Summary Congo visit #7

By Barbara Ferguson [mailto:bfergu5on@bigpond.com]

As always, I hit the ground running on arrival in Goma with a meeting almost immediately to plan the activities for the visit.  All the Good Men who volunteer their help and 4 of the Pygmy leaders attended.  With land of their own, houses to the local standard, their children in school and a community centre building functioning, the focus now is on income and skill building for self sufficiency.

Maidenvoyage - Congo visit #7
Maidenvoyage – Congo visit #7

Outcomes: The Fishing Project:

One boat, called ‘Rockdale’ (in honour of Rockdale City Rotary which donated the funds) was successfully launched.  We needed the help of the Deccan Devils (MONUSCO friends) to get it into the water at their harbour – and then rowed around to the rocky site where it will be moored and from which it was given a Christian blessing and sprinkled with the blood of a goat, ritually sacrificed as a traditional blessing.

This whole area is so rocky – pity my arthritic knees – and when I said that I lived in a village (actually a Council area) called Rockdale, the decision was made to call the Pygmy village “Rockdale”, too!

Kitchen Gardens - Congo visit #7
Kitchen Gardens – Congo visit #7

Kitchen Gardens

I was delighted to make contact with Wilfrieda, an unemployed woman from Goma who had attended training offered by an Australian (!) project in Tanzania to learn about permaculture, compost making and no-dig-kitchengardens.  We brought in soil and built up a demonstration garden plot for the pre-school children to care for.  I am paying Willy $130 a month to guide and monitor this program for the whole village – $150 per family is needed to ensure every family will benefit from this project.

Sewing Project - Congo visit #7
Sewing Project – Congo visit #7

Sewing Project

Penshurst GP Phil donated $400 to buy 2 hand machines and 1 treadle machine.  A local soldier’s wife, a seamstress called Julienne, agreed to teach 6 of the Pygmy women to use them – specialising in making school uniforms for their own village, but also to sell to local people in Sake market – school uniforms are always in demand.  I am paying Julienne $50 a month – good for relationships with the local military.  Support for materials etc will be necessary until they are able to start selling their work.

Feeding Program

At last we got the feeding program for the pre-school children started.  I paid fees again for the 60 primary and high school children to go to the local public school where they get a free meal daily.  Now, at last, the little ones will eat, too.

It was chaos getting hands washed and food served – the children were delighted with their spoons although I doubt that most of them had ever used a spoon before.

Preschool equipment - Congo visit #7
Preschool equipment – Congo visit #7

Pre-school Equipment

A container sent by Douglas Hanley Moir Pathology arrived while I was there – I was thrilled to be able to deliver pre-school materials including a little set of musical instruments from Aldi – Espoire was all smiles…but I was very disappointed to discover the 20 bags of flight blankets donated by QANTAS weren’t in this shipment.  It would have been timely as despite being on the equator this area is 5000 metres high and quite cold at night in the wet season.

Literacy Program - Congo visit #7
Literacy Program – Congo visit #7

Literacy Program

Evelyn, who was given training in literacy teaching has an enthusiastic class of adults, men and women attending classes in the afternoon.

Land Issues

Land Issues - Congo visit #7
Land Issues – Congo visit #7

You may recall I was concerned that a local landlord had taken possession of a portion of Pygmy land and demanded we move a row of houses.  I met him with soft words and explained that he was not dealing with me or the Pygmies but with our lawyer.  I saw a change in his attitude – but was not there to witness his humiliation when the chief of the Land Registry apparently told him “We will defend your rights, but you are not to exploit the Pygmies”.  It turned out that not only did he have to relinquish what he had tried to take – but for less than $1000 I was able to secure another 25 metres all the way to the road and will be able to build a sort of Widows’ Home for elderly women who are still camped in grass humpies.

Unfortunately, some of this land is occupied by the military as part of the mobilization camp as they move troops in and out of the area.  But there is still enough room to build the Widow’s Home.

We did have trouble again with the military:  One day I heard a commotion behind the pre-school and went to investigate.  I found a dozen or more drunken soldiers harassing a woman – later heard that they often prevented passage in this area and had beaten up one of the Pygmy men.  I was on the point of going to MONUSCO to ask help with the launch of the fishing boat and so told our Indian Angels about the problem. The Adjutant came to investigate but by then the soldiers had disappeared – a young Australian journalist was with me and the Adjutant advised her to get any further trouble on film.  No sooner had he disappeared than a couple of the drunken men came back and when Alex turned the camera on them one of them lunged at her, barely missing the camera – but providing ample evidence of the problem.  The UN Commander swung into action and soon the Commander of the Congolese forces in the area came and investigated….that was the end of the problem!

It is always hard to say ‘goodbye’ – life is fragile in this lawless area – and some of the people I love are elderly.

Foro and Sesete are my dear brothers – who were baptised and confirmed this year.

MforoconfirmI didn’t set out to make Anglicans of the people – and there is no reward or compulsion for anyone to attend the services.  A local Baptist Pastor was initially invited to use the building for Sunday services but wanted me to pay him a salary of $80 a month.  Thomson – an Anglican evangelist I had met when he attended one of my workshops at HEAL Africa Hospital – was happy to go out weekly merely asking for $300 for the year to help him with transport out there and God has blessed his ministry in an amazing way.The Bishop of Bukavu, the diocese which covers Goma and surrounds, was scheduled to visit Goma while I was there to confirm 70 people from the Church in the city.  He was persuaded to perform the Confirmation, including 23 Pygmies, in our building at Mubambiro.  He confessed to having reservations about visiting this place he had never heard of – but I am sure he was moved as Bantu and Pygmy came to kneel before him for the blessing, three by three – one in Christ.

Mother's Union badges - Congo visit #7
Mother’s Union badges – Congo visit #7

And I was able to present Mothers Union badges sent by Jan Livingstone from Mittagong to the new MU members among the Pygmies at Rockdale village….Nyota (Star) and Vumilia in this photo.