Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) has become internationally known for its brutal civil wars, the country bears vast mineral resources, which have been the source of a prolonged and violent conflict that has claimed the lives of more than six million people since 1997. The Second Congo War, also known as the Great War of Africa, claimed the highest death toll of any conflict since WWII. Corruption and violence remain endemic in the DR Congo and nowhere more so than in the country’s northeast, near the border with Rwanda. DR Congo has been referred to as the world capital of rape and torture due to its heinous politically-charged criminal activity.
Though the war has been officially declared over, villages around the north eastern city of Goma still remain plagued by the presence of raiding rebel forces. Compounding the problem, an active volcano overshadows Goma and the surrounding villages resulting in razor-sharp rocks lining the city streets and covering large areas of land desperately needed for growing food for the local population. As the chaos of war subsides, the impact of the AIDS crisis in DR Congo is becoming more evident. The government’s response lags significantly behind neighbouring countries and many AIDS patients remain without any access to life-prolonging ARV treatment. The state of many of DR Congo’s 32 million children is desperate. Many live in a reality wrought with conflict, disease and death. Scores of children have lost their parents to AIDS or witnessed their parent’s deaths at the hands of soldiers and rebels.
The physical and psychological trauma is enormous. Many children cannot afford schooling, basic healthcare or even adequate food. DR Congo officially came in last out of all 187 countries on the Human Development Index, a tool that measures a nation’s level of development. Hands at Work began partnering with local Christian leaders in 2005 by training and equipping those who shared its vision of hope for the DR Congo. Since 2009, the Likasi Hands at Work Service Centre has been mentoring eight communities in DR Congo, some incredibly rural and others dense and urban.
Dedicated to Serving
In the southern city of Likasi, Erick Rukang oversees Hands at Work’s local Service Centre operating in the DR Congo. His job, to form and facilitate care teams in the region’s most broken communities, demands a lot. It demands meeting with church leaders to help them discover their God-mandated responsibility to care for the orphaned and the vulnerable. It demands walking with care workers into the homes of abused and orphaned children to demonstrate building relationships that heal and transform.
The community of Toyota, 7km from the Service centre, is a place where such indispensable relationships are formed. Erick has helped mentor and train a team of local volunteer care workers who are touching and transforming lives in Toyota. The team operates a school and provides a hot, nutritious daily meal for the community’s most vulnerable children. They also visit each child in their homes.
One such child is 6-year-old Gracious who lives alone with his blind mother since his father passed away after suffering for a long time with tuberculosis, a disease closely related to HIV. Gracious’ widowed mother would have struggled to provide for even basic needs for a growing boy if not for Erick and the Toyota care worker team. But with their help, today he is a happy and healthy boy attending Grade 1 at the Toyota community school and receiving a nutritious meal 6 days per week.