Ranking second to last on the Human Development Index, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is plagued by a war in which three million people died between 1998 and 2003. Continued rebel attacks in the Eastern region of Goma led the United Nations (UN) to send in its first ever fighting force, reaching peace agreements in 2013 and now hosting the largest peacekeeping mission in the world. Rebel attacks still continue in parts of the country, fuelled by the developed world selling weapons to the DRC for immense economic resources including diamonds, copper, and cobalt. Thousands of boys and girls have been recruited and used by armed groups. Only 28% of children are registered at birth in DRC, making finding and accounting for missing children a massive crisis.
In the more stable province of Katanga in the south, Hands at Work has established a strong base in some of the poorest communities and from here has launched into supporting two communities on the outskirts of Goma in the North Eastern province of North Kivu. Due to the volatility, and environmental threat of a nearby active volcano, there are serious challenges in keeping life-giving services consistent as the most vulnerable have scattered into refugee camps. One fourth of orphaned children are currently not attending school. The rate of under 5 child mortality rages in the DRC; the country ranks 8th highest in the world. 86 infants under the age of 1 will die for every 1000 born. Only 38% of children sleep under a mosquito net, leaving the majority open to contracting malaria. 44% of children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.
Young girls have a bleak future in DRC. 39% are married by age 18 and 25% will have a baby by the same age. 79% justify being beaten by their husbands, and only 13% of females have a comprehensive knowledge of HIV.
Hands at Work has found hope in local people who are giving their lives to bring transformation to their own communities. Though much of the population is cynical due to years of devastation, volunteers from the local church have still come forward in compassion to serve the most vulnerable children. Together with Hands at Work local leaders, these servants are standing strong and remaining faithful in the midst of serious challenges.
We envision the local church in Africa effectively caring for the dying, orphans and widows, and unified in this mission with the church outside Africa.
orphaned children (age 0-17): 4,000,000
under 5 mortality rating per 1000 live births: Female - 111 Male - 126
People living with hiv: 440,000
Life expectancy at birth: Female - 51 Male - 47
secondary School attendance:
female - 28% Male - 35%
population below the international
poverty line: 88%
Country rating (out of 187) on the Human Development index: 186
— Sources: UNAIDS, UNDESA 2014, UNICEF 2014
Care Workers are the key in bringing healing and transformation to the lives of our children. They are men and women from the local churches within our communities who recognize their Biblical mandate and answer their call to care for the most vulnerable children. They demonstrate what it means to give freely, love unconditionally, and sacrifice everything. Often, Care Workers face their own traumas and live in dire poverty, just as the children they care for do, but their determination to persevere and care despite their own circumstances challenges everyone they come into contact with. They are greatest in the Kingdom of God!
Just a few weeks ago, Blessings had the opportunity to return to the DRC and visit Praise again. He shares an update about him and says, “This year Praise turned three. Last year when I met him, he was very sick – at two years old he was not able to stand on his own. I had very little hope that he would make it in life. We surrounded him with prayer and interceded, but I still had little hope, and doubt overwhelmed my heart.
Praise’s grandmother Bertha began caring for him, but she was desperately poor and trying to survive. Praise was hungry - continually crying. People in the community said he would die and tried to put ritual charms around him but Bertha refused and knew God would provide. After her husband passed away many years ago, she said she learned to trust God throughout any hardship.
When Winnie’s* father died in 2010, she was only 2 years old. Her mother, Docile, was left alone to care for Winnie and her older sister and brother. Struggling to care for the family herself, while grieving the loss of her husband, was already a heavy burden for Docile to carry.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is infamously known as one of the poorest, most dysfunctional, and warn torn countries in the world. Erick Rukang, Hands at Work Leader in Likasi, DRC, reflects on the region around Goma:
Valentina* is only 7 years old, yet most of her life has been spent struggling to survive. When her father passed away, her mother was left with five children to care and provide for. In the extremely poor community of Kitabataba, finding income to buy food is almost impossible for the most vulnerable families.
At Hands at Work, our volunteers are called by God from all over the world. Each of us has a unique story of how we were transformed when we stepped out in faith and were obedient to His call. Erick says, “God was speaking to me and clearly showed me a vision of me working with vulnerable children in my country.”
Kasongo’s story could have ended with her wandering the streets of Kikula with her siblings, desperately trying to survive. With no means of supporting herself, Kasongo began to suffer physically from a lack of food. The trauma of her father dying and the rejection of her mother abandoning her have left deep scars in this young girl.
When she was very young, Bertha’s father passed away. Her family members came and took everything belonging to him, a common cultural practise in Africa. Bertha and her mother were left to live on the streets of Toyota, one of the poorest communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.