Sunday, February 12, 2012

An Incredible Woman

Note: actual location and names are not used in this blog due to caution against child trafficking. STOP CHILD TRAFFICKING There are many people who do tremendously heroic things here in the DR Congo. On of them is a woman who runs an orphanage. She has no funding, no support, and no real means to support herself and the 20 or so orphans she cares for. She is a member of the Church who saw the need and responded to it. She lives in a remote village from the center of town. She has been caring for orphans for 15 years. We came to know of her through one of our friends. At Christmas-time, we received a package from our kids containing many wonderful items that we could not get in the DRC. Emily sent over 24 pair of children's underwear (slips, in French). We finally had an opportunity to deliver them to her this weekend. We went with the Hatches and a Congolese friend to visit her. Between us, We made peanut butter sandwiches and cookies, bought bananas,a 50lb bag of rice, a ream of paper, pencils, a ball, and some other little things.
Getting there was not an easy car ride. When we arrived we met a wonderful courageous women. She had very little. The physical facilities were very meager. In the yard was a large hole - surrounded by bamboo poles warning you to stay away. It was their cesspool and garbage pit. When it got full, they dug another one. Also in the yard were three sewing machines (treadle type as she has no electricity). She told us that the tarp/tent covering the sewing area had recently been torn off during a strong rain/wind storm. We learned that she taught sewing lessons to the women of her neighborhood. If a person can sew, they can earn a living. She teaches the classes for free, then for ten dollars per month a person can use the sewing machine to make clothing, etc. and earn a living. There are 30 women in the neighborhood who are in her program. She uses the money from the use of the machines to defray costs of the orphanage.
Suzanne gave her the ream of paper, and the woman almost wept. She said that she had not had paper for her little school for some time. Oh yea, she also runs a school for the orphanage children, and any other neighborhood children willing to come. There is a man who is crippled, and has some education, who comes and teaches the children. He teaches the basics of math, reading, and French. In the villages most people speak Lingala. Many poor village children do not speak French, which becomes a disadvantage when they leave the village to work or study in the city. Here all of the children speak French because the great man has taught them French. The school room is a 10X10 room with about 20 children of varying ages.
The woman named the orphanage after her father. She said that in her time as a young woman, girls did not go to school. Her father determined that his girls would receive education. I asked her if others in the village gave her father a bad time about this. She said that he had been criticized by the other men in the village. Women were to marry, not become educated. He told them that his girls would be educated. Now, she is educating more girls and boys a generation later.
The children sleep on mats on the concrete floor. One little room for the boys, and another for the girls. Food is cooked outside on a charcoal stove. A woman was washing children's clothing in a bucket, the water for which she had brought out of the steam that runs near by and heated over the charcoal stove. The water was, of course, polluted in the stream - fortunately she boiled it first. The kids have the clothes on their backs and maybe a few other pieces of clothing they all share. But, no one look unhappy, underfed, or unloved. The kids loved the ball and started a soccer game right away. Of course, the old white guy kicked it into the cesspool hole on the first kick. But, undaunted one of the kids jumped into the pit, retrieved the ball and the game went on. She was very grateful for the sandwiches, bananas, and cookies. Especially, she was happy to get the rice. She told the Hatches that when they had sent out a bag of rice and beans a couple of months ago, that they were running out of food and she was praying for help - and here came 100 lbs of rice and beans. Tender mercies. We met a remarkable young boy there, a 13 year old Teacher's Quorum President in his ward, who has been in the orphanage since he was 1 year old. He assists now with others and is a role model for the children. He told us he is preparing to go on a mission when is turns 19. He had attended the youth conference we showed in an earlier blog, and had received a copy of the Book of Mormon. We will give him a Bible next time we see him. And, a white shirt and tie. Elder Hatch, will leave pants, belts, and ties for him - as they are done and going home next week. This boy will raise children who will become a great generation of responsible citizens. We would like to be here when he returns from his mission and assist him to obtain a PEF loan and attend college. By the way, the underwear was a great hit. Most of the orphans were in class along with many of the neighborhood kids. We only had enough underwear for the orphans, so the woman will give them to them later. But a couple of the young ones were happy as they could be with real underwear.
Among the poverty, filth, and tough conditions we found an incredible women who had decided to help others and make people around her better. Women sewing as an alternative to prostitution or worse. Children leaning basic education skills. A small community and perhaps a nation becoming better because of her. We realize that we have so much, and she so little. Yet, she does more that we do to improve the lot of others. We think that others with more could contribute to this woman's effort to serve. If we do, it will make her life and effort easier. If we don't, we don't, and she will continue to do what she does with grace and love and gratitude to her Heavenly Father for her blessings. We have been privileged to meet a great woman.

1 comment:

  1. Man! I wish we could just come and bring those kids to the U.S. So many families here would LOVE to welcome them into their homes. What an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing.