The Members of Integral Alliance have launched a new awareness-raising campaign called ‘We’re still here’ to draw attention to Neglected Crises around the world. This campaign will run alongside the work that Integral is already doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Members have come together to start a project in Minembwe, South Kivu. This project will bring emergency agricultural assistance to a largely neglected area and highlight that the DRC is one of the most forgotten crises in the world. Here we share with you the story of one woman’s journey from tragedy and hardship to a place of safety …
Patience Bahati (22) lives in Minembwe in eastern Congo but she was not born there. She and her parents were caught up in conflict near their home many hundred of miles from Minembwe and Patience became an orphan when she was just 11 years old.
As a child, Patience suffered from epilepsy. As she and her family fled the conflict, there was an accident and Patience fell into a fire. “I lost my arm,” she says. Patience looks strong and proud but her eyes show she has lived through much pain.
Without her parents, Patience had no one to look after her and ended up living on the streets. Her disability made life even harder and she survived by working for traders, making a little money selling items on the street. “I stayed on the streets for a long time trying to find a way to survive,” she explains.
After a few years Patience had a child but she had no means of supporting herself or her son. “He was born when I was going through very hard times. His father abandoned me I think because of my disability.”
Patience did not know what to do and was in despair but then she met some people from Minembwe who helped her. They brought her to an orphanage set up by Pastor Dogo Mpimuye and she received food, medical care and a place to stay. Finally she was safe. “I did not have to worry anymore about feeding my son and clothing him as the orphanage helped us with everything.” says Patience.
It has now been seven years since Patience and her son arrived at the orphanage. She is part of a group of widows and adult orphans who help care for the young children who live in the orphanage. Like Patience, many of these children have lost their parents in recent conflicts.
The AVOC “Association des Veuves et Orphelins Chrétiens” (which in English is the “Association of Christian Widows and Orphans”) was established in 2011 by Pastor Dogo Mpimuye in response to the many children who were orphaned by conflict in the area. Children receive not only food and clothing but also love and support so they can grow up to be positive members of society. There are currently 43 children registered in the orphanage, though the association includes many more widows and orphans who have reached adulthood. The orphanage receives no government funding but relies entirely on donations.
Children at the orphanage come from a variety of communities. They benefit from a primary and secondary school programme with an emphasis on lessons specifically focused on living peacefully with others.
Pastor Mpimuye says “It is our vision that the children are helped and accompanied in their education but also in living a Christian life. We want our children to be true ambassadors of peace and bearers of messages of love.” Support is also needed for income-generating projects to help widows and adult orphans to become responsible and be able to live an independent life.
Patience has hopes and plans for the future. “I am intelligent and today I am able to do many things on my own despite my disability, such as childcare and running a small business.” She would like to earn her own income by making and selling food or learning tailoring. “This occupation would take away a lot of thoughts about my past. I will forget everything I have been through and think about my future.”
Patience’s eyes shine as she imagines having her own business. “I can be self-sufficient and able to feed my child and pay for rent and education.” Like all parents, she has great hopes for her son. “I would really like him to study so that he will be responsible when he grows up,” she says.