Get To Know Our Board Members

child saluting .jpeg

We sat down with one of our board members, Doug Morton, to discuss his interpretation of Congo Voice's mission in the DRC. It’s important for us to maintain an open dialogue between our leadership team and our donors to ensure trust and credibility in our projects. This is Congo Voice’s first mini-interview with one of our board members…

1.    Why did we choose Congo? 

We have deep relationships with many people and a partnership with the Covenant Church in the Ubangi Region of the Congo, which is the poorest region in the poorest country in the world.  And yet we have a vision that if the many organizations that are collaborating achieve their vision this can become an example of hope achieved and an inspiration for other regions in the Congo.

2.    What’s the long term vision? 

Work in collaboration with other entities in Congo to create a self-sustaining environment that will lead to economic independence and health.

3.    What does success look like in the Congo Voice mission? 

In collaboration with other entities, we will create a safe place for orphans while developing economic independence in this region.

4.    Can you explain the 3-prong approach.  

In order to achieve our goal we are using a 3-prong approach:

a.     Children – Provide a place where they are safe and envision a hopeful future through care and education;

b.     Students – Establish a place where students can come and learn a trade in order to achieve economic independence;

c.     Entrepreneurs – Partner with entrepreneurs to launch business that will become the economic engine for our vision.

 

 

Gemena Community Center: On a Path Towards Sustainability

At Congo Voice, we’re on a mission to revolutionize a region. Our newest plan of action is a proposed Community Center and we’re kicking off the fundraising campaign this month. A community center might not sound as exciting as a new well or an NBA player’s basketball camp; but there are many reasons why this is a fantastic opportunity. 

The THREE key attributes of the center are:

1. Self-sustaining  

Our ultimate goal for this project is to meet the needs of this community while allowing the center to become self-funded. This facility will generate revenue by renting office spaces, providing access to the internet via an internet café, a restaurant, in addition to selling electricity generated from our diesel generator. Beyond the costs to operate the Community Center, any excess profit will go to fund the Children’s Center entirely. The goal is to remove donation dependency and build a successful model for Congo Voice’s long term growth and sustainability. Currently, there are NO community centers or meeting places in Gemena, the market is open and that community need will be met by us. Our facilities will be capable of holding weddings, conferences, important meetings, and basically anything under the sun. There will also be a playground located behind the building, so kids will have a safe place to play and have fun.  Additionally, we are really excited about the internet café. Secure internet access has evolved from being a luxury to a necessary component of life, even in underdeveloped economies. We will provide the internet to a community with previously limited access through the café.

2.  Education

 Classroom settings with a properly trained teacher are not always feasible in the developing world; however that lack of a traditional learning environment should not hold back eager students. This is why we will be providing distance learning platforms at the center- where the only two requirements for an education are an internet connection and updated software. Distance learning is changing the world, and we want to offer that same opportunities in Gemena. We will also conduct vocational training classes such as carpentry, sewing, IT, and bicycle repair. (In Congo, bicycles are a very important mode of transportation.) In a country with very high unemployment, learning vocational skills or earning a degree online can provide necessary skills, and thus employment, to prevent their children from going hungry. 

3. Creating Economic Development   

In Congo jobs are scarce, and I’m sure we all know that without a flourishing workforce, there can be no flourishing economy. The point is EVERY job matters and so we will be hiring locals for various roles required because of the nature of the center. We will be renting out several kiosks in the new building for entrepreneurs to sell their goods, giving them access to a whole new market. There will also be a front desk in the center, and so a receptionist will need to be hired along with security. Finally, the proposed restaurant will require cooks, servers, and a manager etc.

This project is more than just a proposed building, it is an opportunity for education, jobs, a place to sell goods, and ultimately a revenue source to fund all aspects of the Children’s Center. This future community center will be a model for the rest of the region, the province, and the ENTIRE COUNTRY. Change is not made in a sweeping fashion, it’s made brick by brick; one mountain at a time. Funding this project is our next mountain.

Be a part of the Congo Voice movement and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

https://www.facebook.com/congovoice.org/

https://www.instagram.com/congovoice/

https://twitter.com/congovoice_org 

Empowering Congo: One Child, Student, and Entrepreneur At a Time

 

 Congo Voice is a nonprofit working in one of the poorest countries of the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo: specifically targeting a city named Gemena in the northwestern region.

For a brief history lesson, Congo was invaded and colonized from 1877-1908 and made the private property of King Leopold. (Think Heart of Darkness or it's modern interpretation: Apocalypse Now) this is the tumultuous time period in Congo that they are based on. Then from 1908-1960 Congo remained under the yoke of Belgian power, only to gain independence more than halfway through the 20th Century and not have the successful infrastructure to be an independent, sovereign power. This lack of a unified central government resulted in the outbreak of several bloody civil wars. This country brimming with people have endured atrocities, only to come out on the other side determined to bring hope to those without it.

Understanding this piece of Congo’s past is essential to visualizing the organization that is a light at the end of their tunnel: Congo Voice.

Congo Voice’s mission is simple: provide hope and opportunity in a region where for so long it was non-existent. Congo Voice empowers this region through three key areas of approach: caring for orphans, education, and economic revitalization.

1. Children’s Center- Currently there are an estimated amount of FOUR million orphans in the DRC, obviously this is a huge area of concern. Caring for the parentless is a cornerstone ideal in Congo Voice’s ideology, and thus they are now providing for over 107 orphans in the Children’s Center. This is a place where not only physical needs are met, but also emotional and spiritual needs. Many of these children come to this safe haven without any real sense of self-worth, so they are taught that they are loved, cherished, and that they have the abilities to change their country’s future for the better. The Center acting as an orphanage is so transformative that many children pledge to come back and help once they have completed their schooling.

2. UPU University- This University is local in Gemena and is another huge area of focus and funding by Congo Voice because education is the key to Congo’s future and success. UPU provides its students with the skills necessary to become successful contributors in the job force. Education is the key to societal change because it will allow the Congolese to learn from their brutal history, and not repeat mistakes of the past. Education will also allow for a more educated work force thereby lending itself to economic growth. Finally, educating women, men, and the underprivileged alike will promote equality in a largely patriarchal society.

3. Micro-Finance- The third and final area that Congo Voice is invested in is empowering entrepreneurs. The objective here is to stimulate the economy by granting entrepreneurs micro-loans to jump start their businesses. Cause and effect. The first step in this process is selecting an individual’s business plan and foreseeing it as profitable (The Congolese version of “Shark Tank”) and providing them the financial capital to launch their project vision. This process demonstrates to students the qualities of a sustainable business, and thus encourages creativity among the economic students and potential business leaders. The fostering of these student’s businesses doesn’t end there- in fact, there is a curated group of coaches and mentors that assist in the management of these projects.

Stay connected with Congo Voice and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

  https://www.facebook.com/congovoice.org

https://twitter.com/congovoice_org

https://www.instagram.com/congovoice/ 

 

 

The Children Have a New Roof

WE HAVE RAISED $25,000 TO REPAIR THE ROOF. WE GREATLY THANK ALL OF THOSE FOR THEIR GENEROUS SUPPORT. 

The local community in Gemena, DR Congo has contributed labor & materials to minimize the time & expense to reconstruct the Children's Center.  

We redesigned the roof to hopefully withstand any future storms. A significant amount of local mahogany beams were added and stronger materials were used to reinforce the metal roofing to the beams. 
Children have moved back in and partial solar power is back up. 
The Internet signal is weak until we repair the receiver / dish. Water access is re-established.

Several Critical Needs Still Exist: 

~4 solar panels need to replaced. An estimated $ 2,400 is needed to replace before labor costs~
~ Many mattresses, bedding and personal items need replaced ~
~ Repair of the Internet dish. Before labor cost the estimate to replace the satellite is $9,200~
~Need to plant a few dozen fast growing trees to protect the structure from direct wind damage. 

If anyone can help with a donation please go to CongoVoice.org

Children's Center Damaged

We are raising funds to rebuild the Childrene's Center. On September 9th,  a severe rain and windstorm destroyed the roof, interior furnishings, solar panels and Internet dish at the Children's Center. We need your support. 

The Sabuli's Children's Center has been in operation for 6 years - a building to provide a secure home, furnishings to provide some comfort, then running water to replace the daily walks to clean water, solar power to extended light to read and study, and then the Internet to provide communications & educational content.  On September 9th, a massive storm went through the Bokonzo, Gemena community, destroying the Children's roof, heavily damaging the recently installed solar panels and satellite for Internet connection at the orphanage.  This Children's Center is home to 85 abandoned children and now the children are displaced finding shelter within the local church and some neighbor's homes. Thankfully not one child at the Center was injured. 

The children's beds and mattresses at the Center remain soaked as the rain continues to fall. Everything is wet inside the building. Their notebooks and clothes were scattered outside by the storm. When Sabuli, the director of the Children's Center returned from her garden in the afternoon she tried to calm the children as they were screaming and crying. The entire roof had blown off their building while children were inside.  Sabuli is overwhelmed, discouraged and exhausted. Her and the children desperately need your support. 

Some of the solar panels can be reused but many new ones will need to be replaced.  A new Internet dish is required to restore communications. We have been in communication with engineers to assess the damage and plan for the reconstruction of the Center. The primary task has been to immediately repair and secure the roof since the rain is continuing to fall. Current materials, such as mahogany wood are being borrowed to quicly rebuild the Center as CongoVoice manages to raise support and repay the repair costs.

The estimate including labor cost to fix the roof is $12,585. Before labor cost the estimate to replace the satellite is $9,200. 4 of the solar panels were critically damaged and will cost $ 2,400 to replace before labor costs.

We are asking those who pray to pray for the protection and comfort of children and the staff who serve them.   Please keep these children and caregivers close to your hearts. We can only imagine what they have all experienced. We are committed to restore their lives as best we are able.  

Please consider donating to CongoVoice.org to rebuild the Children's Center and provide HOPE and OPPORTUNITY to the Congolese.

To give, click the donate button below. Designate the purpose of your donation to the Children's Center and note"Repair/Rebuild" OR you can send a check made out to CongoVoice and designate Children's Center repair - mail to 2805 St James Road, Belmont, CA  94002.

We will be updating the congovoice.org web site as we are able with news or be sending out additional newsletters.  

Crates are shipped

Nine 50lb crates of donated supplies were shipped with CEUM President Mboka and his wife. 7 crates are specifc supplies donated to support Sabuli's Children Center and UPU. The 7 crates included medical supplies, a highly sophisticated microscope for the children's clinic, seed, projector, books, tech equipment, educational supplies, quilts, toys, and children's clothing. CongoVoice gives a big thanks to Sutter Health, MedShare, and Dress A Girl/ Dress A Dude organizations for their donations. Specific appreciation to individuals who made each quilt, the family who purchased the microscope and all those who purchased a child's bracelet in support of the Clinic Initiative at the Center. At the end of the month all items will be distributed. For more info email us at Info@CongoVoice.org

Help bring clean water to the Children's Center

CLEAN WATER = LIFE

A clean water well has one of the greatest impacts for children and their communities.

Safe drinking water protects children from water-borne diseases, which is one of the highest causes of infant mortality. Your support of clean water in Congo means incredible change for the neediest children. 

Imagine if you had to WALK several hours TWICE a day to fetch water to LIVE. 

This is the reality for most women and small children in the DR Congo! BUT you can partner with CongoVoice to provide these vulnerable families with CLEAN WATER within a few minutes of their homes.

CongoVoice is in the process of drilling three CLEAN WATER wells in Gemena: The first is next to the Sabuli Children's Center, then on the campus of the Ubangi University (UPU) and then near the Community Center in the market center.  Each well is estimated to cost $25,000 to drill, provide a storage tank and provide multiple refilling stations.To learn more click below to view the water initiative video. 

Newest Additions to the Children's Center

MEET HOPE. AFTER GIVING BIRTH, THE 17-YEAR-OLD MOTHER DID NOT EVEN HAVE A BLANKET TO WRAP THE CHILD. THE GUARD AT THE CLINIC GAVE HER HIS OWN JACKET TO KEEP THE BABY WARM. HER FAMILY DISOWNED HER FOR GETTING PREGNANT AND WOULD NOT ACCEPT EITHER OF THEM. OUT OF DESPERATION, SHE DUG A HOLE AND BURIED HER SON. SHE UNBURIED HIM AS THE CHILD CONTINUED TO SCREAM IN THE GROUND. SHE HEARD THAT SABULI SANGUMA, DIRECTOR OF THE CONGOVOICE CHILDREN'S CENTER TAKES CARE OF THE CHILDREN WITH NO FAMILIES. BOTH HER AND THE CHILD HAVE REMAINED IN SABULI'S CARE SINCE NOVEMBER 2014. SABULI NAMED HIM HOPE. HELP SABULI WITH ALL THE CHILDREN'S NEEDS: SUPPORT THE CHILDREN'S CENTER

MEET COURAGEOUS KRISTINE, AGE 10. WHILE NIGHT FISHING ON THE CONGO RIVER IN A CANOE, HER FATHER WAS STRUCK BY LIGHTENING. SHE WAS TOSSED OVERBOARD. WHEN SHE CLIMBED BACK IN THE CANOE SHE FOUND HER FATHER DEAD. FROM 9PM TO 2AM SHE PULLED THE CANOE WITH HER FATHER IN IT WITH ONE HAND AND USED HER OTHER HAND TO PUSH THROUGH THE RIVER'S CURRENT TO SHORE. A LOCAL VILLAGE PASTOR, KNEW SHE WOULD BE BEST CARED FOR BY SABULI, THE DIRECTOR OF THE ONLY ORPHANAGE, 435 MILES AWAY. THEY TRAVELED BY MOTORBIKE 700 KILOMETERS TO THE SABULI CHILDREN'S CENTER. TO SUPPORT SABULI CARING FOR HER 80 ABANDONED CHILDREN, VISIT TAKE ACTION 

Joshua and Caleb as infants. Below they are handsome precious toddlers.

Joshua and Caleb as infants. Below they are handsome precious toddlers.

Twin brothers, Joshua and Caleb are happy and healthy. You can see the transformation a healthy diet can make with a vulnerable child. Featured below is a recent photo of the twin boy's half sister with her daughter Elisee carrying her own infant Sadaam. She brought the twins and Flora to Sabuli in May 2014 in desperation because she could not feed and care for her half siblings that were abandoned by her father after the mother died in child birth. Her son Sadaam is older than the twin boys, but much smaller due to malnourishment. CongoVoice is arranging funds to support Sadaam, Elisee and their mother. 

Children help install solar panels, next drilling for clean water

Solar Panels Installed -
Light Changes Test Scores


We are thankful for your support. 

Solar Panels Delivers Light!

In January 2014, CongoVoice attended the Retail Orphan Initiative (ROI) Conference in NYC to raise funds for solar power projects at the Children's Center. ROI's generous response led to CongoVoice contracting with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) to design and install solar panels to deliver adequate power to provide evening and morning lights to the 80 children living at the Center. Over the summer, solar panels were installed with the children's assistance at the Center. The children finally have light to study and now have the highest test scores in their respective public school classes. MAF is also planning on installing solar panels on the rooftop of the Ubangi Protestant University (UPU).  As detailed in MAF’s latest report, the solar panels are designed to be theft proof. MAF used unique headed bolts that can only be removed by a special key; the strength of the bolts are resistant to any cutting except by a high performance metal saw. 

MAF gave special acknowledgment to two girls, Florence and Chantal from the Children's Center who actively assisted in the installation of the panels. Florence and Chantal helped to carry materials, weld and even assisted in raising the panels onto the roof. Their courageous efforts are greatly appreciated!

Chantal and Florence assisting the men of MAF.

Meet Chantal: Watch her interview

Meet Florence: Watch her interview

Below is a picture of the solar panels about to be installed at UPU

Below is a photo of how the children used to study on the floor by candle. Now they study with lights above. 

Meet Hope - he was buried alive,
but now sleeps peacefully at the Children's Center.

After giving birth, the 17-year-old mother did not even have a blanket to wrap the child. The guard at the clinic gave her his own jacket to keep the baby warm. Her family had disowned her for getting pregnant and would not accept either of them. Without her parents support she had no means of feeding herself or the child. Out of desperation, she dug a hole and buried her son, believing that her family would accept her again if the child was gone. 

As the child continued to scream in the ground, she unburied him. Pleading with people in the community to help her with her child, she was directed to see Sabuli Sanguma, founder and director of the Children's Center.  Sabuli welcomed the mother and son. She bathed, fed and clothed them. Sabuli named the child: Elikia, which means Hope in Lingala.

Donations from YOU provided this miraculous outcome for Hope!

Support Sabuli's Children's Center

To specifically direct your donation or for questions regarding a donation, email CongoVoice at info@CongoVoice.org or mail your check drafted to CongoVoice to 2805 St. James Road, Belmont, CA 94002

 

Meetings with Congo Representatives:

In November, 2014 Anna-Marie Anderson, traveled to the DR Congo as a CongoVoice representative to offer "on the ground" support in a wide array of tasks. Anna-Marie has had a deep interest and passionate heart for the Congo for many years. One of her key roles will be to assess, collaborate and implement micro financed business to help expand the local Gemena economy -  funded by CongoVoice. Anna-Marie traveled with 8 crates of much needed supplies including several mobile tablet computers in partnership with Stanford University to implement an incredible new approach to education via SMILE mobile technology.

Before traveling to Gemena, Anna-Marie and Mossai Sanguma met with various key Congo representatives: 

  • Bishop of the Protestant Church (also adviser to President Kabila) to discuss CongoVoice strategy in the Gemena area

  • USAID meeting to discuss development projects and opportunities to partner

  • Minister of Education and Congolese Senator to discuss educational approaches with SMILE and CongoVoice Community Center

  • IMA World Health (Jennifer Scott) to discuss a special stove that reduces emissionss to improve Congolese health

  • US Embassy - Public Relations and Diplomacy to discuss projects and opportunities to partner

All the meetings had positive results and defined next steps in establishing valuable partnerships to improve the effictiveness of a coordinated approach to solve the many challenges the Congolese people face each and every day. 
 
Anna-Marie and Mossai visited the newly purchased property for the CongoVoice Community Center located near the central market in Gemena. There is quite a bit of buzz over the new Community Center and the planned offerings that will be available to the local Congolese people, including a preschool and sports program for the children (hosted by UPU students), an Internet Cafe for the community (operated by UPU students) and mentoring services for entrepreneurs micro-funded by CongoVoice. 

Below are pictures of Pastor Zabusu, Anna-Marie, Mossai. Bishop Marini, and Lydia Mangoni

- Upcoming Projects

Drilling a safe water well at the Children’s Center

  • Children will then have access to clean safe water, which they currently walk 15 minutes each way to the nearest clean water source See their current water source
  • Estimated cost for well drilling and hand pump is $20,000
  • Expanding the Children's Center to be able to provide nursery facilities for young babies has been planned for 2015 - this is budgeted at $50,000

Launching high-speed Internet access by the New Year at UPU

  • Will facilitate a wide array of new classes and improved communications (this has been funded - thank you) funds are needed for ongoing annual access expenses of $8,000

Launching 3 businesses by UPU students - each requiring $30,000 to implement.

  1. Improved food production and quality - building and operating a grinding mill
  2. Improved lumber quality and availability - building and operating a saw mill 
  3. Improved agriculture production - utilizing Oxen to pull plows (already on site) to reduce back breaking hand methods: Congo Animal Traction Initiative (CATI)

To help fund one of these projects donate here. Specifically allocate your donation by emailing CongoVoice or you can mail a check drafted to CongoVoice to 2805 St. James Road, Belmont, CA 94002

Thank you for your continuing support of CongoVoice

Suzanne and Mike Seashols
CongoVoice Representatives