Sunday, July 29, 2012

Orphanage Bed and Clothing Project

This Saturday, we had a bed and clothing party at the orphanage. The little orphanage needs so much, and has so little. The owner of the orphanage has a heart the size of the continent of Africa. Earlier this year when we first visited the orphanage, we assessed the great need. One of the adoption agencies from the US was with us on that trip. We knew that we wanted to do something. As missionaries we are limited in the scope of what we can do. The adoption agency representative, a truly wonderful women, took it upon herself to raise money to repair the building so a school could be maintained in an acceptable room. She is continuing with that project. She was at the orphanage on Saturday, and we met the engineer who is competing her project who was also there. During our first visit determined at that time to do something. Since the children were sleeping on the ground, we thought we could make beds for them. Elder Billings, the construction program missionary said under his direction, we could make beds for them. The sisters decided to make clothing for the kids. Saturday, the beds and clothing were finished and we took them out. Five bunk beds and a new outfit for each child. The following is a pictorial glimpse of the project. Under a separate correspondence, we have thanked those who generously gave of their money to help finance the project. We thank them again.
preparing the assemble bunk beds. Mission President Jameson and Elder Billings.
Elder Smith working on beds as children watch
Suzane and adoption agency person
Orphanage owner and vision impaired young man that has been their since birth. He liked his new shirt and shorts.
Children loved the beds. Sorry this is so dark. I ran out of battery on my flash camera and took this with the iPod. (Note to Apple, put flash on iPods.)
The stake president, who came by to see how it was going, with the mission president.
We feel truly blessed by the generosity and goodwill of our friends and the will always remember he love of these beautiful children.
As usual, the children bid us a fond farewell. They call, au revoir, (French), Byo, (Lingala), Bye Bye...

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Many basic infrastructure necessities are missing here. We are constantly amazed at the resilience and creativity of the Congolese. Mass transportation is one of the elements of the infrastructure that is lacking. In a city of 10 - 15 million people, the vast majority of whom do not have automobiles, getting from the outlying neighborhoods into the city to work or sell their wares must depend on some sort of transportation. The free-enterprise entrepreneurial spirit has somewhat solved this problem. In Kinshasa there exists an informal or parallel economy. That is to say, with 85% unemployment, people must find ways to feed themselves and their families outside of the normal job market. Transportation is one of them. Since the government has not provided mass-transportation, the entrepreneurs have. There is one very very old train that runs from Masina, the highly populated suburb, into down town Kinshasa. It comes in about 8 am with several thousand people jammed into it, and then goes back in the evening. Most transportation is provided by old beat-up vans. The owners remove the seats and replace them with 2x4 slats. That way they can get 20+ people in a 9 passenger van. It costs about 500 Congolese Francs to ride across town. (that is about $1). There are no set times or routes, they follow the crowds and come and go as they please. For these "transport" drivers, traffic rules are more suggestions than rules. They will come down the wrong way on a street, run red lights (well, anyway, the four traffic lights in the city.) A good rule of thumb for driving among the transports is to ask yourself, "what is the absolute dumbest, most dangerous thing that transport driver will do next?" Then, he will surpass your expectations. Sidewalks are fair game for the transport drivers. Anyone who owns an automobile is automatically a taxi. People line the streets and cars will stop and pick them up to take them on their way for 500FC. Goods are often moved around the city on "Pus-Pus" carts, they too can be a challenge to ones driving. Big trucks (Poire Lourd) are interesting. Some I think were left behind when the Belgians left 50 years ago, some I think, are world war two left overs. All in all, driving here is somewhat like bumper cars on steroids. Suzanne says that I must go to driving detox before I can drive to Safeway when we get home.
Typical group of taxis. Most are blue and yellow. The one in the center of the picture is a very nice one. People look for rides on anything they can find.
Pus-pus in a neighborhood
Loaded pus pus
Sometimes you can catch a ride on a pus-pus
Sometimes you ride, sometimes you push
Some times you put 20 pounds in a 5 pound bag
At some point you should just give up and carry it on your head.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This week we took a Senior Couple field trip to TIFIE farms. This is Robert Workman's humanitarian project here in the DRC. (Google Robert Workman, TIFIE) TIFIE stands for Teaching Individuals and Families Independence Through Enterprise. This facility is about two and a half hours outside of Kinshasa.
It is definitely out in the bush. We passed rolling African hills and rivers. This facility is a farm. The goal of this farm seems to be two-fold. 1) to develop a better strain of Kasava plants and 2) teaching individuals, families, and villages how to become self-reliant and self-supporting. Kasava is the main stay of the Congolese diet.
The Kasava plant is a hearty leafy plant with tuberous roots. People pick the leaves, crush them in a mortar and pestle type affair. They then boil the leaves into a spinach-like dish. They put spices, onions, tomatoes, etc. into it and cook it.
The root of the Kasava plant is peeled, diced, soaked for a couple of days to leach out the arsenic resident in the plant, dried for several days in the sun, and then ground into a flour similar to corn meal. A dish called Foo-Foo is made of the flour and is eaten with the spinach type stuff. If you made play dough out of a coarse white flour and ate it - it would be foo-foo. (most African countries have a dish similar to foo-foo made from flour or corn meal that goes by different names.) Kasava grows without much water, and seems to be very hearty. Once a plant is pulled out of the ground, to harvest the roots, a branch may be cut into several 6 inch lengths, then laid in the ground and will produce a new plant. At TIFIE, in cooperation with USAID, they have developed a more hearty, quicker producing, and more nourishing plant - called Obama Kasava. The Kasava is harvested at TIFIE by several nearby villages. The villages rotate turns harvesting the product. A daily quota is set and each member of the work team is paid for his/her days work. There is a daily quota of harvest that must be met before they are paid. Also, as a bonus, the smaller Kasava roots are given to the workers. So the daily operation of harvest is 1) pull the plant from the ground, 2) cut off the tuber/roots, 3) haul the tubers to the collection point, 4) sort the tubers into sizes, 5) peel the outside tough skin off of the tuber, 6) load them in containers for processing. The teams are working at full speed to make the daily production goal.
The Kasava is then dried in the open, the bagged and sent to be ground into flour. Then, after the villages are taught how to care for and harvest the crop, they are given plant cuttings, then TIFIE brings in their tractors, creates a "farm" area in the village, helps them get started and then the village can grow, harvest, and sell the Kasava in the market place. Thus gaining self-reliance and independence from multi-generational poverty. They also raise rabbits for food. They are implementing a project now that teaches villages how to raise, slaughterer, and market the rabbits. They will provide each family with a pair of rabbits and let nature do the rest. This one more effort by good people to break the chain of poverty in Africa.