The Story of TOYOTA Community
War erupted in the DRC in 1993. Its aftermath crushed the local economy and displaced millions of people. In 2006 the rate of orphans in Toyota was enough to move a group of men and women in the community to begin caring for their orphaned children. After the creation of a partnership with Hands at Work, local staff and Care Workers identified the most vulnerable children. Tujenge was the first Community Based Organisation (CBO) in the DRC and all the other CBOs have since been born out of Toyota. Though the Care Workers that make up Tujenge have been coping with the struggles that the DRC has thrown at them and now have a large well of experience to pull from, problems still find their way here. Toyota is potentially one of the poorest communities in Likasi with a population of over 50,000 and growing.
Children currently supported: 150
Number of Care Workers: 12
Distance from Likasi Local Office: 13 KM
Basic Services Started: 2009
Reaching out to local clinics and churches, the volunteer Care Workers began to walk a long road to support the most vulnerable. Tujenge began caring and intervening in the lives of the truly desperate and impoverished providing children with the 3 Essential Services of food, education and health care. Struggling through many obstacles the Care Workers now care for 150 orphaned and vulnerable children with the aim of reaching many more. Children receive a nutritious meal daily at the local Care Point, with a view to opening another Care Point elsewhere in the community for children who live far away. The volunteer Care Workers also established and continue to maintain a local community school, through which children who are unable to pay school fees can attend.
Yet it is the way that Tujenge Care Workers visit children in their homes that makes the real difference. Visiting orphaned and vulnerable children in their homes is the foundation of everything Hands at Work does. Community volunteers, who regularly visit the children, build up strong relationships enabling them to support each child physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This also helps them to accurately assess each child’s needs and make a plan for how to best intervene and provide sustainable care for them.
In order to address the most essential needs of an orphaned or vulnerable child in Tujenge CBO, Hands at Work aims to provide one nutritious meal to each child per day, as well as provide access to education and basic health care.
Lucien* is 7 years old and has had a difficult young life. After the death of his father, he moved with his mother to stay with relatives. Lucien was a frustrated and unhappy little boy who did not want to interact with others. When Mama Mireille, a local Care Worker, began visiting his family in their home, Lucien began to slowly change. Today he can often be seen joyfully playing with his friends at the Care Point. Lucien is also excelling in 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 Tujenge. It also gives administrative support, including helping with funding proposals, monitoring and evaluation, bookkeeping and reporting to donors.
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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.