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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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News from Goma April 2011

Greetings from Goma.

Last week I visited a brand new safe house (Wamama Simameni-Women Stand Up Together) outside Goma, where about 20 women gathered to learn how women and men from around the world have cared and contributed to make Wamama Simameni possible.  It's a village without a water source. There is no spring, faucet or tap. The only way to get water to drink, wash, cook or clean is to gather it from the river, located in a nearby forest.  As a result, the women and children who go to get water are exposed to attack from the militias who live in the forest.

On the other side of the town is a national park, where another group of militias live who prey on those who come into the forest to look for firewood.  The only way to heat water is with wood; like the water from the river, wood is also gathered by women and children. Women are being raped regularly as they go for water or firewood.  You can't live without water or fire. It's a terrible dilemma that can be helped with some simple solutions built into the new safe house.

The safe house (Wamama Simameni) is a women's resource center, and will provide a place to talk about these issues and make sure that information about what can be done is passed on. It'll be a place women learn to read, sew, or engage in new economic activities. Thanks to training for the counselors by HEAL Africa's Gender and Justice team, women will also learn about their rights and have access to legal counsel. The house will also have a cistern and gutters to collect rainwater from the roof of the house, the first of its kind in the village.  It costs about $700 to install gutters and a tank to collect rainwater from the roof. Support of the Wamama Simameni houses and HEAL Africa is a double gift - providing both safety and better access to water. We still haven't been able to tackle the firewood issue.  There's work left to do.

A Congolese women's day getting water for her family So often we wish for fast, quick solutions, though we know that true change takes time, effort and many connected people working together.  HEAL Africa's staff and volunteers are doing this, working with villagers, community leaders, and the government structures.  This is long-term work in a place where most organizations think in short-term emergency time frames of six months or a year at best.  This emergency has lasted for about 18 years now. Your support of HEAL Africa makes it possible to put gutters on the roof of this building, to collect the rainwater, and to keep someone safe from the predators in the forest. It can help pay for the people who are teaching the women in the village, who provide the counseling and referrals when something does go wrong. 

It is critical work; it is building a better future for the children of Congo. Thank you.