All posts by Heidi Bentley

10 years of impact

Ten years of inspiration and transformation: The Congo Tree nurtures leadership in Congolese youth

For the past decade, we have been passionately committed to carving out a promising future for Congolese youth. Based mainly in Goma, but also present in the Masisi and Rutshuru regions, we have established ourselves as a catalyst for change, offering training in personal development, leadership and entrepreneurship to more than 1,300 young people.

At the heart of The Congo Tree’s impact is an innovative mentoring programme, pairing experienced mentors with enthusiastic young people. This approach has proven its effectiveness, encouraging a mutual exchange of knowledge and experience that transcends generational barriers.

The results are tangible, with these young people becoming undeniable agents of change within their communities. Their personal and professional transformation is evident, and their ability to create a positive impact is spreading like a ripple through the regions where The Congo Tree operates, as well as around the world.

Our success lies in our ongoing commitment to Congolese youth, with an approach focused on empowerment and capacity building. The success stories that emerge from these programmes are inspiring, illustrating how investment in young people can catalyse lasting change.

As we celebrate a decade of positive impact, the vision persists: to inspire, support and equip Congolese youth for a bright future. By providing tools and opportunities, we are actively helping to shape leaders and entrepreneurs who, in turn, will continue to build a better Congo.

Alumni Story: Willy-Marie

EN: I am Willy-Marie, student of Applied Technologies in Civil Engineering at the Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs Goma. I am a Young Leader and Entrepreneur in the city of Goma.

I was born into a family of 7 children and it was a big shock when my parents then divorced, and this has been a challenge in my daily life. My country is poor with so many problems because of armed conflict, which affected my growth, my personal development and competency. I was that girl who was always very shy and withdrawn, because of the situation in our family and country.

I learned about The Congo Tree through a friend, who motivated me to apply because she believed that it would have a great impact on my life, especially on my personal development.

I needed the confidence to assert myself in society and expand my network, and thanks to the WYLD programme, I am getting there little-by-little. The sessions that helped me the most were those of Decision Making, Self-Awareness and Communication, and by putting into practice what I learned in these, I firmly believe I will achieve my goals.

Today I volunteer at a television channel. I try to raise awareness among people and the community about communicating well (healthy communication). This is something that I would never have done before because I doubted my abilities but, after my training, I didn’t hesitate to take the step forward and take action and I owe all that to The Congo Tree.

Thanks to The Congo Tree, I am also now working as an Interior Decorator for houses in the city of Goma. Embracing the value of Creativity, I found new inspiration and decided to showcase my artistic side. Today, I am part of a business with five other young people; we are earning money and all paying our university fees ourselves.

The Congo Tree is a great school for life. I learned a lot and it really shaped me, particularly helping me to discover my place and my role in the community. I think that this programme would be beneficial for all Congolese youth because it would really create solutions for the Congo.

FR: Je suis Willy-Marie, étudiante en Technologies appliquées filière génie civil à l’Université Libre des Pays des Grands lacs Goma. Je suis un Jeune Leader et Entrepreneur en ville de Goma.

Naitre dans une famille de 7 enfants avec mes parents divorcés, cela a été un grand choc et défis dans ma vie de chaque jour. Mon pays étant pauvre avec plusieurs problèmes liées aux conflits armée a affecté ma croissance et développement personnel du point de vu compétence. J’ai été cette fille qui a toujours été très timide et renferme sur elle-même à cause de la situation dans notre famille.

J’ai connu The Congo Tree par l’intermédiaire d’un ami qui m’a motivé a postulé car elle l’avait trouvé que cela aura un grand impact dans ma vie et surtout sur mon développement personnel.

J’avais besoin de m’affirmer dans la société et élargir mon réseau et, grâce au programme WYLD, je suis en train d’y arriver petit à petit. Les sessions qui m’ont beaucoup plus aidé sont celles de la Prise de décision, la confiance en soi et la communication, avec les trois je crois fermement atteindre mes objectifs.

Aujourd’hui je fais le bénévolat sur une chaine de télévision, j’essaye de sensibiliser les gens et la communauté à bien communiquer (communication saine), chose que je ne pouvais pas  faire avant car je doutais de mes capacités mais après ma formation je n’ai pas hésité à prendre le devant et me mettre à l’action et tout ça je le dois à The Congo Tree.

Grace à The Congo Tree, Je suis aussi en train d’entreprendre dans la décoration interne des maisons en ville de Goma. Avec la valeur de Créativité, J’ai trouvé mon inspiration et ainsi je me suis décider de ressortir mon cote artistique. Aujourd’hui avec Cinq autres jeunes, nous sommes en train de gagner de l’argents est ainsi payer nos frais académiques au niveau de l’Université.

The Congo Tree est une grande école pour toute une vie, J’ai beaucoup appris et cela m’a beaucoup façonne surtout m’a fait découvrir ma place et mon rôle dans la communauté. Je pense que ce programme devrait  être bénéfique pour toute la jeunesse congolaise car cela créerait réellement des faiseurs des solutions au Congo.

10-for-10

This year, we are celebrating 10 years of The Congo Tree in action; 10 years of inspiring, equipping and supporting over 1000 young leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To ensure we have another 10 years ahead of us, we are starting the celebrations of our anniversary with 10 weeks of fundraising, with the ultimate aim of raising £10,000 (or more) and we really need your help!

Starting on 21st April 2023, the day after our official 10-year anniversary, we will be hosting 10 fundraising events in 10 weeks, finishing on Congolese Independence Day, 30th June 2023. With events here in the UK and in DR Congo, we are hoping there will be plenty to choose from when you’re thinking about how to get involved! 

You can find all the information for the 10-for-10 events and also donate via: The Congo Tree: 10 for 10 (enthuse.com)

If you have any questions or want to get involved in any way, please email Harmony on hello@thecongotree.org.uk

Events:

Documents:

General Fundraising Pack

10km Challenge Fundraising Pack – coming soon

Congolese Themed Dinner Fundraising Pack – coming soon

Sponsorship Form

Annual Report 2021-2022

Happy New Year! We’re starting as we mean to go on – reflecting, learning and celebrating the impact we had from April 2021 to March 2022. In a year where we were challenged by insecurity and volcanic eruptions, we raised more money than ever before, launched 5 new programmes, and reached a record number of people through our activities, mentoring and social action. 

We hope that you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed being part of it. And, of course, we love to hear from you – please do contact us if you have any questions or comments: hello@thecongotree.org.uk

ENGLISH: ANNUAL REPORT 2021-2022 ENGLISH

FRENCH: RAPPORT ANNUEL 2021-2022 FR

Young leaders supporting the community amidst insecurity – Rutshuru

Alicia*, a graduate of the WYLD programme, will never forget the day that her home community was attached by members of the M23 armed group.

“When the M23 arrived in my village, the sound of bullets crackled everywhere,’ she remembers. ‘I just took my two children in my arms and told myself that we have to leave because two bombs had just fallen on the neighbour’s house. As we crossed the fields, bullets kept coming towards us. I had one child on my back and the other by the hand.’

This is the daily reality for thousands of people Rutshuru Territory, a area close to the city of Goma in the eastern region of the DR Congo. Since May 2022, M23 have waged an increasingly violent campaign in Rutshuru Territory, attacking villages and seizing control of large swaths of land. More than half a million people have been displaced by the fighting (UNICEF, 2023). Many, like Alicia, fled to neighbouring communities. Others sought safety in Goma, or in camps for people who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the violence.

We’ve been supporting young people in Rutshuru Territory since 2017, providing leadership training to young people whose entire lives have been shaped by the decades-long conflict that has been waged in this part of DR Congo. Our aim is to inspire, support, and equip young people to become leaders and changemakers in their own communities – and in doing so, help set down the roots for lasting peace.

In spite of the ongoing escalation of violence in this territory, our commitment to young people in Rutshuru remains unchanged. The security situation is extremely challenging, but we have tried as much as possible to continue our leadership training programme. We’ve helped our young people organise celebrations for the International Day of Peace, emphasizing the need to see beyond ethnic, religious, or political differences. We continue to provide support to graduates of the WYLD programme who have bright ideas for small business that can help provide for their families and communities – people like Javan and Baltazare, who are now able to provide gainful employment to other people.

Since the escalation of fighting, many Rutshuru-based graduates of WYLD have gotten in touch to let us know what life is like for them now – and many have also voiced their hope to go home and continue building a peaceful future for their communities.

Displaced persons camp outside of Rutshuru – picture taken by The Congo Tree team, November 2023

Samuel*, a graduate of the WYLD programme, and his family fled from their home in October 2022, as M23 fighters advanced on their village.

“My role as a young person and especially as a leader is to give hope to my whole family,’ he says. ‘Today we live in a school, like people who are homeless, and there is no assistance. But my preoccupation is to return to my village and be very helpful for its development.”

In Goma, members of current WYLD cohort have been volunteering in the camps for displaced people, a simple but powerful way to let those who have been forced from their homes know that they have not been forgotten. We also organise daily distributions of meals to young people with children in the camps.

Unfortunately, the escalation of hostilities by M23 does not appear to be abating. While the group entered into a ceasefire agreement with the national government in Congo in November last year, they have since been accused of breaking the ceasefire on multiple occasions. Despite these challenges, we remain committed to supporting young people in Rutshuru – and in so doing, help them build lasting peace in the communities they call home.

*Names changed to protect our young people

Annual Report 2020-2021

We’re rounding off 2021 by sharing our latest Annual Report with you, covering our activities from April 2020 to March 2021. It has been a challenging year for all of us and in so many ways but, in the words of our Director, our report “is not about the influence of a virus, but about the infectious, empowered, world-changing passion of young people for their family, friends and communities.”

As you read, we hope that something in it inspires you to keep being a part of the story. And, of course, we love to hear from you – please do contact us if you have any questions or comments: hello@thecongotree.org.uk

ENGLISH: Annual Report EN

FRENCH: coming soon…

Annual Report 2018-2019

The whole Congo Tree team is excited to share with you The Congo Tree’s latest Annual Report. We started the year celebrating our 5th Anniversary and the nearly 500 young leaders that we had seen through the WYLD programme so far – and we ended the year celebrating our first programme in Rutshuru, moving in to our very own place (affectionately called ‘The Treehouse’) and the further 174 young people that we worked with during the year. What a year!

Whether this is the first report of ours that you’ve read or the fifth, we hope that something in it inspires you to keep being a part of the story. And, of course, we love to hear from you – please do contact us if you have any questions or comments: hello@thecongotree.org.uk

ENGLISH: 18-19 annualreport FINAL EN (1)

FRENCH: coming soon!

Social Action Project: Rise Up Together

EN: The Congo Tree provides each team of young leaders on the WYLD programme $100 for the development and delivery of a social action project. This challenge is to inspire young people to change society from within by using methods of group work, creativity, working for peace, leading with integrity, serving and supporting others to value their origins and to be innovative in entrepreneurship.

Thus, the August 2018 Goma cohort of young leaders initiated a project called “Rise Up Together”; a project aimed at the financial strengthening of vulnerable women with small businesses in informal marketplaces in the city of Goma.

 

Riziki (featured photograph above) was given $20. She began with selling shoes, to care for her three little sisters as well as their parents who live in the village of Katana in South Kivu. With this loan of capital, she repays $4.5 per month.

She gives us her testimony here: “I do not know what to say other than to say thank you to these young people, like me, who thought to bring some solutions to the various problems that are lived in the community. I sell these shoes and it allows for the education of my little sisters. Today, with the little profit that I earn and  with some friends, we’ve opened a shop and this is a great support for me, as well as for my family. Big thanks to The Congo Tree.”

Mrs Kahambu, another of the beneficiaries of this project with a sum of $40, gives us her testimony:

“I would never stop thanking The Congo Tree and its work with the youth. I am a married woman and mother of three, but sadly my husband ended up unemployed and life became very difficult. Thanks to the help received by these young people, our lives have improved and I feel able to support my children back into school next year. Thank you to these young people who, through their initiative, there will be one more child who will return to school and a life that has already changed. May God bless you and do not stop only at me but continue this act of love with many other families. Be infinitely blessed.”

Mrs Kahambu was able to benefit from $40 to strengthen her business of selling hats. Every week for 6 months she repaid $2.5. At her small stall, she also carries out another activity, that of braiding the other women’s hair and that allows her to make the repayments and even to save a small amount each month!


FR: The Congo Tree, disponibilise 100$ à chaque équipe pour l’exécution de leur projet social. Et ceci toujours dans le but d’inspirer les jeunes à changer la société à partir de l’intérieur en utilisant des méthodes de travail en groupe, la créativité, œuvrer pour la paix, diriger avec intégrité, servir et supporter les autres à mettre en valeur leurs origine, être innovateurs dans l’entreprenariat.

Ainsi, ces groupes des leaders mentors pour la promotion en cours pour cette année 2018, a initié un projet dénommé TUINUKE PAMOJA”; projet visant le renforcement financier aux femmes vulnérables exerçants le petit commerce dans le secteur informel dans la ville de Goma.

Madame Kahambu, bénéficiaire de ce dit projet avec une somme de 40$, nous donne son témoignage :

« Je ne cesserais de remercier The Congo Tree au travers son travail qu’il fait avec la jeunesse. Je suis une femme mariée et mère de trois enfants mais fort malheureusement mon mari s’est retrouvé au chômage et la vie nous est devenue très difficile. Grâce, à l’aide reçu par ces jeunes, notre vie s’est améliorée et je me sens capable de ramener mes enfants l’année prochaine à l’école. Merci à ces jeunes; qui au travers leur initiative, il y aura un enfant de plus qui va reprendre le chemin de l’école et une vie qui aura déjà changée. Que Dieu vous bénisse et ne vous arrêter pas seulement à moi mais faites cet acte d’amour à plusieurs autres familles. Soyez infiniment béni.»

Madame Kahambu, a pu bénéficier de 40$ pour renforcer son commerce de vente des chapeaux. Chaque semaine, elle rembourse 2.5$ et cela pendant 6 mois. A son point de vente, elle y exerce une autre activité, celle de tresser les autres femmes et cela lui permet d’effectuer les remboursements et d’épargner une petite somme.

Riziki a obtenu 20$. Elle est appelée à vendre les chaussures pour s’occuper des trois petites sœurs mais également de leurs parents qui vivent au village de Katana dans le Sud-Kivu. Avec ce renforcement dans son capital, elle rembourse 4.5$ par mois.

Elle nous donne ici son témoignage : « Je ne sais quoi dire que de dire merci à ces jeunes comme moi qui ont pensé à apporter certaines solutions aux divers problèmes qui se vivent dans la communauté. Depuis que j’ai bénéficié de cet argent, je me sens encore plus responsable. Je vends ces chaussures et ca permet de scolariser mes petites sœurs. Aujourd’hui, avec le peu de bénéfice que je gagne et avec certaines amies, nous avons ouvert une boutique et cela est un grand soutien pour moi, ainsi que pour ma famille, grand merci à The Congo Tree»

Focus on a Leader: Christian

EN: Christian has been one of The Congo Tree facilitators since 2014. He is currently working in Butembo, in the far north of the North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, supporting efforts to stop the spread of Ebola.

Christian works with many other volunteers in the response to the Ebola virus raging in the area, which has already killed over a thousand people. Christian, alongside many other young people, sacrifices his time day and night to help fight Ebola in this part of the country.  However, he also faces resistance from some young people in the area who still don’t understand that Ebola is a reality, who don’t believe that the disease needs to be fought; a disease which in some cases has killed the volunteers from the Ebola Response Team.

Due to this resistance, Christian has taken the initiative to start raising awareness of Ebola with young people in the city of Butembo, to influence them positively as they become aware of the seriousness of the disease. Since March, Christian has hosted gatherings in his little house in Butembo. Every Sunday, the young people come together to learn about how problematic the disease is, but also to discuss the development of these young people’s abilities to solve certain problems in the community.

Christian believes that, thanks to this way of doing things and to the positive influence that is being transferred to the youth, it will ensure that the spread of Ebola is limited and that the disease Response Teams can work in good conditions because often young people are the most exploited.

“Thanks to The Congo Tree, today I am able to be more creative and meet with more young people with whom I can discuss the problems of the community, especially the ways in which we can contribute to the eradication of this Ebola disease. Today, these young people are raising awareness of how to follow the necessary hygiene rules, starting with their families, and with the support of the Ebola Response team. Our hope is to see an end to this disease so that the situation can return to normal in this part of the country.” – Christian


FR: Christian, l’un de facilitateur de The Congo Tree depuis 2014, travaille actuellement à Butembo, dans le grand Nord de la Province du Nord Kivu en République Démocratique du Congo.

Il travaille avec beaucoup d’autre volontaire dans le cadre du Riposte de la maladie à virus Ebola qui fait rage dans cette région et a tué plusieurs personnes dans cette partie. Christian avec beaucoup d’autre jeune se sacrifie jour et nuit pour combattre cette maladie dans cette partie du pays mais aussi fait face à la résistance de la jeunesse de cette partie qui jusque là ne comprenne pas que c’est une réalité qui existe est que nous devons combattre cette maladie parfois même tuer ces volontaires de l’équipe de Riposte d’Ebola.

Avec cette résistance Christian a pris l’initiative de commencer à faire des sensibilisations au prêt des jeunes de la ville de Butembo , pour leurs influencer positivement et qu’ils prennent conscience de la gravité de cette maladie. Depuis le mois de mars, Christian réuni dans sa petite maison à Butembo, chaque dimanche des jeunes pour leurs montrer la problématique de cette maladie mais aussi discuter sur le développer personnelle des capacité des ces jeunes pour résoudre certains problèmes dans cette communauté.

Christian crois que grâce à cette manier de faire et à cet influence positif qui est entrain de se transférer au prêt des jeunes, cela fera a ce que la manière de la propagations de cette maladie soit limité et que les équipes des riposte de la maladie travaille dans des bonnes conditions car souvent les jeunes sont les plus manipulé.

«  Grâce à The Congo Tree, aujourd’hui je suis capable de devenir créatif et réunir autour de moi plus de jeunes avec qui nous allons discuter sur les problèmes de la communauté et surtout contribuer à l’éradication de cette maladie d’Ebola. Aujourd’hui ces jeunes sont entrain des sensibiliser au niveau de leurs familles sur le bien fonder de l’équipe de Riposte de l’Ebola et comment appliquer les règles d’hygiènes. Notre espoir est de voir cette maladie terminée et la situation redevenir normal dans cette partie du Pays. » – Christian


Focus on a Young Leader: Julien

Julien lives in Goma and is a student of the arts at Mwanga College, with a passion for reading. Interview by Sage. 

As a young leader mentored by Paisible, Julien was impressed by his mentor’s ability to speak out and share his opinion. Due to cultural context and the various problems faced within their country, particularly in North-Kivu, youth are generally not given the chance to speak in front of people. And, like many other youth, Julien was afraid of speaking out even if there was an opportunity. Yet, through his time and training on the WYLD programme, he says he is now able to speak in front of people, no matter who they are.

Julien has been dreaming of setting up his own men’s hair salon for some time. He says that his mentor has also helped him to make this a reality!

Julien explained to us how it is truly a privilege to go through challenging times with his mentor. With the various frameworks and training that he received, he came to realise that it is important to work hard throughout life, because his future depends on it.

“I began small, with the idea of my own hair salon and, with time, I have developed a big plan which will help me financially in the future. I need to continue to advance further than where I currently am.”

Julien now accepts that in order to succeed in life, it is necessary to strive and work hard: “You become big by thinking big.”