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Plea for a desperate situation
A Congolese archbishop is raising awareness of his country’s struggles and asking for support.
Archbishop Francois-Xavier Maroy Rusengo of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been in the U.S. for the last week raising awareness of the desperate and dangerous living conditions of the Congolese people. Last week, Archbishop Maroy met with leaders from a few charitable organizations working to improve the situation in the Congo, a country that has been ravaged by war, disease and extreme poverty.
His message about the Congo dealt primarily with raising awareness of the ever-increasing number of health problems people face. He acknowledged how difficult it is for Americans to understand the levels of poverty in the Congo, and invited everyone present to visit and see the situation for themselves.
Archbishop Maroy also spoke about peace, saying he believes that is the most important thing needed in the Congo.
“The American people and the Congolese people are all created in the image of God and we all have the right to live in peace and happiness,” Archbishop Maroy said.
His meeting took place at St. Mary Church in Alexandria, and was organized by leaders from Great Lakes Restoration and Jatukik Providence Foundation, two groups dedicated to improving the lives of the Congolese people.
Great Lakes Restoration is a nonprofit organization that aims to build peace in the Eastern African countries of the Great Lakes region, focusing primarily on the Congo. The group has come up with a variety of projects that will provide better living situations, education, health care, water and electricity, housing and jobs to the Congolese.
Matthias Cinyabuguma, founder of Great Lakes, grew up in the Congo and witnessed the desolation firsthand. He believes his organization will be able to improve things over time.
“We came up with a solution that would take into account the people’s culture and also the state of the situation,” Cinyabuguma said. “Not only are we trying to solve the immediate needs of the people, but we are also working with them so they can be the subject of their own government, a more self-sustainable government.”
Jatukik Providence Foundation is an organization that works to improve the lives of people in the Congo, as well as French-speaking African immigrants in the U.S. The foundation believes the best way to help improve lives in the Congo is to teach communities how to help themselves. The foundation’s projects include providing agricultural training, building and stocking health care centers, and implementing eco-villages.
Father Jean Claude Atusameso, who resides at St. Mary Parish, founded Jatukik in 1999. He believes his foundation is important not only for helping people in the Congo — where the number of the poor is growing everyday — but also for helping French-speaking African immigrants adapt to life in the U.S.
During the meeting, representatives from Jatukik, Great Lakes and other nonprofit organizations discussed possible methods for helping the Congolese people. Suggestions included engineering solutions that would help bring fresh water and electricity to villages, a marketing plan that would help make the complex problems of the Congo easier for the general public to understand, and a proposal for the City of Alexandria to adopt a Congolese village as a sister city.
The group spent a lot of time discussing the lives of Congolese children. Mark Gregory, secretary and general counsel for Great Lakes Restoration, explained why.
“Out of a population of 60 million people, the median age was 15,” Gregory said. “If anybody asks you, why so much focus on the children? Well, that’s half the population.”
Louise Schnaier, director of international adoption at Spence Chapin, a nonprofit adoption agency based in New York, presented Father Atusameso with a $2,500 check for his foundation. She also talked about how overwhelming work with impoverished countries can be.
“Sometimes I think of my work as putting a tear in the ocean,” she said. “When that gets overwhelming, I think that for every child, even just one tear is too much.”
Archbishop Maroy called on Americans to do everything they can to bring peace to the Congo, saying that the work will be something of which they can be proud.
“The prize of a great man is when he makes the assessment of what he has done good versus what he has done bad,” Archbishop Maroy said. “People should look in that direction when they think about how many times they have lent a hand to someone weak and not thought about a reward.”
Katie Bahr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
For information on how to donate to Great Lakes Restoration, visit glrbtp.org/donations.html.
For information on how to donate to Jatukik Providence Foundation, visit jatukikprovidence.org/Howyoucanhelp.html.