Sunday in Goma – August 2

From Goma today — it is Sunday, so this afternoon we will take a few hours to go up to the mountains.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit a small Congolese orphanage and center for vulnerable children, called Flamme d’Amour (Flame of Love).  There is a nun who opened this small Center as a result of the war.  She originally had the Center in the rural area but was chased into the city because of the violence.  The Center is the home to 27 children ranging from age of 6 months – 18 years.  Some children have lost their parents in the war, some were born as the “products” of rape, then cast out of the family for being “cursed” or “witches.”  Other children — their parents are just so poor — are homeless and the children are sick with malnutrition and other illnesses.  Lastly, I met with 6 girls ranging in age from 3 years to 9 years – who were raped by soldiers or rebels.  There is a belief among some men, especially in the armed forces and rebel groups, that if you rape a child under 10 years of age, even 1 year old, you will be protected from HIV/AIDS.  Several of these girls are then abandoned by the family — as they are now “cursed” or bring shame to the family.  The children are now in school, eating 3 meals a day, and have a small bed to sleep in.  They have a safe place to play and a few volunteers to care for them and love them.  The nun in charge works with the families to reunited the child with a family member. She also helps to educate families about rape and the trauma care needed for the child — she even pays for the medical care or seeks free care for the children who are raped at the Heal Africa program.  She gets extremely limited support from the hundreds of international aid agencies in the area. When I ask why, the nun says the aid agencies want to take the children to the refugee camps rather than reunite them with their families.  So, she continues to accept children into the Center and figures out ways to support the children–through donations, small commerce she has with food, and animal husbandry, etc.  Her program costs about $600 month and includes food, school fees, and medical care.   For example, a child can go to primary school for $12 a quarter in Congo.  Can you imagine how much an international aid agency receives to care for 27 children a month? The nun refuses to send the children on to a refugee camp, and frankly, based on what I see, I completely understand her unwillingness to give the children over to the large aid agencies — and refugee programs. They tend to become just another number in the camp, with very limited opportunities for future reintegration with family and community.

I continue to be impressed with the efforts of Congolese groups to address their country’s problems with limited resources and support.  I continue to have limited faith in the ability of big international agencies to do more than create greater needs for the people.

Stay Up-To-Date

Get updates on the latest stories, from hot topics, to faculty research, alumni profiles, and more.

Ways to subscribe