - US$100 from BHW went towards wood and the President of Centre Amani and members of ADCKA (Association of Cultivators in Kabase) contributed US$1,238 (the remaining US$278 from BHW is still in the bank). Following the completion of the shelter the mill opened on 25 July 2014.

The mill is managed by Nyabade (the daughter of the President and the sister of Chrispin and Lema), and it is run by three young men (one is Tuma who has been involved in Centre Amani income generatorsince it started, another is someone with experience with other mills in the area and the other is another young man from Bweremana). People bring basins of cassava, maize, millet and sorghum to be ground at Centre Amani’s mill. If cassava is brought, Centre Amani takes two handfuls of cassava and puts that aside as payment, that cassava is then ground and sold by Centre Amani (one sack of cassava is sold for 30,000FC or US$33). If people bring maize, millet or sorghum, they pay 300FC (33c) for 1kg (1kg before it is ground).

After three weeks the mill stopped running. The reason given was that there was no money to buy petrol. This may be because the mill was being run on small amounts of petrol so the petrol was consumed faster. There was also some suggestion that those working at the mill had been purposefully dropping flour on the floor and that this was affecting the mill’s production – the usual policy in the area is that flour on the floor is taken home by the workers. Also people in the area have not harvested much from their fields due to not planting much in their fields during times of insecurity earlier this year.

not much growingThe field behind Centre Amani:
Aside from a few banana trees nothing was growing in the field behind Centre Amani in June-August 2014. Hail in May had washed away seeds for beans, cabbage and onions.

Centre Amani Building

All the iron sheets that make up the roof of the shelter at Centre Amani have holes and need to be replaced as the roof leaks when it rains. The structure around the toilets has been rebuilt.

Security

The M23 rebel group that had come close to Bweremana was defeated at the end of 2013. Many soldiers in the Congolese army (FARDC) had been based in Bweremana while M23 remained a threat, but most of these soldiers have now been moved elsewhere.  Another smaller rebel group called Mai-Mai Nyatura had occupied the hills and mountains above Bweremana, where many people’s fields are located, but in June they were forced out of the area by the FARDC.

Until April a transit centre for ex-combatants from rebel groups was located in Bweremana. This had caused some problems as the ex-combatants stole from people’s fields, cut down trees, and they also stole wood from Centre Amani’s fence.

Other Assistance

Last year there were many refugees in Bweremana, so Medicine Sans Frontiers was working in the area and they provided some free health care for children supported by Centre Amani. However they have now left.

An FARDC colonel and his wife on separate occasions donated food, clothes and plastic shoes. Another FARDC colonel donated 25,000FC (US$28).

A nurse from the town of Sake and Pastor Ibandu from Bishange have also provided food for the children at Centre Amani.

 

Personal Stories

Pascaline

Pascaline is a seven year old girl. We received her from a displaced people’s camp in Minova (a village 25 minutes walk from Bweremana). The chief of the camp brought her to the orphanage on 5 September 2009, it was after her mum died (her father had already left her mum).

When she first came she was very malnourished. Her health has now improved because she is eating regularly. She now speaks Swahili and is studying.

Pascaline is very kind to the other children - she stands out from the other children in that regard. She goes with grandma (President’s wife) to collect food from the fields and when young children are sick she volunteers to go with grandma to help look after them.

Clovis

tough lifeClovis is a three year old boy. He comes from Kibuwa in Walikale territory in the province of North Kivu. He had been living in a makeshift camp for Rwandan refugees, with security provided by the FDLR rebel group. When the FARDC (regular army) attacked the FDLR, his mother was killed.

Chrispin went to Kibuwa soon after the attack and found Clovis sitting on top of his dead mother, with his older brother sitting in the corner of the room.

Clovis came to Centre Amani with his brother on the 10th July 2011.

His health was bad as he had been eating poorly. When he first arrived we spent a lot of time going to the hospital in Minova. Now his health is good and he can distinguish between people. When Clovis first came he couldn’t speak, but now he has learnt some Swahili. He used to cry a lot and be angry and just nod his head sometimes. Now he is talking well and relating well with other kids and even making jokes – for example, recently when other kids were squabbling over who gets a spoon to eat their porridge with, Clovis said "ona, kijiko yangu" (look, my spoon) and dipped his finger into his porridge to scoop it up. 

 

Partnership's Influence within the Community

Centre Amani is supported by the community in and around Bweremana. In the past year Centre Amani has received donations from soldiers, a nurse and a pastor. People in Bweremana are thankful that the mill has opened, as it is convenient and easy for people. Some families have agreed to foster children from Centre Amani. A planning meeting held in June was attended by many people.

However, there are some mindset issues that make this a difficult partnership to continue successfully in the medium term. I visited there recently and basically, it was pretty disappointing. I don't think they (the community leaders) are genuinely interested in the broader idea of Centre Amani sustaining it's activities itself. I had wondered whether I could move there and if that might help make it come together, but I now think that wouldn't be a good option, as the vibe I get is that they are not interested in me working directly with them, I think they'd prefer to work a bit themselves and wait for money. What is most worrying though is the extent to which it seems people are trying to look for what they can gain out of it.

 

Ideas for the Future

lots of discussionAt a meeting that we had on the 11th of August, the suggested activities for the next year included:
1) The mill, with money from the mill going towards food and emergencies like health problems.
2) Three sewing machines at US$1,500 each, an additional US$30 for transport, and some more money for installation.
3) School fees for the children. There are 29 children at primary school which costs $10 each term, so the total cost for the year is $870. There are two children at secondary school, their fees are $32 each term, which is $192 for the year. In total the cost is US$1,062.
4) Buying new uniforms for all students.
5) Buying some school materials for students, such as books and pens.
6) Providing US$10 a month for food and essential support for foster families.
7) Buying drums and chikichiki for the dance practices and performances.

 

Current Issues and Challenges

The mill will get more business if there is peace in the area. In August and September people were returning to their fields to plant maize and beans. The maize will be ready to harvest in December-January. If the area can remain peaceful until then the mill will get more business.

cute kidsSchool started again in September. This year there are 31 school age children – 29 at primary and 2 at secondary – this is one more than last year, as Shabani will be beginning school.

There are challenges regarding where the children stay. Those in foster families need some extra support, in the form of a monthly contribution towards food and other necessities. And for those children who stay at Centre Amani, we need to fix the roof (September was a rainy month), and also to construct a small shelter outside for cooking, at the moment cooking is done inside which leaves the building full of smoke. 

 

Prayer and Praise Points

1) Pray for peace and development so that people can work, so that children will get a chance to go to school, and so that people can go to their fields without fearing that they will be raped or killed.

2) Pray that families will be willing to care for orphans and that they will treat them like their own children.

3) They are very thankful for the support from BHW and others in NZ. Without the support it is likely that some of the 33 children cared for by Centre Amani would have died. For example two of the youngest children, Clovis and Shabani, came to Centre Amani severely malnourished, but over the last two years they have become much healthier and able to interact happily with other children. 

 

Comments

Unfortunately I do not have much confidence in Centre Amani leadership. However, I don’t think BHW should totally break off at this stage. My suggestion would be for BHW to provide money for school fees, uniforms and school materials and then see what the key people can make out of the assets they currently have – the mill, the field and the shelter. 

If we were to go with the plan of BHW sending money for school fees, school materials and uniforms, the budget for this year would be US$1,880. 

The financial support for the foster families that we had originally budgeted for may also be a good idea but I'm hesitant to suggest much more financial support because of the mismanagement that has been going on.