• Helen

1st meeting

It was 2009, and I had been volunteering with a preschool project in northern Rwanda. On our rest day we took a trip up to Gisenyi on the border with DRC to relax at the beach. Goma had been much in the news because of massive problems in the refugee camps along the eastern border of DRC, and now I could actually see it, just a few hundred metres away. “Would you like to visit?” asked the Director of the programme I was in, and so the following week, I crossed over the border and entered a totally different world, one which would impact my life in ways I had never imagined. I am immensely grateful that on that first visit I met Kizungu Luanda and was taken to see the orphanage he ran on the outskirts of Goma. I had travelled widely but never seen anything like Goma – dirty, chaotic, poor, tense, seething with life and activity. The orphanage was a simple, wooden house with a dirt floor and drafty walls on the lava strewn, impoverished outskirts of the city They had had very few foreign visitors, and the children were shy and curious. Kizungu was gentle, softly spoken and dedicated to his mission of helping these children. I wanted to help him. As so began my Congo journey. I have returned to Goma to visit Kizungu and the ever growing number of children every year since 2009, and I have seen each year the great progress that has been made – a new house, a new school, a playground, a women’s training centre, and many other things. It has been a deeply satisfying experience to work with Kizungu over the past 10 years and to see, amidst the enormous difficulties and the horrors that are part of daily life in eastern Congo, that together we have been able to improve the lives of these children and other vulnerable communities in the region.

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