The Story of BUHimba Community
Goma is located in North-Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), bordering Rwanda. Goma is an area characterised by instability where rebel groups have consistently launched attacks. It’s recent history has been dominated by the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the aftermath of which saw a huge number of people fleeing into the DRC and settling, as well as the environmental destruction caused by an active volcano, Nyiragongo.
The majority of the people living in and around Goma are refugees from other villages who fled the ongoing armed conflict. Food security is a daily battle as food prices spike in East Africa. Families traditionally fed themselves by growing food in this region. However, families living as refugees have no access to land, and when fields are planted informally by families, the harvests are regularly raided by rebels in the region. It is in this region where the community of Buhimba lies.
Children currently supported: 40
Number of Care Workers: 9
Distance from Likasi Local Office: 1700 kM
Basic Services Started: 2012
Buhimba is on the outskirts of the city of Goma and consists mainly of displaced people from the ongoing war in this region. The church in Buhimba is very weak and consists mainly of grandmothers, widows and orphans. The physical structures of the churches themselves are unstable, and usually temporary and insecure buildings. In Buhimba Community, many children suffer and die from preventable diseases, like malnutrition or malaria. There is government support in Buhimba but it is unable to effectively and sufficiently care for the most vulnerable due to the scores of people urgently needing access to health care on a consistent basis.
Unemployment in Buhimba is very high, often resulting in women walking high into the mountains to find wood to sell in the local market. But journeys like these are dangerous for women and children. Women are often exposed to abuse by either the rebel forces or government soldiers. There is a high rate of child labour, which can be seen everywhere in and around Buhimba, and children work extremely hard just to survive.
Buhimba Community was identified as extremely vulnerable when leaders from Hands at Work visited the community and began to serve alongside local grandmothers who were fighting for the survival of the most vulnerable in their village. Since starting to serve the children in 2016, the 10 Care Workers from Buhimba Community Based Organisation (CBO) are caring for 40 children.
Initially, Hands at Work was caring for 40 of the most vulnerable children in Buhimba using the temporary structures of a local church. But this exposed the Care Point, in the context of desperate hunger, to theft of food which was insufficiently stored. In response, a vacant church building is rented by Hands at Work. The Hands at Work local office team in Likasi, partnered with local organisation ‘Blessed Aid’, who provide monitoring and assessment on the ground, set to work constructing a storage room, cooking shelter and a shelter under which children could gather and eat. Toilet facilities were also constructed on-site to ensure proper hygiene and avoid the region’s rampant cholera outbreaks.
This building has grown into a small Care Point where the children return in the afternoon for activities like youth groups, Bible studies and opportunities for play. These children are known by name by the local Care Worker team who help the children understand they have a Heavenly Father who also knows them by name. Very significantly, this site allowed the team of local Christian Care Workers to immediately increase the number of children accessing these basic services. The Hands at Work local office team in Likasi partnered with a local organisation ‘Catholic Clinic’, who ensure that the most vulnerable children receive access to medical care.
The Care Workers in Buhimba are growing under the leadership of Hands at Work, not only in their understanding of Jesus and the Bible, but practically in how they care for the most vulnerable children in their community. As they learn about the processes involved in food purchases, health care facilitation, home repairs and education needs, they are strengthening their unity with one another and able to go deeper in caring for the children.
When Vince’s* father became ill, the family sold their land and all their possessions in a desperate attempt to provide the medical intervention and care he needed. But tragically, when Vince was just two years old, his father passed away. This left his mother, Natasha*, alone in caring for nine young children. Seeking some support to raise Vince and his siblings, Natasha moved her family in with her mother-in-law. But this did little to ease the heavy burden resting upon her shoulders.
When volunteer Care Workers found Vince and his siblings, they invited them to attend the Buhimba Care Point where the priority was to give them daily nutritious food, the first step in addressing their malnutrition. Care Workers began to visit the family in their home. Over the years, they have built a strong relationship with the family and Natasha looks forward to their regular visits. Through these, she knows that she is not alone in caring for her children anymore.
The Hands at Work local office in Likasi currently supports five Community Based Organisations in and around the Likasi region, and 2 further Community Based Organisations near Goma, which exist to care for the most vulnerable in their communities. The office provides training, networking, and encouragement to those Community Based Organisations like Buhimba. It also gives administrative support, including helping with funding proposals, monitoring and evaluation, bookkeeping and reporting to donors.