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Country of the Week: Democratic Republic of the Congo
March 2, 2017

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second most populous French-speaking country in the world — second only to France. However, the people of the DRC represent over 200 ethnic groups, speaking nearly 250 languages and dialects throughout the country!

Unfortunately, those diverse groups haven’t always gotten along. As a result, the DRC has experienced many years of ethnic conflict and even civil war. But YALI Network members just like you are putting their skills to work — skills as diverse as the country itself — to bring people together and reduce conflict in the land they all share. Read on to learn how a few of them are applying their skills for the greater good in this week’s #CountryoftheWeek blog post!

Our first featured member, James Ntakiruti Gihoma, is from Goma, but he had to flee the DRC due to ethnic conflict. He now lives in a refugee camp in Uganda.

Life in the camp has been difficult, but “since I started taking YALI Network Online Courses,” James says, “my life has changed — especially the way I do activities in my community.” After receiving three course certificates, he has focused on sharing his knowledge with other young people by hosting #YALILearns events. He has hosted ten so far!

Group of people sitting on grass as someone teaches (Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

For example, James says, “I used the skills I gained from the human rights courses to inform fellow youth to advocate for women and girls’ rights to education” and to “encourage parents to focus on educating their girls.” Also, he says, “I have used the leadership courses to convince youth and community leaders to volunteer and support education.”

Now, James says, “We always meet after community work and talk about human rights and girls’ right to education.” (One such meeting is pictured above.) The project is expanding, he says: “Our program has initiated three learning centers that are educating 400 children in the community.” Way to go, James!

The next featured member, Santa Aziz, comes from Kinshasa, the capital of this week’s #CountryoftheWeek. While Santa is new to the YALI Network, “I have interacted with Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni” and participated in a community service day with them, she says.

Santa is the executive director of Maisha Mazuri, a non-governmental organization that “works with the community, for the community, in many cities in the DRC.” Through her organization, she says, “I work with a large group of volunteers to improve the living conditions of orphans in more than 47 orphanages. I help homeless people find housing and shelter. I work with homes for elderly people as well as vulnerable ones (i.e., victims of abuse, widows, people with HIV/AIDS, and LGBTI people).”

Woman standing in hallway holding mop (Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

Santa says, “We are also touching the most important class of people, the youth, and I believe our example, our journey, our history can be a leading example for many.” She hopes her work will “motivate other people to help the community where they live, work, and interact with others,” and says, “I am looking forward to being more involved in the YALI community.” Welcome to the Network, Santa!

Our last featured member of the week, Brackley Cassinga, is a self-taught electronics and information technology (IT) engineer from Bukavu. “I have built a few devices,” Brackley says, “like a solar controller, an audio amp, inverters, regulators, home automation systems — all starting from scratch with recycled components.”

Brackley shares these skills with others to make a difference in his community. “I started an electronics workshop,” he says, “which helps other young people who are passionate about technology and recycling to come together and build useful electronic appliances.”

“I also do classes with girls and children,” Brackley says. “I teach them about coding, how to design websites, and how to create mobile applications. I now have more than 20 different people to train almost every day, and my training is free of charge.” A local university even approached him to teach, but he wasn’t able to accept the position because he didn’t have the right educational credentials.

Well, Brackley, we at the YALI Network hope you’ll share your skills by hosting a few #YALILearns events!

Group of men holding plastic containers (Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)