Thursday, April 28, 2011


So, Suzanne, Sister Headlee, the mission president's wife, and Sister Hatch, of the office couple (in the Congolese fabric dress) decided to go fabric shopping. Fabric is a very big deal in the Congo. See below the women in their traditional Congolese dresses. The one by herself is just going to work, the three women together were at an Employment Division meeting.

In the Congo, every day is prom day. On international Women's Day, they made a special fabric and many many women bought the fabric and made dresses. The woman who is seated, with the headdress in the picture of the three women is wearing an International Women's Day Dress

The place we went shopping is called the "beach." It is not far from the Congo River and it is where the boats from other area dock - hence, the beach. I was hoping for sand, life guards, and an occasional bikini, and agreed to go along, boy, was I disappointed.

There are a gazillion little booths where women sell lengths of fabric. The are all 45 inches wide by six yards. They are colorful and multi designs. Some are a little strange. We have seen fabric with big high heel shoes in the design, flip flops, and even spark plugs.

For us the prices started about 25 dollars per piece. In the end the price is about ten dollars per piece after you haggle for several minutes. It is certainly more fun that Fabric Depot, and you don't have to stand in those interminal lines while waiting to get a piece of fabric cut to the desired size.

Suzanne's initial fabric purchases are to make a couple of purse/bags, and a table cover. No, she is not making a dress out of the chicken fabric.

Suzanne bought some really cool fabric. If you want a Congolese dress, just let us know. We will take many more Congolese women dressed in their beautiful dresses and do an entire post on "Every Day is Prom Day."

Sunday, April 24, 2011


It is the children that are most effected by the lack of clean water.

Waterborne pathogens cause many deaths among children.

We met with tribal chiefs. Sitting at the rear right corner is the chief of this village. We put the tribal council in the back of the pick up and headed out to see prospective water well sites. The man standing in the rear of the truck, wearing the white shirt and tie, is the man who found the Humanitarian Aid Couple and presented the projects.

The little man with Suzanne owns the property where one well is proposed. He wanted to show that Suzanne was not the shortest person in the Congo. He was very excited to have the well on his land.

The family in the picture volunteered their property for another well site. We took the picture in their kitchen. They cook out of doors on charcoal pits. They have no electricity, no running water, and this is their kitchen. They were happy and friendly. They asked for the blessing of clean water near them. The mother and children walk several miles and wait in long lines, sometimes for hours to get unclean water. We told them that if the well was built on their property that they would have lines of people collecting water on their front "lawn" most of the day. They said it would be worth it for their people to have clean water.

A small charge is assessed for water. Each person pays about 20 cents for their daily water. The money goes into a fund to repair and improve the site and equipment. The pumps may break, etc.

Digging The Wells
Most wells are hand dug. One worker starts digging, when he reaches 3 meters, a 3 meeter in diameter cylinder is placed in the hole, the next worker digs three meters, and another cylinder (pipe) is placed in the hole, this continues until they are at least 12 meters deep and have 3 meters of standing water.

I asked, if it is that simple, why don't they have hundreds of wells. The answer was, money. It cost a couple of thousand dollars for the pump, plus the tower, the cement to create gathering stations, etc. They just don't have the money. Also, there is some engineering and common practices that make a good well. At a couple of the sites, the tribe leadership wanted to put the wells in locations where water rain run-off would contaminate the well, or too close to the latrines.

Henry David Thoreau said at Walden Pond, "the necessaries of life can easily enough be put into the several headings of food, fuel, shelter, and clothing. Only then can a man entertain the true problems of life with an attitude of hope and a prospect of success."

Finding clean water is one of the steps to necessaries of life, and provides the hope to entertain the other prospects of life.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


There are tow significant issues in the DR Congo: Water and Unemployment. This blog entry concerns water. We will do an employment blog later.

(blog note: there are many pictures to download, but each picture is taking about 15 minutes to load, and it is now 10:35pm Congo time, and I have to get to bed. I will download more pictures in am. Plus, a wild storm just blew in with wind lightning, thunder, and rain. This means we will loose electricity any minute and internet. So see you in the morning)

Approximately 85% of Congolese are without clean water. By clean water we mean drinkable water. There is water available, but it is mainly unsafe, unclean, and carries all sorts of water borne pathogens. Most commonly, typhoid, diarrhea, worms, cysts, etc. Most villages, towns, and cities experience disease and death due to the water. We talked with people today who expressed that their families are sick, their children dying because of the water.

The Church has a clean water initiative which is saving lives and lessoning the burdens of hundreds of thousands of people. The most notable project in Luputa now services over 250,000 people who have moved to be close to this amazing water source.

The subterranean water level is fairly shallow perhaps 9 meters. This means that wells can be dug and pumps established to bring sufficient amounts of water to supply large communities. Also, there are clear water springs throughout the country. Water can be captured and pumped.

One clean water team was at Luputa recently, when a mother approached them with tears saying that the children of the village were now safe, they were not sick, they did not die, and that she was so grateful for their kindness and humanitarian spirit.

Our story begins last week. The Bingham's from Eureka, California, are the Humanitarian - Clean Water Couple. They were travelling to look at potential water projects along a very crowded highway (most highways are crowded with cars and people). They hit a traffic jam (again not at all uncommon). There are street vendors, people who walk between cars selling things, there are street beggars who walk between cars begging, and then there are those who are just looking for unlocked doors so they can reach in and steal things. We always keep our doors and windows closed and locked. Out of the blue, a little man dressed in a white shirt and tie, jumped in front of their car, waving at them. He approached the driver's window. They thought he was probably just someone else trying to sell or steal something. He pointed to their missionary badges and held up a presentation. They saw that is was a water project. So, they pulled over to talk with him. He explained that he had been looking for them, that he had walked into town (about 25 miles) to see them last week, but they were not in the office. This week he decided to try again, and to his amazement, he saw them stuck in traffic. They took his proposal, and placed in on the stack of others pilling their desk. Then, a week later, he appeared in their office. For him to get into their office was somewhat of a miracle. He got through a gate guard, a key pad door, several other check points, and into their office. He simply said, "have you read my proposal?" They had not. They sought one of the translators in the office and looked at his proposal. It was neatly typed, well prepared, well thought out, and with a lower price tag than others they had reviewed. They were touched by this man, touched by his plan, touched by the Spirit. So, today, we went with them to see his proposed project.

We met with village chiefs and reviewed the areas. We visited six potential well sites, saw amazing people, and things.

We visited one clean water pumping area where people stood in line to get fresh water. It was a blessing to them to have clean water. The chief expressed that that was not nearly enough to serve the thousands of people near by who were without clean water.

Typically, women and children will walk up to 10 miles each way, wait in lines for hours to access clean water.

In the attached pictures you will see the lines of people at the clean water site, women and children carrying heavy water containers on their heads from dirty water areas to have water with which to cook, clean, and bathe. You will see women washing cloths in dirty water streams, people carrying water to their homes. Chief and village council meetings where we discussed clean water projects. Children and families who are in the area that is being considered. We even threw in some coconut and papaya trees. And pictures of the roadside markets, and roadways. Even some of the crowed areas we passed through.

We have talked about Cassava before it is a plant that provides the mainstay of the Congolese diet. They take the leaves and grind them up to make a pasty kind of stuff which the eat, and they grind the root up to make a meal or flour with which they make breads etc. We came upon a woman who was grinding cassava leaves on her front porch and was happy to let us take a picture of her.

The Binghams are writing up a proposal for the project and submitting it to Salt Lake City for approval.

We were deeply touched by the spirit and plight of the people we visited.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Today, we did not have anything on our agenda. Usually on Saturday, we have a meeting of some kind. For the next several Saturdays, we have Young Adult Conferences, Employment Resource Career Conferences, and Perpetual Education Council Meetings. Because there are no evening meetings in the church here (1. Too risky to be out after dark, 2. Mosquito time) we hold a lot of meetings during the day on Saturday.

We usually go shopping on Saturday am. If we get to the grocery stores by 8:00 am. We have lots of options. In the first picture, the orange building is a block away from our apartment. Hassan and Frere. It is a Jewish/Lebanese market. We like their meat and cheese. They honor the Jewish Sabbath and close Friday at sundown and stay closed until Sat. at sundown. So, we cannot shop there on Saturday a.m.

The next photos are on the way to City Market. From the roof, the city looks better than it does from street level. These pictures are of the streets on the way to city market. Please note the one where you can see street entrepreneurs - one shows a barber shop (this is where Suzanne goes - not) and next to it is the local copy center. Some enterprising young man has an old photocopier (don't know where the electricity comes from). He always has a line of people waiting to make copies. He also seems to sell pre-paid phone cards, and on his electrical cord he has cell phone charger and charges to recharge one's cell phone.

Also pictured is our favorite fruit stand. "Mama" speaks French, English, Lingali, and probably some swahilli. She is very nice and always picks out good fruits and vegetables for us.

The small street shop (actually people sitting on the ground or a plastic chair selling stuff) is an option.

Finally, there is "bread on the head lady" or there is" 7-11 on the head lady." You can always grab a quick meal from them.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


This is our rooftop. We had a storm this morning lasting till about noon, then it got nice, I mean really nice. On the way home Suzanne said, "wow, look at the sky it is totally blue, let's go up on the roof and take picture." So we did. This is our roof top. There are nice tables and chairs in a covered area. We have not yet had dinner up here, but should soon.

You can see the Congo River in the background. The river curves around our area and we can see it from three sides of the roof top. This view looks over Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, a different country. The river is very wide, and deep (the deepest river in the world).

A few miles below, Kinshasa, the Congo narrows and creates Livingstone Falls. (of, Dr. Livingstone, I presume.) They are not negotiable. I have asked about rafting or Kayaking, and am told no way, no how. We hope to go to them soon, and see for ourselves.

The fountain is in the plaza in front of our building. It is part of the tribute to 30 June, 1960, when Zaire (then Belgian Congo) declared independence from Belgian. Zaire was later renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo. On weekends they light up the fountain with colored lights and play music. The lights are nice, the music is loud.

The Boulevard 30 Juin, (the picture with the street and the nice big building) is a large 8 lane boulevard that can become 10 to 12 lanes at any given moment. One has to be careful when driving on it. We actually took our lives in our hands and walked across it the other day. It is lined with shops and businesses. The bank we use for the PEF is on the boulevard, as are a couple of grocery stores we frequent.

The Gare Central (central train station) is the picture with the green grassy area and the train cars. It is the railroad to nowhere. The tracks are overgrown with vegetation and it has not run for years.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Above are pictures of two classrooms of schools we visited The one on the left is a sewing school. If one knows how to sew, one can make a pretty good living making dresses, etc. We will show some of the beautiful Congolese dresses.

The second picture is a electrical wiring classroom. There are many opportunities for individuals with electrical, refrigeration, and air conditioning skills. Either a an entrepreneur or working for a construction company. We have also visit computer, manufacturing, and general business schools.

Russell is working with us on qualifying schools.

Russell and his family are our new friends in the Congo. Russell is the Assistant Manager of the Employment Resource Center (ERS) in Kinshasa. He is a very important player in the PEF program. Russell teaches Career Workshops to those seeking employment. These workshops help individuals identify their strengths-weaknesses, interests-talents, and career direction. Additionally, the ERS identifies market conditions, career availabilities, and current job openings.

Russell is instrumental in assisting PEF applicants in their career preparation. He counsels, teaches, mentors, and supports.

He travels throughout the country teaching career workshops.

He has also be assisting us in qualifying schools for the PEF program. Again, our goal is to help young adults gain education that will get them jobs. He is very good at directing people to the correct schooling for available jobs.

Russell is the Bishop of his ward. They have two children. He and his wife both have college education, he has a masters degree in communications. He served his mission, returned home, gained an education, married in the Temple, has a small family, and is contributing as a leader in his home, his church, and in the community. He is one of our heroes.

It was Russell who was with us when we got dragged off the the police station.

Suzanne is going to start teaching his wife piano. She wants to learn so she can teach others in their ward. Both of them have college educations and are smart fun people.

He is one of the key leaders in the Congo. He knows the value of training the next generation.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


It is 6am in the Congo. We are taking one of our favorite walks along the River. It is already 80 degrees out. The sky is blue and it is wonderful. We walk along the Congo River near the ambassadors' residences. I only take pictures towards the river, since I don't like taking pictures of governmental buildings or homes. There are people from all over the world who live and work in Kinshasa. We just spoke to the Greek Ambassador. A very nice man walking his dog. There are bananas, mangoes, papayas, and coconuts growing along the path-side. We see wonderful birds - parrots, and who knows what brightly colored birds. (Note to Kristen and Paul) I did not have my camera with me, we left it at our office, so I took shots with my iPod, and was not able to get close enough or zoomed enough to get good pictures. Still trying).

The Congo is a very beautiful country. We are relaxing today - our P day. First Saturday we have not had conferences or meetings. Since General Conference is not televised here, we will see it when the video is sent. But, we will go to the Mission President's home this evening and listen to it on his hook-up. It will come live here at 6pm tonight. I think the fare is pizza and fruit smoothies.

After the walk, we shop. The markets are quieter early Sat am. We drive to a market call City Market, and on Saturday am, all of the "whities" from the embassies do their shopping, so that is interesting.

Also pictured in a very large termite mound. They seem to be here and there in the open area.

NOTE: We stay out of the high grass. There are cobras in the grass. The CIA section chief, whose family is LDS, lives by the river and killed to 10 cobras in their back yard. The Hatch's, the mission office couple and our walking partners, saw a small cobra the other day coming out of the tall grass. So, one more thing to be on the look out for.