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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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Mighty Mic Benefit Concert for the Congo

Sarah Gustafson

When I first heard about the crisis in the Congo, I was moved to do something about it. Since 1998, more than 5 million people have died and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped. Despite this most people in America aren’t aware that there is conflict in Congo. We all hold a piece of Congo with us - our cell phones and computers, the electronic devices that help us provide high-tech care in American hospitals, are the source of (and funding for) much of the conflict and suffering in the Congo. Rebel groups in eastern Congo methodically use rape as a weapon. Women are ostracized and families and communities are torn apart.

benefit concert for HEAL AfricaLast year, I decided to get involved by helping to organize the Mighty Mic 2010 Concert for the Congo, which was funded by UCLA and held at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom. As we were doing research, I came across the HEAL Africa website. I was so impressed with the success that this organization had while working with communities in the hardest-hit areas. The hospital in the eastern Congo repairs fistulas caused by rape or failed childbirth. HEAL Africa’s passionate work goes far beyond providing medical attention in emergencies. HEAL Africa has local workers who deeply understand the communities they work in and provide countless services to women and their communities. I wanted to show my community the work that HEAL Africa was doing and how we could do something to help them.

I was very pleasantly surprised when Judy Anderson (HEAL Africa’s Executive Director) responded to the email I had sent to request a speaker for the concert. When I told my fellow students that the director of the Heal My People program, Mama Muliri, was coming to speak to us, the room erupted in cheers! Mama Muliri’s program has helped identify 30,000 victims of rape and provide assistance to them. I was truly honored that Mama Muliri would endure days of traveling alone, and come to the United States for the first time. It was a life-changing experience for me and all of the people who attended the concert. We recruited both local and Congolese bands to attract more attendees. We also provided educational materials at the concert. Many other UCLA student groups came to the concert to support this cause. After a night of music, Mama Muliri's speech was the grand finale. Her stories of tragedy turned into hope uplifted the audience. We were able to fund Mama Muliri’s flight and raised additional money for HEAL Africa through donations at the concert.

As a medical student, I am continuing to advocate and spread awareness about HEAL Africa’s work at UCLA. I joined the Global Health Selective through my school, where I am learning more about what I can do as a future physician to help with global problems. I am also a coordinator for UCLA’s chapter of Physicians for Human Rights. My project for this year is to put on lectures and continue fundraising for HEAL Africa.

My goal is to get the medical community more involved in thinking about ways to help women in the Congo. When I worked with Mama Muliri, she told me that although I may not be going to the Congo, I can help her with my voice and my mind. This is a piece of advice that will guide me throughout life.

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