The aims of the trip in June were:
- To envision Désiré Mukanirwa, our point of contact in Congo, with a visit to a children’s centre for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda (the Stephen Jota Children’s Centre (SJCC) in Kampala) and Stephen’s new secondary school and farm in Sozo, 70km north of Kampala
- To review progress of the two main Flame International (Development) projects in Keshero and Kalehe in Congo (Project ‘Hope’ and Project ‘Stand Up Women!’)
- To buy food grinding machines for the children in Project ‘Hope’
- To deliver funds towards the various projects
I took my brother Jonathan, who co-founded the SJCC in 2000 with Stephen Jota, a Ugandan pastor. Jonathan’s fluency in French, together with years of experience in the teaching profession, was invaluable.
The visit to SJCC was truly inspiring for all, particularly for Désiré. The buildings were all of high quality. The visit to Sozo included fish ponds as well as a 100-acre farm with pigs, ducks, maize and coffee. We also saw the secondary school under construction. Our hope and prayer is that one day the project in Congo will have something similar to support the needs of the women and children there. We are excited at the possibilities of an emerging partnership between SJCC and Désiré’s projects.
Jonathan spent time with all the children in Keshero and joined me in two sessions with the teachers. He spoke about the hope and future for the children, encouraging them to call out their dreams, pointing out that some children were in even more dire straits than them, without any educational opportunities.
Unfortunately we were not able to see the grinding machines in operation but witnessed the finishing touches being applied to the manufacturing of the machines in Goma.
The Bishop of Bukavu, and his wife Mme Nyota, demonstrated warm hospitality to a Flame mission once again. Another visit to a Mothers’ Union project (one of many run by the Bishop’s wife) with food for rape victims and the children served in my mind to strengthen a possible partnership with this significant organisation.
The visit to Bukavu was also significant in terms of a meeting with the Bishop’s son, Philippe, who is a qualified doctor now specialising in psychiatry. He shared his detailed vision (including architect’s drawings) for a much needed psychiatric centre for Bukavu which he would like to see built to cope with the many cases of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) resulting from years of war and the pandemic of rape. The vision will we hope be part of the healing process for Congo.
Observing the micro finance process in operation in Kalehe was hugely encouraging. The women’s welcome was overwhelming.
In contrast, our impressions of the school at Keshero were initially negative. The teachers had not been paid since February and they were obviously downbeat and hungry. We spent some time speaking/teaching/encouraging/praying with them. Delivery of three laptops given by St Peter’s members helped a lot. Things improved further the next day with the resolution of the pay problem and the provision of emergency food.
We stressed the principle of spiritual ‘seeds’ being planted, and of the importance of understanding the role that both teachers and children had in their country. We left feeling reassured that the future of the school was hopeful but needed significant support and sustained infrastructural development (in particular for buildings, security, access, child sponsorship and teachers’ salaries).
The mission rounded off the development pilot in a wonderful way. The chances to pray for/encourage/minister to both teachers and children in the school were taken and well received. We were able to unravel serious confusion over teachers’ salaries. We have injected funds into much-needed items as well as the microfinance initiative for the agricultural project.
Thank you for your support for this the last Flame International (Development) mission; the trustees have decided to discontinue this initiative. My aim is to explore ways and means of continuing to support these projects. A big 'thank you' to the Mission Committee for their support and also to all who gave money and laptops. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
Mark Leakey, Chairman, Flame International