You are viewing an archived version of HEAL Africa. - To view the current site, click here

HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
Home »

Meet Ndungo Sakoul, shown below with his wife.

HIV has been part of HEAL Africa’s vocabulary since 2000, when Ndungo brought leaders of all faith groups to a workshop which taught the basics about HIV transmission. The Catholic Archbishop, the Muslim Imam, the various Protestant denominational leaders and the Kimbanguist leader decided to work together to face an enemy common to them all; they have been doing so for the past ten years. Today more than 210 activists in Catholic, Muslim, Protestant and Kimbanguist parishes around Goma are working to prevent the spread of HIV by informing people and urging behavior change. They do plays, radio broadcasts, have developed video clips to spark conversations, written curricula on living with HIV, caring for someone at home with HIV, how to talk about sexuality in the family. Churches are now starting to integrate HIV into their own campaigns. One church called and asked for help in teaching about reproductive health. There is a huge need for this type of teaching. Choisir la Vie is known and trusted.

The team works with activists chosen by their faith communities and teaches new skills to continue building general awareness about how HIV is transmitted.  They have concentrated this past year on people living with disabilities, and working with those who also live with HIV.  These are marginalized groups.  They urge people to get tested.  They help people join solidarity groups and find whatever treatment is available.  Antiretrovirals are not available to most of Congo’s population, and won’t be in the foreseeable future, so prevention and containment are the best available options.

We’ve been in Goma for the past month, and have met with leaders of the programs dealing with HIV awareness, proactive peer educator training, youth clubs, income generation groups, and palliative home care networks.  These men and women are working to reduce transmission among mothers giving birth, educating people about the causes of HIV, and working within a country where Antiretroviral therapy is basically not available to most of the population.

Meet Guershom Paluku.  Over 90,000 youth have been involved in youth groups, awareness-raising about HIV transmission, the law protecting youth and women from abuse, and discussions  about conflict transformation or small business skills.   Gershom has trained and followed the activists for five years.  Youth clubs provide substantive conversations about gender, leadership, protection of children and human rights in addition to reproductive health and sexuality, and HIV.  Clubs talk about issues that affect lives, provide a safe place to learn out of school, an activity in villages where there is little for youth to do in “after-school” hours, and create peer educators with a mission to teach what they’ve learned.  These clubs start in schools, in churches.  Often when the youth go home on vacation, they start new clubs in their villages.  This work can only be done on a basis of relationship and trust.

Meet Roger Basungele, creator of the home-based palliative care network.  He has worked with a variety of groups in Goma, Rutshuru and Binza who are activists and providing home-based palliative care to people suffering from AIDS.  There are now over 4,300 people receiving help today.  They know they’ve not been forgotten.   A story: a woman was captured by FDLR and taken to the forest to live for 3 years as a sex slave.    She bore a child.  Her health became very poor, and she eventually was able to escape her captors and get to a clinic, which then referred her to HEAL Africa…she needs health care, food, and shelter.   Today she’s living in a small house in Goma area, receiving the care she needs.   It all takes much time, effort, and money.  Because Roger has worked with so many activists and networks, his work is well known and respected.

Income generation for foster mothers, childheaded households and those raising orphans whose parents have died of HIV. Meet Noella Katembo, who has been doing this work for the past five years.  Meet the grandmothers, raising and supporting their grandchildren because the parents’ generation is gone.  HIV ravages whole generations.  Increasing  ability to feed these children, send them to school, tell them the stories of their parents and grandparents’ lives will make a huge difference in the outcomes of their lives.  Grouping the women in solidarity groups provides an ongoing support system to women who may have been living isolated lives.  The activists who keep in touch with them at the weekly solidarity meetings are from their own faith communities.  See pictures of the meeting I attended on the day I left Goma.  Three activists were present: a Catholic, a Muslim, and a Baptist.  Noella Katembo has taught these women and follows them through the monthly meetings and coordination with the activists.

She has helped over 1,000 families like this—or child-headed households, or foster mothers---receive training, support and solidarity in order to keep children, orphans of HIV, in school and in families.  Link to stories, pictures from Micheline, meeting Sat

One church in Goma’s pastor said, “From what we’ve learned from you we’re going to install this system among our women’s groups.  We have learned a new way of helping the poor”.