The Story of KISUNKA Community
Fifty kilometres east of Likasi, Southern Congo, on the shores of Lake Changalele lies the community of Kisunka. Kisunka consists of five smaller villages that together make up a community of about five thousand people, and part of the greater Kapolowe region, which boasts a population of some thirty six thousand. This region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is known for its exceptionally high rates of leprosy and tuberculosis. More recently, it has seen a spike in cases of HIV infections; though no direct relation has been made, it is assumed that a component of that is due to the influx of fish merchants.
Children currently Supported: 200
Number of Care Workers: 30
Coordinator Name: Mary
Distance from Likasi Local Office: 43 KM
Basic Services Started: 2010
The people of Kisunka depend on the most basic means of survival and their diet is restricted to what can be grown or caught. Fish and maize make up the local staple. Being so far removed from trading centres, markets, health care and educational facilities, continues to be one of the greatest struggles for Kisunka to overcome. As the cost of living continues to rise, the poor are hit hardest and being able to provide for one’s family becomes unattainable. Desperate to provide for themselves and their families, many turn to fish trading. The drastic increase has opened up a causeway for HIV/AIDS to spread throughout the region, and the number of orphans continues to escalate.
Since its inception, the Shibukeni Community Based Organisation (CBO) has grown rapidly. When it began, the goal of the Care Workers was to identify and intervene in the lives of 50 of the most vulnerable children in Kisunka community. By 2013, the number being cared for had increased to 100 vulnerable children, and this number was increased again in 2014 to 150, and today is at 200. The Care Workers have built relationships with each of the children as they identify and nurture each of their needs. Knowing the children by name demonstrates a huge value to each child, and the desire that the volunteer Care Workers have to care for their community. Along with supporting the emotional and spiritual needs of the children, Shibukeni CBO has introduced basic services of food security, healthcare and education. Some of the most vulnerable children in Kisunka have also been enrolled in local community schools, founded and run by CBO volunteers.
The Care Workers are passionate about advocating on behalf of the children they care for. The needs of the children are identified through home visits that are made in the community, where Care Workers and children can spend precious time together and build solid relationships.
Regis* is eight years old and lives with his younger brother, 13-year-old cousin Martha, and ailing grandmother. Martha became pregnant this year and was unable to support her grandmother in caring for her younger cousins. Subsequently, the boys were forced to leave school as they could not pay school fees. When Care Workers heard their story, they reached out to the family. Mama Mbuyi starting visiting them daily, supporting them and encouraging them with the word of God. In September, Regis and his brother returned to school.
The Hands at Work office in Likasi currently supports seven Community Based Organisations, which exist to care for the most vulnerable in their communities. The office provides training, networking, and encouragement to those Community Based Organisations like Shibukeni. It also gives administrative support, including helping with funding proposals, monitoring and evaluation, bookkeeping and reporting to donors.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need and practice hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13
Several Hands at Work volunteers reflect on how the watchword for 2017 has impacted them:
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.