Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thanks for Standing for Congo!

Thanks to everyone for coming out to our event last night at Busboys and Poets! We had a packed room with people excited to learn more about the Congo, and hopefully we gave you a satisfying overview of the situation in the region. 


Father Jean-Claude giving his speech


Our own Father Jean-Claude of JPF introduced the audience to the Democratic Republic of Congo (did you know that the Congo has the world's second-largest rain forest?) and its abundant natural resources. He described the perplexing, heart-rending poverty the region faces despite its natural resources. He described the Congo's exploitation by foreign companies more interested in its resources than its people. He went on to recount how that inspired him to create JPF in 1999, and went over the work JPF does in the Congo. 


Carrie Crawford gave a powerful speech about how advocacy efforts in Washington can improve the lives of many Congolese in the D.R.C. Efforts from Washington will only come after people around the U.S. demonstrate their interest in the Congo and the plight of the people there. She urged the audience to go to Friends of the Congo's website and sign their petitions. 


JD Stier also spoke about advocacy efforts, and spreading word about the Congo to more and more people. He moved the audience into pulling out their cell phones and texting the word "Congo" to a number--thus raising awareness right there. He asked people to think about their cell phones, the mineral coltan, and how they could not have their cell phones were it not for the riches of the Congo.


Lastly, Christian Kulemfuka motivated the audience with his deep, enthusiastic speech about his homeland, staying proud, and defending the Congo. "You can take me out of the Congo, but you cannot take the Congo out of me," Kulemfuka said to loud round of cheers and applause. With much heartfelt emotion, Kulemfuka also recited a poem about the rape of the women and children in the Congo. 


The stimulated audience then asked many questions, which also sparked responses from other members of the audience! 


Thank you all for coming to STAND FOR CONGO--you made it a great event, and we couldn't have done it without you. Also, a special thank-you to the Metropolitan Dental Group for sponsoring our event and facilitating dialogue about the Congo! Your kindness and generosity is much appreciated by us here at JPF. 


jpfcongo.org

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jatukik Providence Foundation Presents: STAND FOR CONGO

You've all been waiting with bated breath--watching, wondering hoping, dreaming of this day. Well, worry no more--JPF's event, Stand for Congo, is tomorrow!! I'm sure you all know exactly what's going to happen, riveted as you've all been, but I'll just recap and detail what's going to happen on this epic night.


Where is it? 
Busboys and Poets on 14th and V, Washington DC, the Langston Room.  



It's a space full of class, soul, and spirit. You can almost imagine the rallies of people in the past echoing through the room. The cushy booths in the side just invite you to plop down, grab a snack, and listen to inspiring speeches. You can feast on free hummus, chips, and more.

What's happening?








Walk around and explore the space first. You can bid on some beautiful Congolese art in the back of the room, ranging from stoic paintings to inspiring masks.You can also buy jewelry, bags, and other small pieces at our other booth, comfortable in the knowledge that all of your proceeds go to aiding the people of the Congo. 


Then sit down with your food, and listen to our wonderful lineup. 



Father Jean-Claude Atusameso, Jatukik Providence Foundation
Father Jean-Claude Atusameso is a Catholic priest from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Founder of JPF. He founded JPF in 1999, in a reaction to the poverty that he saw in the Congo. Father Jean-Claude will speak about JPF, its goals, and what it is doing to help in the D.R.C. 



Carrie Crawford, Friends of the Congo
Carrie Crawford is the chairperson and co-founder of Friends of the Congo. Ms. Crawford is a respected attorney who has campaigned tirelessly for immigrants' rights in the U.S. She is also an Executive Board member of Congo Global Action and a member of the African Judicial Network. Ms. Crawford will speak about Friends of the Congo, their work, and her personal inspirations. 


J.D. Stier, The Enough Project
J.D., the campaign manager for the Enough Project's "Raise Hope for Congo" campaign, most recently served in the White House for the Obama administration! This guy knows what he's talking about.  J.D. has co-founded and advised for multiple organizations aiming to improve the lives of others in the Congo, Uganda, and Sudan. J.D. will speak about the Raise Hope for Congo campaign and their work with regard to the conflict mineral.


Christian Kulemfuka, Gabkul Foundation
Christian Kulemfuka serves as the Public Relations Chair of the Gabkul Foundation. The Gabkul Foundation is dedicated to improving the education, health, and lives of vulnerable people in the D.R.C. Christian will speak about vulnerable populations in the Congo, and the work of the Gabkul Foundation.   


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Celebrating the Kibeti Ecovillage and Congolese Culture!


video

The scene is picturesque in its beauty and vibrancy. A group of women sing a joyous chorus, inspiring the crowd behind them to join in their song. They are draped in multicolored print pagnes, and have bright strips of cloth tied around their heads that bob gently with the women as they proceed in a slow dance procession. The drum behind them beats a steady, comforting rhythm behind them. Their voices ring out with strength and confidence, and they graciously ignore the intrusive video camera capturing their intimate coming-together. Men, some in t-shirts, some in suits, and others in religious garb, clap a gentle, mesmerized rhythm as well.


The beautiful scene is captured in the Jatukik Providence Foundation's Ecovillage of Kibeti during its inauguration in 2007. When Westerners think of the D.R.C., they may think of imperialism, rubber, war, famine, sexual violence, but rarely do they think of this simple, peaceful scene of celebration, religion, and music. Religion and music are inextricably intertwined in Congolese culture, weaving together in a harmony that pulls a whole community together. 


Learn about the Ecovillage and other Congolese initiatives through JPF's "Stand for Congo" event on August 1st. Check out our Facebook page and RSVP today!!


jpfcongo.org 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

So You Think You Know the Congo?

Well, if you don't, it's okay; the average U.S. citizen doesn't generally know too much about the region. But we thought it would be nice to give you a little quiz, show you what you know (or don't) about the D.R.C., and learn some new information whether you pass or fail the quiz!


So here's the link: 
http://bit.ly/SGKuo2
Go ahead, give it a whirl! No reason to be shy!


Lastly, what you've all been waiting for---JPF will be hosting an event to raise awareness about the Congo on August 1!!! Free admission, free food, acquiring knowledge--really, what more could one ask for? More details to come on this next week on our blog; keep an eye out!




jpfcongo.org

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Interview with Jatukik Providence Foundation's Executive Director and Founder, Father Jean-Claude Atusameso

Father Jean-Claude, could you tell us about your childhood in the Congo?
I was born in Kinshasa, the third of eight children. I have two sisters, one is the oldest, one is the youngest. All of us in the middle are boys. My dad is an electrical engineer. At home we actually spoke six different languages! French, Lingala, and some other ones. I completed my elementary school in Kinshasa. I had a good experience there; I went to a good school where high-ranking people had attended. The grandson of Mobutu actually went to the same school as me. I decided that I wanted to be a priest at age ten, and when I was twelve I left home to study in a seminary in the Bandundu Province.

How did you decide to create JPF?
While I was at the seminary, I was shocked to see the poverty of people in the countryside—their housing, their standards of living. I thought to myself, “Someone must do something to change it.” After my studies, I decided to create JPF at the first parish I was sent to, the Catholic Mission Bengi. JPF was officially created on December 4, 1999. I had 200 villages to cover, and the last one was 80 kilometers from the Mission Center in Bengi . I had no car or bike; I was walking to say masses. Our first initiative was a housing project for seven villages. Later we added our first healthcare initiative by delivering fridges to clinics. I was then sent to the Archdiocese of Kinshasa to work, and started our streetchildren/orphans project.

How did you end up coming to the U.S. and creating an office here?
I was invited  here by friends and partners of the World Mission in Pennsylvania for meetings and plannings of our partnership initiative. I had also meetings with the Catholic Mission Board and other organizations. JPF became a U.S. organization in 2004. I did not know any English until I came to the U.S. I learned by reading and speaking with people.

What is your vision for the future of JPF?
I want JPF to play a big role in bringing support to many African countries. My first and foremost motivation is to be a good priest; it has been since I was ten years old.  But the vision of my priesthood is also connected to social welfare. Matthew 6:25-34 serves as an inspiration and a motivation for our Mission to empower the poor. This Gospel presents God as a God of providence, and it invites us to be the manifestation of this providence to the needy. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

SHONA: Helping the Women of Goma, One Bag at a Time

"Congo is the worst place to be a woman."


"Women as human pack-horses."


"The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo remained grave."


These are the descriptions and images that bombard the average citizen in the West when getting news about the DRC--that is, when any news is relayed at all. To most Westerners slightly acquainted with the country, it is a country of lawlessness and danger. It is a country where a woman can be raped at any moment. It is a country filled with rebel groups fighting motivated by greed and lust for power. It is a land to be pitied. The Western media thrives on this representation, perpetuating and almost relishing the image it presents of the Congo, and Africa in general (See a recent New York Times article http://nyti.ms/LzUauY). It is a modern Heart of Darkness. So it is refreshing, and unfortunately rare to get a different perspective on the region.


Dawn Hurley is an incredibly intelligent, thought-provoking, and rare commentator on the Eastern Congo who writes, from a Western perspective, about what is hardly ever written when it comes to the Congo--the normal lives of the people she meets around her, depicted in a rather positive light.


Hurley, a New Yorker, came to the DRC with her husband, an aid worker who gives microfinance loans to the Congolese people. In a fresh, often humorous voice, Hurley relates the contrasts (water-collecting villagers on cellphones!) and beauty of the country.


While there, she started a small sewing group, that developed over time into SHONA. SHONA is a group of physically handicapped women who sew, and sell their wares through their website (www.shonacongo.com) and on eBay. The women all live and work together as a group, exemplifying their interdependence and independence.


Hurley uses her blog posts to speak about the situation in the Congo and advertise her wares, and does a great job of selling each.


Check out her blog:
http://fromcongo.blogspot.com/


And SHONA's website:
http://www.shonacongo.com/


Enjoy, donate, learn.

jpfcongo.org

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: Blood River—A Deep and Gritty Look at the DRC from a White Man

I've always found reading books—not dry, unintelligible history-style books, mind you, but gripping novels—to be the best way of understanding complicated issues and backgrounds on a subject. We humans are dramatic, intelligent beings, and with us, nothing is simple. Thus books are the only reliable tool of information-gathering—they rapidly draw you into the plot but linger with you for a long while, drawing out explanations and perspectives and woes. In terms of understanding the modern Democratic Republic of Congo, Tim Butcher’s Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, serves as a great jumping-off point towards gaining a richer understanding of the region and its troubles.

Butcher centers his novel around his goal to travel through the Congo taking the same route as that of Henry Morton Stanley, the first (white) man to penetrate into the depths of the Congo. Stanley later collaborated with the king of Belgium, Leopold, to get European control of the region, and committed atrocities against many innocent Congolese in order to get control of their land. Butcher realizes the cruelty of many of Stanley’s actions, and criticizes him harshly in the novel for it. Yet Butcher still admires Stanley for the arduous three-year journey he took, and longs to take this journey for himself. At this point (August 2004), the situation in the Eastern Congo is particularly volatile and the dangers of rebels looms large in Butcher’s mind as he sets out for his trip.In a witty, straightforward, analytic, and sometimes fearful voice, Butcher seamlessly carries the story forward, detailing the trials of his journey while comparing them to Stanley’s. 

“My journey through the Congo had its own unique category It did not do it justice to call it adventure travel, and certainly was not pleasure travel. My Congo journey deserved its own category: ordeal travel.” 

In between recapping his travel experience, Butcher outlines the history and struggles of the Congolese people. Butcher’s analysis spares no one, not the European imperialists, not the corrupt African leaders, nor the corrupt officials he encounters throughout his journey.

The novel is heart-rending in how real Butcher’s details are. He is clearly not exaggerating anything. He doesn't have to. Yet despite the fear and insecurity the reader feels throughout the whole book, Butcher threads a theme of hope throughout the novel. Yes, it’s true that when the rebels approach, most villagers have to respond by fleeing into the bush. Yes, the Congo has actually become more technologically-backward in the last 50 years. Yes, corruption is rampant in the region. Yet despite all that, there is a hope that things can change. The land is beautiful, and many of the people are kind and honest. Butcher emphasizes the idea that for things to change, the people have to push for change. And in his novel, there is the sense that push they will.