Sunday, March 29, 2009

City of Hope

The City of Hope, Cite D'Espoire, is a settlement of refugees who fled the war in the East. We understand that they moved from the East to the banks of the Congo River, where their new community was flooded. They then moved near the railroad tracks, an unacceptable alternative so the government moved them to an area of rolling hills on the outskirts of Kinshasa.
The road to the City of Hope is a deep sandy track through a busy neighborhood on the outskirts of Kinshasa -- leading to these open vistas.

The following are views of the area surrounding the City of Hope, taken by Elder Mike Wright from Johannesburg, who accompanied us on this trip. On the day we visited, the hills upon which the settlement was built were breezy and hot. Our car thermometer registered 102 degrees.

In 2007, Elder and Sister Barlow, the country directors for LDS Humanitarian Services at the time, initiated an emergency relief project for the City of Hope. They passed out hygiene kits and other supplies, including orange tarps. The orange tarps are still in use today.

As visitors to the settlement, we were impressed by the neat homesteads and the villagers' attempts to work in the difficult environment. The city is divided into five large areas for governance.

City Center buildings have cisterns for the collection of rain water during the rainy season.

Every city needs a marketplace; this is the marketplace for this area of the City of Hope.

None of the plants indigenous to the hillsides provided food or were what the villagers were accustomed to. On this homestead, food producing plants were carefully transplanted from local areas, planted and watered.

Upon arriving in a central area of the community, we met under a bowery with the elected President of the City of Hope. He told us, "God has sent you and we are greatful to him." Our contractor, Dominique Sowa, talked in both French and Lingala about the possible plans for the wells. Elder Moody talked about the importance of the water committee and the need for women to be on the committee. The President and his colleagues agreed to elect a water board. For Dominque, the City of Hope presents several challenges: the sandy roads into the area provide difficult passage for heavy drilling machinery, the wells must be very deep (about 90 meters) to reach the water table and finally, there is no electricity available to the villagers to power pumps. Dominique has suggested a foot pump that has been successful for deep wells elsewhere.

As usual, we drew a crowd. The children were simply curious, but the women were intensely interested. Obtaining water is their job, and the current system is very difficult and strenuous.

We needed to see where the villagers obtained their water for our proposal, so we walk across the hill and down the hillside to the valley where the only water was available. One of the women told me how hard it was for the pregnant women to walk down the hill and then up again with a load of water on her head. This is the climb down to one of the water stations which is spring fed.

At the base of the hills, near the water source, the villagers planted neat vegetable and casava gardens.

It is difficult to see from this picture, but the water from the faucet was a very small stream. It is still the rainy season. During the next few months, the water will disappear completely

A crowd waits for their turn at the water station and a few happy children pose for pictures.
There is a long walk to the next water station where we find a similar small stream of water. Filling containers with this flow of water is very slow, resulting in the lines of villagers waiting.

By each water station, there is a small pond which the villagers use for washing and bathing. The children happily splash in the water to cool off on the hot day, but some of the villagers have developed rashes because the water is salty. The ponds never become larger during the rainy season, nor do they shrink during the dry season.
The container below is filled with the water from the pond. So, how did their mothers get these school boys' shirts so white? No wonder they are tired.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Success Story: Clean Water Initiative

When we were returning from the City of Hope, we passed Mikundo, an area where LDS Humanitarian Service and EBAT provided five wells in 2007. We stopped by the community offices and were greeted by the chief. He escorted us to see the success of the wells.
Ebat specializes in wells that are hand-dug. These can only be about 30 meters. They dig and line the wells with a cement cylinder as they progress down. The last few meters are dug underwater!

The community leaders showed us this water station. The plan for these communities was to drill five wells, then to lay pipe from each well to create water stations in village centers, so that the distance the people have to walk for water is shortened. Because these wells are less than 30 meters, the hand pump is considered a good solution. It is reasonably easy to maintain and not dependent on electricity.
The chief reported that the water committees for these wells is working well and will be responsible for any repairs necessary.

The water stations also serving as community gathering places, especially when strangers come to visit!

They would like more wells and water stations, because the community is large and needs water badly.

We provide entertainment for women and children waiting in line for their turn at the water station.

At the second water station we visited, there was a large group of people, washing and waiting for their turn at the pump. This woman pumped water for someone else, then filled her own blue bowl, and as we watched, easily put it on her head and carried it up the hill.

There she goes!
And another woman waits her turn.

As usual, we are a novelty for the children, except for one young boy, who is not happy to see us!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Peaceful Place

The backroads of Kinshasa are busy, noisy and dusty. After driving through noisy, busy, and dusty neighborhoods, we were pleased to find this LDS chapel, peaceful and clean behind the walls that separate it from the activity in the street. There was a beautiful outdoor baptismal font, an outdoor primary (children's meeting rooms) and classrooms.

A lovely classroom on the side "porch."

The street outside was very busy. School children in their white shirts and blue pants or skirts were going home from the early session of school. People were buying and selling, and traffic made it's way along the dusty street.

Our First Site Visit

After taking backroads and alleys in an area of Kinshasa, our driver Bombyck took us to the location of a well, pump and water station approved in 2006. This was discouraging because the well was not functioning and some parts of the distribution system had been stripped. The well was designed to use solar power. The solar power failed. The contractor brought in a diesel generator and left diesel to power the generator. The water committee did not collect sufficient money to keep the generator operating. This is a valuable lesson because the water committee must be well trained and invested in keeping clean water flowing. Usually, the best tactic is to have women on the committee. One of those women should collect and hold the money. The bright spot is that electrical power is now only .3 of a kilometer away. The well should be hooked up in the next two to three months maybe ( maybe is always added to time in the Congo because nothing ever happens on time.) We will make appointments with the Chief of the area and begin the process of training the water committe so that this community that has limited unhealthy water can have clean water ( the target is 10 liters per person per day).

The children found us very interesting -- visitors far from the main road.

We Arrive in the DR Congo

The first thing we noticed was the people, people everywhere. Kinshasa is a city of approximately 7 million people. There are lots of cars and terrible traffic. The next thing we really noticed was the noise -- people shouting and honking. The women dress in beautiful colors, the Congolese people are truly beautiful.
Our apartment is not far from the Congo River and from our office in the LDS Mission Home. We are acrossed the street from one of the many UN compounds and not far from the embassies. On the corner of the street there are two sisters who sell us fresh fruit; next to her there is a man who sells tropical plants. Our apartment needs some work so we will be visiting him often. There are small stores around town, but we will have to get our driver's licenses and learn the system before we venture too far. It would be very easy to get lost.