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.

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