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Where are they now?

20th April marked 3 years since our very first day of training with 14 Leader Mentors on our pilot programme in Goma. To celebrate we thought we’d let you know what they are doing now!

 

 

 

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MEDI – Having set up local social-action organisation BADEN Developpement andthe childrens project Watoto Vacanc’art, Medi has now stepped into the role of Team Leader for The Congo Tree! He is also currently studying Economics and Financial Management at ULPGL.

FIDELE – After his internship with The Congo Tree, Fidele took on the role of Finance Officer with The Congo Tree. He works full-time for a local NGO working for the protection of women.

ELYSEE  – Elysee is mum to a gorgeous 3 year old daughter, and volunteers with Rudi International, a project that works to support education, especially for children and women.

ALAIN T  – Alain now works at the Bank of Africa, a job he got almost as soon as he finished his studies. At our recent graduation event, Alain gave his testimony of how his training with The Congo Tree supported his personal development and self-confidence, helped him secure his job, and continues to remind him how to improve and work with others.

FRED – Fred was arrested in October 2015 at a conference that was promoting young people’s involvement in the democratic process and is still being held in prison in Kinshasa. An inspiring leader with integrity, Fred is still in regular contact with The Congo Tree team, and is staying positive and strong whilst Amnesty International and others continue to campaign for his release.

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ARSENE – Arsene was our first engagement Intern. He is the co-founder of Rudi International, an organisation working to support women and children’s education in DRC, and now runs his own business. An inspiring leader, Arsene is well known in the Goma community. He has worked for Peace One Day and recently undertook the YALI internship programme in Washington DC. He remains a facilitator and ambassador for The Congo Tree.

ALAIN K – Alain was a guard with Tearfund when he started his training, and continued in this role for a number of years, whilst also training as a Congo Tree facilitator.

JULIEN M – Julien has just finished his studies in Community Development, and is currently job-hunting. He is volunteering in a number of roles, including as a new Congo Tree facilitator, and has just started to support us with some community research.

BELYDIA – Lydia is studying Finance at ULPGL and is now our Operations Intern. Lydia has continued to support The Congo Tree over the past 3 years and is excited to be part of the DRC Team.

GRACIA – Gracia moved to Kinshasa last year to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist. She is currently working at a bank, and still supports Rudi International and World Changers, a group of young people who meet to learn together and discuss world issues.

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MOISE – Moise has set up a business with a friend, selling mobile phones and other electronic items. He is now based in Kindu, in the heart of Congo, with regular trips to Dubai – he and his friend now have 3 shops in Kindu and have further expansion plans. Moise has remained in contact with The Congo Tree and is interested to see when the WYLD programme will reach Kindu!

GRACE – Grace finished her internship with us last year and has continued to be a trusted ambassador and facilitator with The Congo Tree. She is finishing her studies at ULPGL, whilst also volunteering with Rudi International and the Amani Festival.

JULIEN F – Julien was the first of the pilot programme trainees to secure a full-time job after the training – at the Bank of Africa. He credits part of his success in interview and in getting a swift promotion to his training with The Congo Tree and how it opened his eyes to his strengths and weaknesses, how to continually learn and develop, and how to work well with others.

MICHEE – Michee was an intern with The Congo Tree for just 3 months before he was offered a place on a prestigious training scheme in Kinshasa to become a civil servant. He has now completed his training and remains in Kinshasa in a full-time job in government. He is also still in regular contact with The Congo Tree, and is using his contacts in Kinshasa to help us with our legal registration in DRC.

Mentoring: Medi’s Story

One of the core values of The Congo Tree is INSPIRATION; that ‘everyone can be inspired and be inspirational, and every person is called to inspire within their own environment’. This value is most clearly worked out through our mentoring scheme and the truly amazing young people that give up their time to mentor others like them, just a little younger.

The Congo Tree has been mentoring Congolese youth since 2013 and now there are over 180 young people who have been trained as what we call ‘Leader Mentors’. Leader Mentors are paired with a Young Leader who they will support for at least a year, and often longer.

There are currently 56 young people in mentoring relationships through The Congo Tree directly. The Congo Tree has also set up mentoring schemes in secondary schools in Goma, where there are currently another 60 mentoring pairs – in total, that’s 166 young people invested in supporting and inspiring each other to ‘be part of the story’.

There are countless stories of how these mentoring relationships have inspired both the mentee and the mentor, but below is the story of one…

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Medi has grown up in Goma with his parents and two brothers. He believes that growing up in Africa was good, but sometimes it was difficult living in DRC because of the war. Medi valued going to school, however the teaching was mainly theoretical and not practical. Through The Congo Tree he was able to learn more things, not just in theory but in practice as well. The best example of this for him was mentoring:

“You are a leader but you also have someone following you so you are able to help them and put into practice [what you have learnt].”

Medi says that: “Knowing that there is someone who is following me means I have to behave in a way that is responsible and will help this person grow as well. It helps me to also understand people’s problems, how to listen to them, how to help them solve their problems, and how to help people in general.”

11174270_10153057184418598_5543620502711046021_oMedi was a mentor to Baby. They spent a year together, meeting every month to support Baby with his goals and dreams, as well as general life stuff. Prior to his time with The Congo Tree, Medi had helped to set up a local social action organisation called BADEN Developpement, to support children in poverty in DRC particularly by creating space and opportunity to have a voice through arts, sports and training. Medi asked if Baby wanted to come along and get involved. Baby jumped right in and loved it, and did such a good job that he is now the Coordinator of BADEN!

Medi has also come a long way since his initial training with The Congo Tree. Following a brilliant year as an Intern with the DRC Team, he has just stepped up into the role of DRC Team Leader! Medi now leads the teams of interns and facilitators; training, equipping and supporting them to run our programmes and meetings. He continues to a key part of our social action projects and leads our schools work in DRC and says:

‘The biggest thing that drives me is to see Congolese youth see things in a new way, and take major decisions to change difficult situations. Influencing others in a positive way is our work everyday.’

Medi says that he has been inspired by the investment in him and we can see that he continues to be an inspiration to the Congolese young people that he works with. We’re so excited to have him leading our DRC Team!

Into the Mountains of Masisi – Working with Former Child Soldiers

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Amy and Heidi traveled with newly-trained The Congo Tree Facilitators, Reagan and Andy up into the mountains of Masisi, an area of the DR Congo where there has been intense fighting and displacement over the years. After a long and eventful journey they reached their destination, Masisi Centre, where they ran their 3-day young leaders programme with former child soldiers. Global Outreach Foundation (GOF), who have been supporting ex-child soldiers, who they call their Peacemakers, with their rehabilitation over the past 1-2 years, invited The Congo Tree to run their programme with some of their Peacemakers. Amy shares their story:

As we pulled up to our guest house, the young men aged 12 to 17, were all there eagerly waiting for us, some of them having walked for up to 3 hours to get there.  The first thing that struck me was just how young they were. I’ve read much about child soldiers and have encountered many active ones in DR Congo and Central African Republic, so I thought I knew what to expect, but I was surprised and overwhelmed at how much they really were just kids.

Each one of the young men had their own story, some were forcibly recruited and others joined under desperate circumstances, often times being orphaned and rejected by their extended family first. How they got into armed groups may have differed from one to the next, but one thing was consistent with them all, they have all seen and experienced unimaginable things and they therefore are all urgently in need of acceptance and love. They need to know that they are not a mistake, that it wasn’t their fault, that they are valued and that they have a purpose. When I thought of what they had been through, what they had been forced to do, what had been done to them, I would feel my heart breaking and had to choke back the tears because they didn’t really need my tears or pity, they needed hope.

We may have only had 3 days with them, but we were determined to make those days count.

Together we spent the next few days trying to create a ‘retreat’ atmosphere – which with no running water, no electricity, one shower for 20 people (with no door on it, not sure how that’s supposed to work!), squat toilets, rooms that are made of plastic sheeting and beds that smell of years of damp, was quite challenging. But for these guys it was great. They seemed so happy to have time away just for them and they ate like it was their last meal (seriously, I have no idea how they ate so much!).

During the days we ran our programme covering topics like communication, working in a team, giving encouragement, problem solving, leadership and much more.

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We had to constantly adapt our programme to make it as practical and interactive as possible because they were incredibly skilled at the practical.  For example, we would give them the same problem-solving activities that we give our older, more educated youth in Goma and they solved them quicker than we have ever seen! Amazing!

One of our favourite sessions was the session on encouragement. We talked about encouraging and appreciating one another, something they haven’t experienced much, and gave them the opportunity to practice by asking for volunteers to say a word of encouragement to someone else in the room. Slowly they stood one by one to say how they appreciated each other, giving examples such as having someone walk with them or wait to make sure they arrived okay. As they did this something shifted in the atmosphere as they began to realise the power of positive words. The smiles on the faces of the ones giving the positive word were almost bigger than the ones receiving them. At the end of it we asked them how they felt and the said ‘joyful’; it was an incredible thing to witness!

In the evenings we taught them how to play UNO (which was challenging enough with the language barriers let alone with some of them being colour blind!), and had a talent show which ended in them teaching Heidi and I how to dance a traditional local dance which involved a complicated combination of moving shoulders, hips and legs all at the same time. Heidi and I thought we were great, but their constant laughter at us might indicate otherwise!

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As part of the training we got them into smaller groups and asked them to think about how they could do something to serve and help their community. We asked them to design a project which could cost up to $50 and told them that if we thought it was a good idea then we would fund it. In other training sessions, proposals have usually been for small one-off activities, but these guys thought completely outside the box.

They each designed a project that would enable them to multiply their $50 so that they could do more with it. For example, one group came up with the idea of buying a pig, raising it and then selling the piglets, which would make a profit of $250 which could then be used to pay for school fees for the children in their village who couldn’t afford it. Each group came up with a creative, practical and relevant project that would benefit their community and earn them some income.

We were so excited at the end to tell them that we would finance each of their projects. Their reaction of jumping into the air and loudly cheering gave me goose bumps, because I could see that where $50 to us might mean a nice dinner out, $50 to them meant that somebody believed in them and somebody trusted them.

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It was such a privilege for us to be part of the work that GOF is doing and to be able to encourage them, show them love and see their confidence grow. It was so hard saying goodbye, and Heidi and I have left a piece of our hearts in those mountains of Masisi but we are comforted in knowing that we have played some small role in their lives and that this weekend will be remembered as a time of joy and hope which they will carry with them back to their homes and villages.

 

 

We would like to thank our supporters for their generous giving; without you this work would not be possible. If you would like to give to the work of The Congo Tree, please visit us at http://thecongotree.org.uk/donate/ or for more information or to join our mailing list please contact us at hello@thecongotree.org.uk

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Hebdavi’s story

Hi my name is Hebdavi and I am a Congolese national. Congo is my home and I love my country.

Growing up in DRC hasn’t been easy though. The constant traumatisation due to repeated wars and experiencing all the evil around you leaves you with crushed hope for the future. There are around 2.6 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Congo and it is estimated that 80% of the population in Eastern Congo has been displaced at least once in their lifetime. I don’t doubt this because I have been displaced myself and so have all my friends. Forced migration produces long term psychological effects on the displaced; there is a feeling of uselessness, dependency on aid and an inferiority complex that is forced on you. As a young person in DRC, you therefore grow up feeling limited in what you can achieve and also feeling like a “lower” human being or less important person compared to the rest of the world.

The formal education system, which hasn’t been updated to reflect 21st century realities, doesn’t help much either. School is turned into a place for memorizing multiple old theories that are just not practical in real life.

When someone wants to challenge the government, it puts his life and the life of his family in danger. In 1999, my father, as a church leader in North Kivu province, tried to challenge the government on the prevailing injustice. Instead of justice, my whole family were forced to flee the country, fearing for our lives. We lived in exile for 4 years. Such factors leave young people with the idea that you must find how to fit into the system or else face dire consequences. As a result, generation after generation, there is no improvement in the system because very few are willing to pioneer change; the risks are just too high.

Despite this, the Congo remains a country with great potential. Its untapped mineral reserves are of strategic global importance and are estimated to be worth US$24 trillion, making the country perhaps the richest in the world. In order to merge the social-economic situation of the country with the wealth written about in books and reports, leadership is required. Positive leadership will raise the country from the situation of extreme poverty and injustice to God’s intended purpose.

This is why I joined The Congo Tree. It’s an opportunity to impact Congolese youth and make sure they know they are much more valuable than they have been led to believe. The Congo Tree is an opportunity to raise up a new generation of leaders who can progress the nation and turn things around. It provides opportunities to bring young people together and to make us think together through topics that would never be found in the formal education system. There is also the creation of networking and peer support among youth who are likeminded and can help each other grow stronger and not give up on their dreams.

The best part of it is the increased self-esteem. Young people come out of the training sessions with a determination for change and a different way of thinking. They recognize that poverty and injustice can be changed; it’s not our fate, we are not doomed to stay in this status quo. God created us for a much greater purpose and it’s time to live out that purpose.

The WYLD Programme

The World Youth Leadership Development (WYLD) Programme is our transferable skills and leadership development training course.

Transferable Skills are learnt behaviours that are necessary within many social contexts, specifically the workplace. They are often the skills that allow theory to be put into practical action. The 2012 UNESCO Education For All report defines transferable skills as including, “the ability to solve problems, communicate ideas and information effectively, be creative, show leadership and conscientiousness, and demonstrate entrepreneurial capabilities” (p.27-8). So what we mean when we say ‘transferable skills’ is:

Problem-solving skills: Intellectual skills that enable you to identify and analyse problems and find creative, realistic solutions.

Communication skills: Also called interpersonal or people skills, these allow you to positively relate to, communicate with, influence and inspire, and to express your ideas and opinions articulately to others.

Creative skills: Includes both practical hands-on or technical skills and creative, innovative thinking around possibilities, solutions and opinions.

Entrepreneurial capabilities: Aspiration and resilience – this is the skill to put creative problem-solving ideas into practice, along with good time, task and resource management and the ability to plan strategically.

Leadership skills and conscientiousness: These concern character, for example, integrity and values, reliability, diligence, decision-making ability, responsibility, and organisational skills. They also cover vision-casting and the ability to lead others.

These transferable skills go hand-in-hand with a person’s self-awareness and self-confidence, and personal values.

So, how does the WYLD Programme help develop these skills?

Well, we believe strongly in peer learning and mentoring.  In everyday life, we learn from each other: when we’re really stuck on a problem, it is normal to ask someone for help, and this is most likely to be someone we know. This is naturally an informal process, but in the WYLD Programme, we practice it a little more intentionally, because we believe that we all learn best when there is a challenge or problem to be solved, the learning is shared, the learning is related to our lives, when we are involved in ‘doing’ and when there is time to reflect. Most of all, we learn best when we are enjoying it – when we are having fun!

But what does the WYLD Programme actually involve?

Our programme involves a lot of activities, discussions, scenarios and challenges. It is run by facilitators, not teachers, and our facilitators are fully trained to support young people to own their own learning.

The whole programme is generally run over a year. At the beginning there are 3-4 intensive training days, and after that, we hold monthly meetings. We also set a team challenge to design and present a social action or enterprise project for the benefit of the local community which, if presented well, will be awarded a small grant and groups then have a year to organise and begin their project. A graduation is held at the end of the year and everyone who completes the programme gets a certificate.

The programme is available at two levels; our Young Leaders are 13-18 years old, and our Leader Mentors are 18-30 years old. We believe strongly in mentoring, and so Leader Mentors are paired with a Young Leader and they spend time together throughout the year in a mentoring relationship, supported by our team. This relationship often continues long after the training has been completed.

In addition to sessions that cover the transferable skills we shared above, our programme includes a number of sessions:

• Leadership: theory and attitudes,
• Leadership Images of Serving, Stewarding and Shepherding,
• Personal Values and Group Culture,
• Being a History-Maker,
• Conflict Resolution and Peace-Building,
• Mentoring: theory and practice.

Our next training courses: 

→ Goma –  September 2020

→ Rutshuru – October 2020

→ Masisi – November 2020

→ Bweremana / Sake – currently planned for December/January 2020

Application forms are made available one month before the training course begins, so if you are 13-30 years old, based in any of these locations and interested in applying, please email Medi at: medi@thecongotree.org.uk

If you’d like any more information on our programme; on the practicalities of how it runs, the research and theory behind what we do, or if you’d be interested in finding out about what is involved in hosting the WYLD Programme in your context, please email us at: hello@thecongotree.org.uk