Our unexpected language barrier gaffe led to one of our most amazing days yet here in DRC. Last week Aaron was introduced to 3 women who came to the ECC office for some help and were directed to find, “Mama Mary.” I wasn’t there that day, so Aaron arranged for us to meet them at their center “on the Matadi Road” on Tuesday. Aaron thought we would be meeting with the three women to discuss what was needed to continue the work of their center for young mothers. Instead this is what greeted us:
Our group from ECC, Innocent, Aaron, Clovis, Guy and I were were greeted by dozens of women from various districts of the Federation of Women who collectively fund a center for young mothers, as well as a primary school for local children who would otherwise not attend school. The community is a little west of central Kinshasa in the midst of some small farms and rolling hills. The young mothers come from all over the Kinshasa province and live at the center for 2 years (minus holiday breaks) as they learn a variety of skills as well as receive an academic education so that they can not only provide for themselves and their children through vocational skills, but will also be able to read, write and manage money and other resources with confidence. The program has been supported by these women for several years.
The president of the Federation, Madame Marie Louise, led us on a tour of the facilities. Several classrooms, dormitory rooms, kitchen, and a bathroom are built around an inner courtyard and we met with all the women, the young mothers and several of the children as they described the programs and their history.
The women began as a Federation over 50 years ago when a nurse, Marie Mathie, traveled to Ghana and other African countries and met church women who were organized and serving in their communities. She brought the concept back to Congo, and the Federation was born. The group of women we met today have continued the tradition of serving the needs of the most vulnerable, including raising the money to buy the property for the Centre Marie Mathie Mitendi.
Currently they are looking for ways to provide more sewing machines and other materials for their vocational programs, fund the building of a compound on the property for the primary school children (they currently hold most of their classes outside), and augment the food they provide for the young women. We were thankful to have Innocent with us to ask great questions about the vocational program and Guy to help us translate! We are already looking for ways to connect them with some local resources for their teachers and will be seeking other ways to help walk with these Saints! What a way to celebrate All Saints Day. God is so good.