Pygmy Land Project 2010-2015

 
 
 
Pygmy kids look to the future. DRCongo
 
Congo Rotary Projects
 
Democratic Republic of Congo is ranked the #1 poorest country in the world. Despite its enormous mineral wealth, the majority of Congolese live in extreme poverty. Rape continues to be epidemic with an estimated 1150 women being raped every day in 2011. Congo may be the worst place on the planet to be a woman.
 
In 2008 I was called by moral imperative to do charitable work there. As a trauma psychologist, I have great compassion for women who have been raped as a weapon of war. I wanted to help stem the emotional suffering and, working with an international team, was able to design and implement a trauma healing protocol for war-survivors.
 
I traveled there on my own and began a vocational school for women victims of sexual violence. My non-profit organization, Empower Congo Women, was established in 2009, as was Centre Ushindi, my legal charity in Congo.
 
Initial financing came from private donors, but later projects have been financed by Rotary clubs like yours and Rotary International.  Partnering with Rotary has allowed us to build economic stability in the area where we work as well as improve food security and empower women to be self-sufficient.
 
I have been very fortunate to work with outstanding people in Congo, without whom little would have been accomplished. Most notable is Amani Matabaro, President of Bukavu Mwangaza Rotary Club 2015-2016. Working together with Rotary, we have accomplished much good for the people in the Mumosho area of eastern Congo. These are some of the projects we sponsored:
 
Mumosho Peace Market
 
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Demonstration Organic Farm
 
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Give a Goat Project
 
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Mumosho Community Center
 
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Safe House for Teen Mothers
 
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The Pygmy Land Project 2010-2015
 
In 2009, my friends Margaret Johnson and Betty Merner traveled from Rhode Island to eastern Congo to teach sewing to women victims of sexual violence at Centre Ushindimy. Not only did they make and sell 200 dolls, but they ended up starting a project to secure local pygmy “a home of their own.”
 
 
Margaret with pygmy child
 
 
And so the Pygmy Land Project (PLP) was born. With a fundraising goal of $50,000, they intended to buy roughly 25 acres of land near the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu province. The project was to be umbrellaed by my organization, Empower Congo Women. The land was to be negotiated and secured by Dominique Bikaba, a Congolese conservationist and friend of the pygmy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Besides being the ancestral home of the pygmy, the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern Congo is famous for its lowland gorillas, some of whom can be seen by visitors. 
 
It was the pygmy of Kahuzi-Biega who habituated the first gorilla family to humans in 1972. They followed the troop for 3 years until the dominant male Silverback allowed humans to be within 8 feet of them. Now although the pygmy made gorillas accessible to tourists, they are not included in management decisions affecting the park.
 
 
 
 
The pygmy backstory:
 
The pygmy are the indigenous people of Africa. For millennium the “forest people” lived in symbiotic relationship with nature until the 1970s when the lush rainforests of Congo were decreed national parks, and the pygmy were evicted.
 
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Since then, the pygmy have suffered much. Living on borrowed land outside the magnificent park they once called home, they have been marginalized, violated, and hunted for sport. They live in extreme poverty with little hope of improvement.
 
 
Margaret and Betty were profoundly touched by the beautiful pygmy children, their devastating poverty, and the despair that haunts displaced people.
 
 
 
Babies carrying babies
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mission Accomplished:
 
After 4 years of fundraising, the PLP realized its goal and 27+ acres of arable land were purchased and deeded to the Buyungule pygmy community as one entity. Ownership by the tribe is permanent, with stipulations in place that the land can never be taken from them.
 
The land will be used for both settlement and agriculture. The 150 families in the community have moved from a 3-acre parcel to almost 28 acres, which gives them enough land to become self-sustaining through farming.
 
 
I am still amazed that two women from the USA bought land for a pygmy community half-way around the world! Before the trip, they knew little about Congo and nothing out the pygmy. This is a testament to how much each of us can do when we see the need and take action.
 
We believe this may be the first land ever to be bought for pygmies in Congo. Congratulations Margaret and Betty!  Well done!
 
Next on the agenda:
 
Margaret, Betty and I are returning to Congo this September for a celebration to dedicate the land. Plans are in the works to build a school on the property, because their last school was destroyed by Rwandan soldiers 5 years ago.
 
The pygmy are the holders of ancient wisdom regarding plants and animals in the rainforest. Please help us keep these gentle people and their unique intelligence alive for the benefit of the entire planet.
 
Click here for more information.
 
Dr. Victoria Bentley is a Charter member of Rotary E-Club of One World. 
 
 
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"Be a Gift to the World"
 
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"Be a Gift to the World"
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CLICK HERE: To Register Your Attendance for this meeting.
 
CLICK HERE: To send a "Make-up/Attendance Donation" through PayPal - Thank You!
 
 
"Be a Gift to the World"
- See more at: http://www.oneworldrotary.org/Stories/rotary-peacehub-webinar#sthash.cFabPKek.dpuf
 
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