Season’s greetings! Joyeux Noël!

Season’s greetings! Joyeux Noël!

For unique Christmas gifts that keep on giving, visit our Red Bubble site.

What a year it has been for HandUp Congo and our Congolese project partners. We have much to celebrate, thanks to Champions for Congo like you ! HandUp Congo is a small non-profit based in Sydney, Australia, founded in 2005 by two sisters who grew up in the Congo, Anne and Lucy, and their friend, Betsy. The trio soon added friends around the world to support capacity building projects identified by Congolese project partners based in areas where the Hobgood family has had connections for more than 100 years.
A team of skilled volunteers visits projects every year to provide requested training such as Emergency Medicine, and to document achievements. Could there be a trip to Congo in your future? Get in touch:
Here are highlights of 2017 in pictures…

March 7 – Erina NSW

HandUp Congo volunteer Tammy Chu (right) greets Rotary Past District 9685 Governor Graeme Davies (left) and TAFE students at the International Women’s Day expo on the NSW Central Coast. Seven prominent local women’s groups and the Rotary clubs of the Central Coast hosted 40 stalls, seminars, activities and entertainment dedicated to women’s issues, reaching a crowd of 2000.

March 11 – Penrith NSW

Roseville College student Monique Leadbitter greets the curious stopping by our table at Rotary District 9685’s conference.

March 31 – Kariong NSW
« Every Girl. Everywhere. Period. » is Days for Girls’ slogan. That includes Congo! Huge thanks to Days for Girls Gosford North and DfG Avoca Beach for making 200 hygiene kits and to SewAid for donating 60 sewing kits. The kits were delivered to Congo on November 1. Explorations are now underway to make this initiative a sustainable social enterprise by local girls and women. The 17 boxes shipped by air from Australia to Congo also contained medical equipment, bee suits, eyeglasses and buoyancy belts. We thank Barry Barford, Alan Tattersall, Qantas Freight and South African Airways for their air freight logistics support.

The Days for Girls and SewAid champions are (l to r) : Sandra, Dee1, Dee2, Trudy, Lucy, Jenni and Tony. – Photo by Terri Shine
Alan Tattersall
Qantas Freight

August 5 – Kiama NSW

Sue O’Neill (left) presents Lucy Hobgood-Brown with a $1000 Pink Umbrella grant

At a Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) Eastern Region gathering, Sue O’Neill (left) presents Lucy Hobgood-Brown with a $1000 Pink Umbrella grant for the Emergency Medicine Education Project that is managed by team leader Dr Vera Sistenich. Rotary E-club of Greater Sydney also sponsored a District Grant to support a range of RAWCS Lotumbe community development projects, and topped it off with funds to buy bee-friendly trees (see details on page xxx). Thank you, Rotary!

August 13

Team Bee

Sydney Bee-cause they care! Team Bee runners and walkers raised more than $2000 for the Lotumbe beekeeping initiative at the popular City to Surf 14 km fun run. Everyone is happily buzzing around Dervla and Jin (1st and 3rd left), who were the top fundraisers (and bee-st dressed).

August 24 and 25 – Taree NSW
Hobby beekeeper, public health researcher and Emergency Medicine specialist Dr Vera Sistenich packed in a lot over a weekend in the Manning Valley of NSW Mid North Coast. HandUp Congo’s medical team leader enthusiastically told Manning Net members and Taree’s 2Bob Radio listeners how, while teaching acute emergency hospital procedures to rural doctors and nurses in the Congo, she came across Congo bees.

From there, Vera created the HandUp Congo Beekeeping Project, with the goal of raising $12,000 (USD 9,140) to pay for training of Pygmy beekeepers in the remote Congolese village of Lotumbe, as well as their equipment, the reforestation of the local forest, and development of a label for the honey and transport of the goods to sell. Vera sells her own honey in Sydney, harvested from her urban beehives, under the label of Coogee Bees for Congo. She also sells honey donated by other beekeepers like those in the Manning Valley who want to support her projects. All proceeds go to HandUp Congo’s Beekeeping and Emergency Medicine Education Projects.

« Congolese Pygmies are no longer forest dwellers, and they are the poorest of the poor, »
explains Vera. She is reaching out for ideas, funds and assistance to further develop these projects, as she wants the Congo Pygmy community to be lifted out of poverty and improve their social standing as business beekeepers.
For information contact or call Lucy on +61(0)417 272 101.

Vera at Manning Valley Industries, which has donated local honey to the projects. –Photo by Robyn Hutchinson
Vera at 2Bob Radio. –Photo by Robyn Hutchinson

Listen to the interview on Taree’s 2Bob Radio here.

September 5 – Sydney

Vivienne Cable

Image by Design stylist Vivienne Cable (centre) shares tips with guests at a sumptuous Styling for a Cause morning tea hosted by Jane Cowley. The event raised more than $2000 for Lotumbe schoolbooks. Lotumbe has seven schools, and only 30 textbooks used as teacher resources. – Photo by Terri Shine

The « Styling for a Cause » fundraiser made it possible to buy much needed textbooks for Lotumbe’s seven schools.-Photo by Ken Kobré
Pygmy children in their very basic palm frond school shelter at Lotumbe. –Photo by Blaise Bonkangu

Oct 14-Nov 3 – Congo

Ken interviews Müller for a short documentary on the evolution of Emergency Medicine in Congo.

As you may remember, HandUp Congo postponed its April trip until October due to security issues in Congo. The original Australian medical mission team was not able to re-schedule this year, but two volunteers met up in Kinshasa with Dr Müller Mundenga, Congo’s only Emergency Medicine specialist. Müller arranged for American photojournalist Ken Kobré and HandUp Congo’s Lucy Hobgood-Brown to interview Kinshasa-based Emergency Medicine stakeholders for a short video about the development of Emergency Medicine in Congo.
Ken and Müller also traveled 220 km to Kimpese, where Müller conducted training for hospital staff and medical students. They made time to video at Congo’s only beekeeping NGO, PLAAC, on their return to Kinshasa. This NGO provided training last June to Lotumbe’s Beekeeping Collective which aims to establish an income-generating social enterprise.

PLAAC bee trainers on their way to Lotumbe in June.

PLAAC bee trainers on their way to Lotumbe in June.
From there, Lucy and Ken traveled to Equateur Province, where they learned that their 600 km round trip Congo Canoe Challenge had been changed to a Speedboat Challenge! This mode of travel considerably shortened the journey, with the team traveling to Lotumbe in four hours rather than the usual 20 hours by motorized canoe.
Lucy conducted evaluations of HandUp Congo’s capacity-building projects, while Ken took photos and videos. “Lotumbe is so remote,” says Lucy, “that our visits to gather new information on the community’s needs provide hope and help us tell Lotumbe’s story abroad.”

Many achievements have been realized by the community since the team’s last visit in 2015, including Pygmy orphans enrolled in school, duck and fruit tree raising (with the goal to sell eggs and fruit for Pygmy orphans’ tuition and uniforms) and new farming techniques to fight malnutrition. Pastor Jean Entonto, whose start-up salary has been covered for two years by ICA Australia, facilitates these initiatives in his role as “Stand Up Lotumbe” Community Animator. Pastor Entonto works with the entire community on capacity-building projects that are prioritized by a management committee.

Pastor Entonto feeds ducks, an integral education project that aims to sell duck eggs to cover Pygmy orphans’ school fees.

Rotary E-Club of Greater Sydney (District 9685), in collaboration with Rotary Ekanga Mbandaka (District 9150), bought 50 bee-friendly fruit and palm trees, which were planted by Lotumbe school children on October 31 as a climate change and community service reforestation project.
For a complete trip report, to request a guest speaker, or to explore how you might contribute your skills, please contact or call Lucy on +61(0)417 272 101.

Ekanga Mbandaka Rotary leaders Blaise Bonkangu (l) and Dr Jean Bosco Gbengbassa select plants for the reforestation project.
The « Micro credit Mamas » take a joy ride on the Momboyo River, singing all the way, to show HandUp Congo’s Lucy what a difference a motor makes. The motor was made possible by micro credit supporters. The women can now access riverside markets to sell their wares, ranging from handmade soap to bread.
Lotumbe’s widows and young single mums have now established a communal garden, to ensure food security.
Ken (centre) films the Bee Collective’s departure on their quest to find new bee colonies.
A Lotumbe child who should be in school sells fish to help feed her family. Villagers live on less than $1 a day. Few can afford healthcare, tuition or garden tools that can help them eke out a living.
The HandUp Congo team

Until we meet again! Our best wishes for a New Year filled with meaning and peace. – The HandUp Congo team
NSW Team Congo members include (l to r): Barry, Maureen, Lucy, Kiran, Vera, Robyn, Cynthia, Judy. For details on HandUp Congo’s advisory team, please go to

Can you help?
In order to help our Congolese project partners reach their goals, we need to raise funds. This can be done anywhere in the world, wherever you may live! If you are willing to champion a project or event, please get in touch: / Lucy +61(0)417 272 101. A current project list and a range of event ideas is available.

Create social transformation by donating
To give today: Australians can receive tax deductibility through Rotary Australia World Community Service ( Please designate Project 20 2013-14 Lotumbe Community Development or Project 47 2015-16, Building a healthy Congo. Non-Australians may donate to HandUp Congo, Westpac Bank (341 George St, Sydney NSW 2000), BSB 032002, Account # 909433, Swift WPACAU2S. Please contact us on or Lucy on +61(0) 417272101 if you have questions, suggestions, or prefer to send a cheque. Merci mingi! (“thank you so much!”)

Thank you to our Congo Champions, which include many individuals and families, as well as our Congolese project partners:

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