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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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A Holistic Model to Build and Strengthen Communities

War destroys families, communities, and nations. It dislocates their members and breaks down the social fabric. Any meaningful response in its aftermath requires the strengthening of community life. Every HEAL Africa initiative includes the goal of supporting, building, growing, healing, and facilitating communities. At the heart of all our community-based work is the Nehemiah Initiative, which is an interfaith program that works within existing communities to build healing and health. Our initiatives will take root and grow sustainably within whole communities where everyone is a shareholder.

The three pillars that govern HEAL Africa’s work are:

  • Self-governance: All of the community-based interventions work through the Nehemiah committees to empower them with the value-based approach and together to define a new future for their communities.
  • Value-based approach: For HEAL Africa, the Bible defines the values. The HEAL Africa staff encourages village leaders to examine a) their sacred books, b) ancient cultural practices, c) proverbs and d) the constitution. These guide the actions at a community level.
  • Whole-person health: HEAL Africa strives to respond to ill-health by examining the roots of the problem, as well as the symptoms, and involving the community at all levels in any implemented solutions.
Nehemiah Committee

The Nehemiah Initiative facilitates local community leaders to reflect on their own situation and resources in the light of the story of Nehemiah, who returns to rebuild his city, against all odds, after it had been destroyed in war. This story is common to all the faith groups where HEAL Africa works: Catholics, Protestants, Kimbanguists, and Muslims. Local leaders choose activists who are trained in mediation and community mobilization to recognize, value and use locally available resources to help the most vulnerable within their village: the handicapped, widows, orphans, and victims of sexual violence.

Nehemiah Committee Beginnings

As HEAL Africa began to treat more patients from rural areas, it became evident that to send “mended” people back to the same situations was simply not safe, especially for the survivors of sexual violence, orphans, and widows. Augmented by the insecurity and resulting economic instability of their home villages, their vulnerability greatly disturbed the HEAL Africa staff.

HEAL Africa began to work with community and religious leaders to create a support structure for the most vulnerable populations in their communities. The goal of this work is to sensitize and mobilize community leaders to care for the vulnerable in their midst by supporting foster family programs, reintegration of widows and victims of sexual violence (many who have HIV/AIDS), and stimulating economic recovery through agriculture and small animal husbandry. These initiatives took the name of “Nehemiah Committees”. In 2004, the first three committees were established. Today there are more than 94 throughout rural villages in the surrounding region of Goma.

Faith-based Communities

The name for the program derives from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, where a community is mobilized to rebuild the walls of their destroyed city. Nehemiah Committees are locally selected by community members and represent all faiths and tribes in the community. The various faith communities (Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, and indigenous church leadership) are at the heart of the work and the focus of the training.

  • Program Results (a few highlights)
  • More than 1000 widows are involved in support groups via AMAVESA
  • Distributed (treated antimalarial) bednets to 1000 families in 2008
  • Supports Safe Houses in 28 villages
  • Assisted over 15,000 women and girls who have been raped
  • Supports over 300 women counselors
  • Supports over 250 Safe Motherhood solidarity groups
  • Over 3,000 people with AIDS received home visits and palliative care in 2008

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