Interview with Lucy and Vera on 2Bob community radio in Taree NSW Australia on August 25, 2017

Listen to the interview here:

Small communities in regional Australia surprise us sometimes, the characters you meet and the things they achieve in life can seem amazing. Here in the Manning Valley one family is running programs in emergency medicine, sustainable food production and capacity building projects that assist community members to continue to fund school uniforms, lunches and other necessary materials.

In 2005 Lucy Hobgood-Brown and her sister Anne Zolnor worked with their friend Betsy Brill to develop this small non government organisation. The idea came to them after Lucy and Anne had just visited the community with their father. More than 10 years later HandUp Congo is still going strong with the assistance of amazing skilled volunteers like Dr Vera Sistenich.

The whole team make regular return trips to the Congo, travelling into communities that are so remote that they can only be reached by dug out canoe. Dr Sistenich has travelled back and forth with the team every year since 2015, she is working to assist emergency medical teams in their work.

In teams with no strong financial backing and little to no government support she says the lessons go both ways.

Indi Media

A contract with bees in the village of Lotumbe

A contract with bees in the village of Lotumbe.

The village of Lotumbe is located in the equatorial forest (at about 300km from Mbandaka, in the Province of Equateur in the Democratic Republic of Congo). Here and elsewhere in the province, people used to see bees around flowers but nobody could imagine that humans could handle and shelter bees which are mostly known and hated for their dangerous sting. From 12 to 25 of June, thanks to the financial support of HandUp Congo, the Disciples Community of Congo (“CDCC”) brought together 34 people to study at the “school of bees” where participants learnt the life of bees: how they reproduce, how they are organized, and their importance on the environment and the rural economy.

Two trainers, Toussaint and Gérard, were recruited from PLAAC, a cooperative of beekeepers in the province of Kongo-Central (the former Bas-Congo) and together with Engelemba Célestin, the CDCC’s agronomist, they conducted a 12-day training in Lotumbe. Their travel spent also four days for departure and returning on the river.

After this training, the trainees understood that, instead of destroying and scattering colonies of bees, the community will prepare a good environment for them and the latter will supply honey to the village of Lotumbe and the Province of Equateur as well.

We met some participants and heard from them some interesting stories. What has been their impression of the training?

Pastor Boyaba simply said:

Now, I am a beekeeper. It was for me a real discovery to learn step by step how I can improve the living conditions and increase the income of my family from beekeeping. I commit to integrate this activity in my daily ministry for the church and I hope to succeed.

For Jean Entonto, the community development assistant of Lotumbe, the continuation of the practice of what they learnt will be for Lotumbe an additional living mechanism. He thinks that “youth can now rely on beekeeping and hope to get additional income.”

Regarding the sustainability of the training, the trainers are confident in their work and join the CDCC vision on the possibility to form from Lotumbe/Equateur a strong cooperative for honey production in Congo. In fact, Gérard thinks that Equateur in large and Lotumbe in particular are good places to promote beekeeping for many reasons of which he spelled the availability of natural trees and flowers, water in abundance, local materials for making hives, the city of Mbandaka which can be a direct consumer of honey. Toussaint focuses on the cooperation when he says: “we need to have good news from the cooperative which has been created in Lotumbe. From this community structure, we will be in a permanent cooperation and together, PLAAC and Lotumbe cooperative will contribute at changing a lot of things in the lives of the youth and the whole rural community as well.”

Bees are no longer the enemies of human life in Lotumbe, they will be used for improving the daily life. The community has to protect them in order to get their product.

-by Désiré SAFARI Kanyena, community development co-worker and HandUp Congo advisor

January-March 2017 social development activities in Lotumbe

January-March 2017 social development activities in Lotumbe
Led by Pastor Jean Entonto, who has been named Lotumbe’s social development facilitator by the community, many initiatives are underway. We hope you enjoy reading his quarterly report below. The community is making great progress at sustainability, but Pastor Entonto has also identified many new needs. While the goal is that Lotumbe’s community development projects will generate income in order to cover ongoing costs, that is not yet feasible. Remember, the population is more than 90,000 scattered in hamlets throughout the forest!

If you would like to help support these exciting initiatives, please go to Tax deductibility is available.

FROM 01/01 TO 31/03/2017

As part of Débout (Stand Up) Lotumbe’s development activities, it is important to note that the preparation and presentation of reports and projects are part of my tasks. Indeed, the report referred to here concerns activities undertaken during the season from 01/01 to 31/03/2017.
This report is only a logical continuation of the previous report (report of development activities 01/10 to 31/12/2016), including some additions that have been made possible as a result of new inspirations on development.

With this in mind, apart from the introduction, some encountered difficulties and the conclusion, this report focuses on two main parts, namely:
- Activities carried out;
- Phase of donations received.

2.1. Jobs done.

2.1.1. With the Federation of Brothers and Sisters Farmers and Breeders of Congo (FFSAEC). The social movement which aims at food security through agro-pastoral projects. In this quarter, we carried out field maintenance, planting of palm trees and also held several awareness raising meetings in which we inventoried goods of the association, which include: two goats, a sow, a large field, a fish pond, and a sum of US $ 20.

2.1.2. With the teachers of the institute Nkolobise / Lotumbe (M.E.I.N), we freed three teachers by granting US $ 50 each. Then we just bought a Canal+ satellite, which will allow the people of Lotumbe to be aware of the televised information and realities that are happening in the world.

2.1.3. With the rebate project for the construction of houses in sustainable materials (Rcommad), we are continuing our activities normally. We have cleared two fields for two members: one of 60m2 and the other of 80m2 (we plan to plant grains there). We have just set up a field that meets our aspirations. This will create a new neighborhood in Lotumbe.

2.1.4. In order to raise the standard of living, seeking to support the social and health balance of our population, an association called “Mutual Health for the Disabled and Pygmies” was set up in Lotumbe on 01/02/2017 (Mushavpy-humanitarian aid) with the general objective: to take care of the handicapped and pygmies.

a. Specific objectives :
- Ensure health coverage for the handicapped and pygmies (health insurance);
- Provide means of transportation to our disabled (bicycle);
- Provide them with self-care activities;
- If possible, build a health center for pygmies.
b. Feasibility strategy: membership fee or mutual fund (sharing savings). We already have a sum of US $ 20 in our safe.
c. Number of disabled in Lotumbe: a total of 12, of which three are pygmies.

2.2. From the acquisition to the realization (using donations received)
During this period, we received from HandUp Congo via General Secretariat / Mbandaka an aid (envelope). On this, before justifying its feasibility, we would like to extend our warm congratulations and sincere thanks to HandUp Congo, ICA Australia and Mama Lucie for being realistic about the promises made and also for their/her dedication to their Lotumbe village. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Here, then, is the manner in which we have proceeded:

2.2.1. Pastor Jean Entonto’s salary from January to October 2017: $ 1080 US.
Until the proof to the contrary, I will force myself to execute what my father said before his death to me: “Listen, my son, the goods you will amass, think of sharing them with others. It is by doing so that you will reap peace and success in your journey.” That is why, using my own salary, apart from family satisfaction, I thought of others through the following:
a. Monthly, a sum of US $ 40 is voluntarily withdrawn by me from my salary and is oriented for the remuneration (incentive) to those who follow me to do development activities;
b. I bought three machetes, and other tools for field activities (to help our development associations);
c. From 10/01/2017, I provided for the hospitalization costs of Mr. IYOKE KADO (pygmy), purchasing all the medicines and hospital requirements. He suffered gangrene and appendicitis, but was helped by doctors.

Mr. IYOKE KADO lost a finger from gangrene
Medicines that I bought and gave to patients

d. In 30/03/2017, I helped Mr BOFUKIA with surgical and medicine costs at the Lotumbe Hospital. He suffered bilateral hernia and appendicitis.

Mr Bofukia with Pastor Entonto

2.2.2. Project assistance, education of 172 orphans and pygmies / Lotumbe. Here we only want to intervene on the US $ 450 which was intended for the purchase of ducks (one duck for each child).
We have encountered a great difficulty in sharing. One duck costs 5000FC, and we are overflowing with 172 orphaned and pygmy children. Normally there will be only 109 children who will receive his own duck. 63 others still do not have ducks. That is why, by mutual agreement, we have agreed to create enclosed areas for the breeding of ducks (to be shared).
I have already created the first site to support the education project, building a fence of 25m in width and 27m in length. There, I have built three chicken coops which currently contain 30 ducks, 18 hens, 2 cocks and 13 chicks.

At the second site we have an outstanding project. This is one of Lotumbe’s major development activities. A plot of 50m2 has been fenced and a three-bedroom house has been built with a sentry hired to secure our property. Ducks, pigs and goats will be housed there.
NB: Our various townships around Lotumbe pursue the following objectives:
Food security
Provide permanent production units for the support of orphans and pygmies in school.
At the third site, in the district Elinga / Lotumbe at prefect MBOMBA Samba’s home, the same objectives are pursued.
NB: We have also been informed that two brick presses have been purchased but we have not received them yet. Also, the HandUp Congo donors’ money destined for the schooling of 172 orphans and pygmies was distributed as required.

3 bedroom house

2.3. Difficulties encountered
1. For the office: the lack of solar energy systematically handicaps our activities. In this regard, the coordination office for development activities Debout Lotumbe presents below the needs that are of prime importance for its proper functioning:
- Printer-copier (US $ 450);
- A battery of 200w (US $ 220);
- A converter of 2500w (US $ 220);
- A solar panel of 200w (US $ 200);
- Some lines and other requirements (US $ 100).

Total: US $ 1190

2. For the education project of the 172 orphans and pygmies:
- At the secondary level (6th year), on 02/05/2017 there will be the dissertation. The six orphan finalists can only participate after payment of the required fees (US $ 145 each). Total: US $ 870.
- At the primary level (6th year), on 02/06/2017 the examination marking the end of primary study. The 28 finalist children, including 13 pygmies and 15 orphans, must present the requested fees. (US $ 45 each).

Total: 1260 $ US.

At the secondary level again (6th year), on 20/06/2017, six orphan finalists will face the tests that will end their secondary course. They must each pay US $ 165.

Total: US 990.

So, as part of the education project, the future difficulties are approaching.

3. For local farmers, failure of the milling machines in Lotumbe is a handicap and expense for development. Moreover, the project for the grinding machines has already been elaborated and the office asks if it can be sent to HandUp Congo for support.

4. For local builders (the rebate project for the construction of houses made of durable materials), the failure of chainsaws systematically impedes the effectiveness of the project.
5. For microcredit mothers and small local traders, the lack of access to means of transport (outboard motor) undermines the feasibility of our expectations on development.

6. For local breeders, the epidemiological acts regularly observed at Lotumbe with regard to our chickens, ducks and pigs are at the basis of the underdevelopment of our population. The most rapid means of remedying its criminal phenomena are to be provided eg medicines.

7. In the case of widows, the lack of tools necessary for the cultivation of vegetable crops.
8. Education: The Nkolobise Institute (Lotumbe high school) is faced with a difficulty with inadequate textbooks. The list of these documents was presented by the prefect of the said institute to Mama Lucie OTAENGA. What is the status?
9. From the standpoint of habitat, two buildings: Guest-house Lotumbe as well as the residence of the Director of the Esekama / Lotumbe primary school are in a state of notorious disrepair.

Home needs rehabilitation

This report has summarized some of the activities carried out during this quarter from January to March 2017 as well as the presentation and justification of donations received. It presents some difficulties encountered which once overcome, development will be effective.
On this basis, we propose that the visit of the development activities of Lotumbe be observed on the following axes:
- The Lotumbe Development Coordinating Office;
- FFSAEC and its accomplishments;
- Micro-credit mothers and other similar branches;
- Orphan, pygmy and disabled children;
- The work of widowed women;
- Livestock farms and fields;
- The General Hospital of Lotumbe and schools.
Here is my report for this quarterly period.
                                                                 Written at Lotumbe on 31/03/2017
                                                                 Pastor ENTONTO John
                                                                 Facilitator of Debout Lotumbe Development

PLAAC beekeeping project in Mbanza-Ngungu

A visit to PLAAC beekeeping project in Mbanza-Ngungu reaps rewards for HandUp Congo’s colleagues in Equateur Province
By Safari Kanyena, development worker for Disciples of Christ in Congo Community (“CDCC”) and advisor to HandUp Congo

Safari Kanyena

In 2016, Célestin Engelemeba and I travelled to Mbanza-Ngungu in Kongo Central Province to visit PLAAC (a cooperative of beekeeping associations), about three hours by car from Kinshasa. Mbanza-Ngungu is a city and territory in Kongo Central Province in the western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, lying on a short branch off the Matadi-Kinshasa Railway.

Why this visit? One reason was to learn about beekeeping, and explore ways our Pygmy colleagues in Equateur Province can enhance their traditional beekeeping skills and find ways to alleviate their poverty by selling honey. Other reasons are outlined below.
The CDCC development office (called “BDC”) works in the remote equatorial forest region with rural poor communities. The latter live mainly from agriculture but just for subsistence. For earning money, they practice deforestation to produce charcoal and wood planks without any initiative of reforestation. In some villages of Ingende and Bolomba, pygmies are the poorest population whose vital needs are mainly oriented to the forest exploitation. Women and youth are also among people living with limited resources.

The basic challenge that BDC needs to face is to develop a strategy which can insure economic life of human communities without destroying the natural resources (of which the forest is one of the main earth climate stabilizers).
Regarding the Province of Equateur, BDC vision is to get a population living harmoniously and sustainably in connection with the forest. As a development local agency, BDC will be developing communities’ capacities on its traditional topics (food security, poverty reduction, environment protection…) in a perspective of gender promotion.

Then, we will need an integrated community development strategic plan which promotes the non-wood forest products (honey, edible insects, mushroom, fruit tree plantations…), so that poor communities and other less powerful populations (pygmies, women, youth) can get money from regular activities which can be organized around their villages, have a high demand in markets and whose success depend on the presence of trees.

For honey production, processing and commercialization, PLAAC is a model in the western Congo, bringing together 733 beekeepers. To get more inspiration on how we can organize a similar project in Equateur, our visit began at their office where we focused on the history of PLAAC, the cooperative organization, the techniques of capturing bees, the queen-bee raising, the process of honey processing, the beekeeper’s basic equipment, and the second step brought us into the field to give us an opportunity to see more than 30 hives, to participate in capturing bees, to collect honey etc.

Toussaint is the leader of PLAAC, which also makes bee suits and other equipment needed to harvest honey.

The second day was devoted to the future cooperation between PLAAC and the intended project of Lotumbe honey production. (Lotumbe is a remote village accessible only by canoe, and where HandUp Congo works closely with community leaders.)

Capturing bees from subsoil to a hive.
honey crop

CDCC strategy on beekeeping:
The inspiration we got from PLAAC helped us to think about a CDCC strategy which will involve:

training and working with pygmies, youth, women and pupils in poor villages bordering the forest,

promoting the planting of bee-attracting fruit trees in the target villages,

promoting the non-wood forest products,

working in local partnership with PLAAC and other potential environment protectors,

developing awareness about “the bee” (as a divine worker to perpetuate the life on the earth, through fecundation of flowers);

practicing agroforestry (combination of trees and food plants).

In short, it was a very important and impressive experience we acquired from PLAAC. Our mind was opened more again for environmental issues. The enriching discussions we got with the PLAAC leaders revealed us new ways of working together for more success.

It is a very interesting thing for the world to think about strategies worthy to perpetuate the green world where the climate is good for food production, human activities and animals’ lives. This trip showed us that, thinking green means especially thinking about the wellbeing of bees. In fact, bees are the excellent partners of this process, if they can be involved, they can play an important role in ecological restoration.

NOTE: HandUp Congo supporters made it possible for Safari and Celestin to experience this field trip to Mbanza-Ngungu. It resulted in a crowdfunding campaign which will take two PLAAC bee experts to Lotumbe in June 2017, to conduct training for the community. Thanks to donors Cynthia N, Beth F, Betsy B, Elizabeth W and Alison F for making this training excursion possible!

(a poem on a bee) – By Safari

Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.
Tu m’entends ? Je passe, je bourdonne,
Je visite tes plantes, j’en prospecte les fleurs,
Le fruit de mon travail, je te le donne,
Pour que, plus de faim tu ne pleures,
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

De la cire et du nectar, je fais le miel,
Cette nourriture aimée de tout âge,
Cet aliment que Dieu donne du Ciel,
Quand Israël reçut Canaan en partage.
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Construis-moi de bonnes ruches,
Utilises-moi et protèges ma vie,
De mon miel tu rempliras tes cruches;
Et l’argent tu ne manqueras dans ta vie.
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Ne me chasses pas, je ne suis pas ton ennemie,
Dieu m’a établi comme ton fidèle ouvrier,
Afin de vivre avec toi comme ton amie,
Et assurer que tu aies ton produit vivrier ;
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Je veux faire un pacte avec la jeunesse,
Afin de construire ensemble un monde équilibré,
Prévenir de l’humanité la grande détresse,
Et des caprices de son climat déséquilibré
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.

Plantes et ne coupes plus des arbres,
De fleurs tu auras mon miel et des fruits,
Toi et moi vivrons sous leur ombre,
Nous réjouissant, mangeant et buvant sans bruits.
Laisses-moi vivre, tu vivras de moi.
-by Safari Désiré Kanyena

by Safari Désiré Kanyena

Let me live, you will live by me.
You hear me? I pass, I buzz,
I visit your plants, I prospect the flowers,
The fruit of my labor, I give it to you,
For that, no more hunger you cry,
Let me live, you will live by me.

Wax and nectar, I make honey,
This beloved food of all ages,
This food God gives of Heaven,
When Israel received Canaan as a share.
Let me live, you will live by me.

Build me good hives,
Use me and protect my life,
Of my honey you will fill your pitchers;
And money you will not miss in your life.
Let me live, you will live by me.

Do not drive me away, I am not your enemy,
God has established me as your faithful worker,
In order to live with you as your friend,
And make sure you have your food product;
Let me live, you will live by me.

I want to make a pact with youth,
In order to build a balanced world together,
Preventing humanity from great distress,
And the whims of its unbalanced climate
Let me live, you will live by me.

Plant and no longer cut down trees,
Of flowers you will have my honey and fruits,
You and I will live under their shadow,
We rejoice, eating and drinking in peace.
Let me live, you will live by me

Mamas of Microcredit

A large dugout canoe expands income generating activities
for the “Mamas of Microcredit”
-By Natana Weteto (Disciples Information Bulletin)
Note: The Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC) is a project partner of HandUp Congo. It is located in what today is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaire, and was founded in 1889. The church has been affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States since its inception. The church functions with 26 ecclesial regions located in the provinces of Equateur, Bandundu, East Congo, Lower Congo and Kinshasa regions. Its 358 congregations serve 650,000 members. The church has 6 general hospitals, 9 maternity centers and 42 functioning health centers.

The women (called “mamas”) of Lotumbe have been working in two microcredit groups (25 and 31 members) in recent years. They have income-generating activities that allow them to save every fortnight and to borrow from these savings the money that allows them to increase their activities.

Some of the mamas celebrating the delivery of their own sales canoe.

They have just acquired a large dugout canoe that will allow them to go to markets around Boyela, Nkasa, Bompondo or even Boteka and to some extent to organize trips to Mbandaka (the provincial capital) in order to stock up on goods.

Here are some success stories:
The widow Mpongo makes handmade soap. She buys caustic soda and palm oil and thanks to her equipment purchased by credit obtained in her microcredit group, she manufactures handmade soap that she sells on the spot in Lotumbe or in the surrounding markets.

The widow Iyango goes into the forest to pick up fibrous leaves used in the kitchen to cook dishes without using pans. These sheets are very sought after because no home in Lotumbe can do without. The profits she makes enable her to meet her daily needs, but the surplus has enabled her to save money through her micro-credit group as well as to buy salt that she resells to increase her income and take charge of her grandchildren, who live with her.
Ms. Nyabitumba is a nurse at the General Reference Hospital of Lotumbe. The money she contributed to her microcredit group is being saved, and she lives only on her salary. This made it possible for her to receive credit that allowed her to buy fuel that she sells to the shops in Lotumbe. Her activity enabled her to buy a dugout canoe (in which she sits) and which she leases to individuals who go to the riverside markets in the area. This investment has allowed her to substantially increase her income and live more or less at ease.

These three examples that we wanted to share with you show that we only need to have the will to succeed.

The Supervising Pastor of Lotumbe, Rev Boyaba, enjoys geography and drew this map of the Lotumbe area. The village is accessible only by dugout canoe. It is located in the world’s second largest rainforest.

HandUp Congo Goal: to raise USD 3,500 to buy the microcredit group a Yamaha motor, to access riverside markets and sell their wares. Donations can be made online to, Project 20 2013-14, “Lotumbe Community Development” (designate “motor”). Australians receive tax deductibility.

Concert for Congo, Nov 6 2016

$7. That’s all it costs to buy a duck.
This is your day to make someone in Congo a lucky duck! Help us drum up support! See Afro contemporary dancer Lucky’s amazing leaps at the concert!

All you have to do is buy a concert ticket or make a tax deductible donation that can change the life of a Pygmy orphan in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are 106 orphans in Lotumbe Village who have asked for our help to buy some ducks and fruit trees. Selling duck eggs and fruit as part of their innovative social enterprise will help these kids get to school – FINALLY! The kids are aged 6-18, and most have never gone to school – EVER. They just need a little bit of help from their friends, like:

· $ 3.50 for tuition (per year)
· $ 13.11 for school uniform
· $ 3.50 for teacher’s stipend (per year)
· $ 7 for one duck
· $ 1.50 for one fruit tree
· $ 27 for shared garden tools

Proceeds from the concert will go towards helping these kids meet their school attendance goal.

concert-for-congo_flyer_2016_nov-6Concert for Congo ticket bookings can be made on or ring Robyn on 0403 761 341.

Can’t come along to the concert? No worries! Online donations can be made to, Project 20 2013-14. Cheques may be made out to RAWCS Project 20 2013-14, and posted to RAWCS, PO Box 3168, Parramatta NSW 2124 (be sure to designate “Project 20 2013-14”).

Have questions? Please contact me on

I hope to see you at the Concert for Congo on Sunday, 6 November from 2 to 4 pm at Pitt St Uniting Church, 264 Pitt St, near Sydney Town Hall CBD.

Thank you for your support! – Lucy

Congo Week IX, October 16 – 22, 2016

banner2016Join Friends of the Congo and people worldwide for Congo Week IX. During Congo Week, a wide range of organizations throughout the globe will commemorate the millions of lives lost in the Congo conflict while showcasing Congolese culture and what Congo has contributed to the global community.

Click here to find out more about Congo Week and how you can participate.

Download the basic_facts on the Congo.

Woman is like the earth: even a fool sits down on her. (Luba proverb, DRC)

Elders earn their keep in a community garden, weeding and planting vegetables to supplement their fish diet.

The tasks and roles ascribed to women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo involve never-ending hard work, as seen in these photos taken recently by Lucy Hobgood-Brown in Equateur Province. As she reflects on these roles, Lucy notes that in cultures all over the globe, sex and gender issues have been expressed in proverbs. An academic friend who has taught at Université Protestante au Congo, an institution in Kinshasa with whom HandUp Congo works, has written a wonderful book called “Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs from Around the World (Yale University Press, 2003). Dr. Mineke Schipper has analysed similarities, differences, and contradictions in cultural norms about gender expressed in proverbs from over 150 countries – including the DRC.

Girls scrub pots on the Momboyo River.

“I took some time today to look at the proverbs Mineke has collected on women’s work,” Lucy says. “Food preparation, washing and cleaning are necessary tasks that have to be carried out on a daily basis by women and girls in Congo and worldwide. I found lots of proverbs in Mineke’s book about gendered places and spaces. One that especially resonated with me, as I thought about the Congolese context, is an Estonian proverb: ‘The home is the wife’s world, the world is the man’s home.’”

Preparing a meal for visitors.

By Lucy Hobgood-Brown