World Toilet Day: Would You Donate your Birthday for a Toilet?

It's World Toilet Day! Why, you might ask, is a World Toilet Day necessary?  It warrants its hashtag because being toilettes provides potential for outbreaks of life-threatening diseases like cholera.

Yesterday we announced the amazing, fantastic news that Robin Wright launched a sleepwear line and campaign to raise money for the women of Congo, donating 100% of the profits to both Action Kivu's work and another amazing organization, Synergie!

It makes you want to be like Robin Wright, right?  Here's another opportunity to help.  First, check out how Robin Wright donated the funds for the latrine at the Peace Market in Mumosoho in 2011. On our visit in January 2012, we witnessed the completion of the project, and the careful chiseling of the sign to honor "Mama Robin" for her generosity.

Next, think about how you might take your toilet for granted.  There are 2.5 billion people who are toilettes, and we are looking for $8,500 in funds to build latrines for a few hundred of them. There are 475 elementary and secondary school children at the Burhembo school in eastern Congo, for whom the current “facilities” are holes in the ground, surrounded by insubstantial walls. As it is now the rainy season, these toilets are a safety hazard as well as a public health risk, when the girls fall in and get hurt.

It’s not a sexy subject, but it’s a vital one for the kids in Congo. If you’re interested in helping to raise funds for the school kids at Burhembo, consider donating your birthday – instead of friends taking you for dinner or lavishing you with gifts, they can give to Action Kivu, and kids can have safe toilets, all because of you!  Email Rebecca Snavely at actionkivu@gmail.com to connect.


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Robin Wright Launches Sleepwear Line to Benefit Women of Congo!

We are honored and thrilled to announce that Robin Wright has chosen Action Kivu as one of two organizations to receive the profit of sales from her new sleepwear line through socially-conscious sleepwear company Pour Les Femmes.  Robin met Action Kivu founder Amani Matabaro on a visit to eastern Congo, and has since supported his work with the community there, using her voice and celebrity platform to raise awareness, and giving her time, energy, passion, and money, to people who are too often overlooked.  She documented her visit over at The World Post, noting:

"The women from the Action Kivu sewing center also came out to meet us and asked that we carry their message of triumph and hope back tothe U.S. What they were most looking forward to was the completion of Amani's ongoing project--the Peace Market.

"Mumosho is a small village located about 16 miles from Bukavu, situated right on the border with Rwanda, which means it is 16 miles away from the nearest market. Therefore, the women of Mumosho were forced to walk for hours to purchase basic goods, including food, soap, and clothing. And during their trek through the forest, they were vulnerable to attacks from the roving militias, including the FDLR. As a result, many women simply did not make the journey for fear of being raped or shot, and the community in turn suffered.

"Now, less than a year after we visited Mumosho and saw the beginnings of the Peace Market, it is built, complete with a roof to protect people from the rain, and a place of refuge and shelter for the community."



Later learning of the need for latrines at the Peace Market, essential to prevent an outbreak of cholera, Robin promptly donated the funds needed to build the toilets.  Her compassion and generosity have made an indelible mark in the lives of the women and children in eastern Congo.  And she continues to do so, through this beautiful line of sleepwear, and invites you to make a difference, too.

Visit plfdreams.com to learn more about the pajamas and to purchase.   100% of profits are going to Action Kivu and  Synergie Des Femmes, to support the women of Congo!



Read more about Action Kivu's work in Congo here:




(Photo courtesy Pour Les Femmes)

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A Goat's Good Standing: Creating Community in Mumosho, Congo

"In Shi culture, [a tribe in eastern Congo] it is a cultural idea that a goat is good standing in the community.  When you marry a woman, you give a cow AND a goat," Amani told us at lunch in a Westwood cafe crammed with college students.  They hovered over their laptops, taking for granted the constant electricity and espresso drinks that fueled their studies, unaware that they could be eavesdropping on an inspiring man who might teach them more than a semester of Anthro 101.

My Goat is Your Goat is a husbandry project Amani started for the community Action Kivu serves in Mumosho, DRC.  It is a wild success, Amani reported to us on his recent fundraising trip to the U.S.  Not only does it serve the people in a place where a goat acts as money to buy land, or as a gift in marriage, but it builds trust in a place where trauma has torn neighbors apart.

Not only can the women sell the additional kids to earn income for their families, and use the goat feces for fertilizer to grow better crops of food, but they can participate in their community in a meaningful way.  Before his long journey to the U.S., Amani had made one last visit to the Mumosho Women's Center, where three women were bringing baby goats to pass them on to the next neighbor.  They were so excited to be able to do that, he told us.  

"If I want to buy a piece of land from you, we can count it in terms of goats.  If I want to immortalize our friendship, I give you a goat.  If that happens, our friendship is solid.  Valuable.  Through My Goat is Your Goat, the neighbors share the babies of the gifted goat. For a poor woman to have a goat, it gives her pride.  It means: 'I am somebody in the community.'   It is social, community building."  Amani points to Cate, co-founder of Action Kivu, to illustrate.  "Cate is keeping the goat, but I know the baby will come to me.  The goat owner is now accountable to the organization and to me.   The goat owner is now accountable to the organization and to me," Amani repeats, to emphasize how important that is in a place where people have so little.

In our western world where giving a goat to a neighbor might not mean as much as it does in Congo, we hope you can find ways to connect with your community, to be accountable to each other.  Your donations to Action Kivu are a way to connect and partner with the people of Mumosho make possible these life-changing programs!  Thank you for your ongoing generosity.


Read more about Action Kivu's work in Congo here:
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Give a Goat (or Chicken): The Animal Husbandry Project in Congo

Our goat family in eastern Congo is growing, and welcoming a new animal into the herd: chickens! 

Originating with 50 goats, the husbandry program is expanding, and when members of the community gathered this June at the Mumosho Women's Center, 31 additional families received goats, and 22 families took home a chicken.  The chickens were primarily distributed amongst teen mothers who do not live at the women's center, to provide eggs to help feed their children, and to raise up baby chicks to pass on to more families.

Currently, the goats help with feces to fertilize the small plots of land farmed by the members of the community.  To provide nutritious goat's milk and cheese will be the next step in the project, after finding the correct breed of goat that produces more milk. 

As Amani noted when the program began, "When a baby goat is born, the family caring for the goat will return the baby to ABFEK to pass it on to another neighbor who is waiting. Paying forward the good in their lives, providing more milk to drink and sell, the community will grow stronger, Amani explains. Which is why the project is called, 'My goat is your goat.'"

The addition of our feathered friends means it's time for a name change...

If you'd like to partner with the people in eastern Congo, consider a one-time or monthly donation.  All funds go directly to programs like this on the ground, and every dollar makes a difference.

Families meeting their goats, June 2014.

 Read more about the programs:




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She Ain't Heavy, She's My Sister: Inspiring Sisters Carrying Each Other in Congo

Many of the women we work with in Congo come from large families, with five or more children. Either a single mother themselves, or raised by one, they struggle to feed, clothe, and educate their kids, while the children work to grow and sell food, cart heavy loads for miles for pay, kids carrying their younger siblings, strapped to their backs while they work.


The image of carrying one another rings true in Bienvenie's story, which we shared after meeting her during our visit to eastern Congo in January of 2012. She shared that she is proud of her mother, who cares for her and her siblings with the food she harvests from their farm. Bienvenie is proud of her new sewing skills, and, at that time, dreamed to have her own business. Denied a basic education, she always longed to learn to sew, but her mother could not afford to send her to the sewing school.

"I’ve been dreaming for a long time, how I could learn to sew," Bienvenie told us in Mashi, her first language. "Because I didn’t get a chance to go to school, I asked my mother to send me, to pay tuition for me to learn to sew. But my mom is too poor, she could not afford it. But the people who started this program, I don’t know what I could give them. People who are supporting this program, I don’t know what to tell them, because for me, it has been a dream to have a place where I can learn sewing, and here I am. I am very happy."

Bienvenie's dream came true. Because of the people in the United States and around the world who support Action Kivu's work in Mumosho, Bienvenie graduated with a sewing machine in the summer of 2012, and is now one of the women who will make the school uniforms for the children Action Kivu sends to school with education assistance. She now runs her own business, making clothes for her community, and caring for her mother, who is ill and can no longer work.

Bienvenie can no longer strap her sister Cozi to her back, but her success is what inspired Cozi to join the Teen Mother's program at the Mumosho Women's Center, where she is part of the sewing workshop. Cozi will graduate with the skills and support to start her own business, and follow in the footsteps of her sister, changing the way women are viewed in their communities, creating paths for others to make a better life for their sisters.



"To the people who support the program and purchase the sewing machines: I am weeping inside my heart, I am grateful." — Bienvenie

“My entire life is a new story after I had joined the ABFEK sewing program. My colleagues in the program have become a huge support for me and my child. This program is an answer to so many of my problems.”  — Cozi

If you'd like to partner with the women in Congo, click here!  Every dollar makes a difference and goes to the work on the ground, from entrepreneurial trainings to literacy classes to agricultural instruction.
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Mother's Day: What to Get for the Mom Who Has It All? A Sewing Kit for a Mom in Congo!

What to get for the mom who has it all? After all, she has *YOU* in her life, what more does she need?

Celebrate Mother’s Day with a gift for a mom in Congo! When you purchase a sewing kit, you will receive a card to print for the mother in your life, sharing the story of a mother in Congo whose life will be changed by your gift. $195 buys a sewing machine, fabrics, and tools for a woman like Maombi to start her own business, earn income to feed, clothe, and educate her child, and help break the cycle of poverty in her community. Visit actionkivu.org/donate.html to give today!



Read more about just a few of the many women whom you’ll be partnering with in Congo:

Life became very difficult after Maombi’s father died in the 1996 war in Congo. She helped her mother cook, clean, and farm, too poor to attend past the fourth grade in elementary school.

One day, at the Peace Market, where neighbors from the various villages that make up Mumosho gather to buy and sell vegetables, fruit, fish, and small items, she learned about the sewing workshop. Maombi started to dream of the day that she could start her own business, and support her mother and her new child.

"Being part of the sewing program has helped me gain hope again," Maombi says. "When I meet with others I feel I am not alone. Every day I am  clean because I cannot come to the group dirty, my mother is encouraging me to be a loyal participant in the group! My life has changed and I am hoping for a future now!"

Cozi is a young woman whose life was changed with an unplanned for pregnancy. (She shared that the father of her child is not known, implying rape that is all too common in this region.) Though these stories are horrifying and heartbreaking, what is amazing is the women's resolve to not only survive, but to thrive. She shared with us that her "entire life is a new story" since joining the sewing workshop.

Cikwanine’s family "gave up on her," after she was raped, but she chose not to give up on herself, and joined the sewing workshop and Teen Mother program at the Mumosho Women's Center. She shared, "My life has changed a lot since I joined the ABFEK program. I share my experience with other people here in the sewing program and I feel comforted, now I have hope, joining this program gives me a new hope for my future."

If you haven’t yet met our partner, Amani, read why he so strongly believes that empowering women is the path to peace and growth in his country. The video at the bottom of the post was created a few years ago by The Enough Project, and gives a great sense of who Amani is.

One of our favorite stories to share is Ernata’s, who graduated with her sewing certificate in June, 2012. When we met her that January, her story echoed that of a society where women have very little rights or value, and can be divorced without recourse for not bearing a male heir. "I have a big wound inside my heart," Ernata told us. "If I don’t have children with my husband, he will kick my out. I’m noticing some changes, bad behavior, from his family members, who might urge him to chase me (from the home)."

Nine months later, Ernata gave birth to a different dream, as she works hard to sew uniforms for the kids in her village. She takes a break from her own sewing to supervise a fellow seamstress. "I am very proud of myself today," Ernata shares, "and my husband is proud of me and he's happy to have me as a wife, especially as I help make an income for the family."

There are so many stories of how the women's lives have been changed, both by learning the skill of sewing to earn income, as well as knowing that people around the world believe in them and support them.

Can you help us meet our goal? $8,000 for the programs costs, and $12,000 for the sewing kits for 63 graduates. Donate $195 for one kit, or $390 for two, (or 3! Or 4!) and help us move that thermometer up to the top! actionkivu.org/donate.html

Honor the mother in your life, and the mamas of Congo, with a gift of sewing kit to help them begin a new chapter in their stories.


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Women Celebrating Women in Congo: Stand Up to Violence, Step Into Leadership!

Colorful umbrellas were raised high in the Congo sky as women grasped hands in solidarity, lifting each other up to envision standing together against violence.  The umbrellas dotted the crowd of more than 400 women gathered outside the Mumosho Women's Center to celebrate International Women's Day. In a country often called the worst place to be a woman, Colonel Honorine called the women to action.



A rarity to find a woman in such a place of power in the Congolese National Police, Colonel Honorine represents the future of women in leadership in the DRC. Articulate and charismatic, she is a defender of women's rights in charge of Children & Women's Protection for all of South Kivu. Honorine spoke of her work, encouraging the women to take on leadership and open their eyes to know their rights. Amani addressed the gathering, sharing more information to raise the women's awareness on how strong they are. His message of empowerment: that their energy and strength can change the world if only they know and accept they are strong.

Amani, Colonel Honorine and the women of Mumosho


Katie, Colonel Honorine, and the women at the Mumosho Women's Center

Katie Bond, the founder of our fair trade sister organization, The Peace Exchange Initiative, was there to meet the seamstresses she partners with, and to encourage the women that their stories are heard around the world. You can check out the work they're doing over on the website, and buy a yoga bag or market carryall to support these women in stitching together a new, peace-filled future! 

We're raising funds here at Action Kivu to continue the work Amani is doing, and to pay for sewing kits and machines for the current students in the sewing workshops: $195 purchases the machine, fabric, and tools to launch their small business!

Please consider donating to this work today. Did you get a tax refund, and are looking for a great cause to invest it in?  Tax deductible, every dollar makes a difference, and goes directly to the entrepreneurial trainings, literacy workshops, and agricultural training on the ground in Congo. 

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Maombi's Sewing Story: Designing a Life of Dignity

Maombi sits, baby in lap, her foot rocking rhythmically back and forth to power the sewing machine, practicing the latest in what she's learning at the Mumosho Women's Center sewing workshop.

Life became very difficult after her father died in the 1996 war in Congo, and she helped her mother cook, clean, and farm, too poor to attend  past the fourth grade in elementary school.

One day, at the Peace Market, where neighbors from the various villages that make up Mumosho gather to buy and sell vegetables, fruit, fish, and small items, she learned about the sewing workshop. Maombi started to dream of the day that she could start her own business, and support her mother and her new child. 


"Being part of the sewing program has helped me gain hope again," Maombi says. "When I meet with others I feel I am not alone. Every day I am  clean because I cannot come to the group dirty, my mother is encouraging me to be a loyal participant in the group! My life has changed and I am hoping for a future now!"

There is such dignity in choosing, daily, to show up. To be loyal, and to pursue your goals.  Maombi is an inspiration.  What would you like to tell her?  We'd love to pass along your support to her and the other women in Congo - leave a note in the comment section, and Amani will translate and post them at the Women's Center, so they are surrounded by your encouraging words!

We're raising money to buy Maombi and her fellow sewing students kits upon graduation.  $195 purchases a pedal-powered machine for them to use, despite having no electricity, as well as the fabrics, scissors, and threads and tools to launch their work.  Every dollar makes a difference and changes the lives of these women.  Please consider donating today.

Read more stories here:

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Claudine on Community & Coming Back To Life Through the Sewing Workshop

Claudine was raised in a family of eight, playing "jump the rope" with her siblings, helping her mother cook. Struggling to make money, if the family had enough money to send a child to school, her elder brother was chosen, so she never had the chance at an education.

Though her story may sound familiar and her future adhering to the statistics, Claudine is changing this chapter, rewriting her story.

Shunned by her mother when a preganancy was forced upon her, Claudine learned of the Sewing Workshop at the Mumosho Women's Center, from her uncle. She heard how other girls were trained in the skill, and then received a sewing kit with a pedal-powered machine (crucial for working without electricity), and started earning income from their small businesses. Claudine hopes to receive her sewing machine this May, to create the life she envisions, caring for her child and herself, and writing the story of her new life.

"Being a part of this community has changed a lot in my life and it makes feel there are people who care for me and love me. Being in the program makes me come back to life again."


Can you help make Claudine's dream a reality? We're raising money to continue funding our programs in Congo, and topurchase the sewing kits for this summer's graduating class - $195 purchases the machine, fabric, and tools to launch their work! Every dollar makes a difference, and goes directly to the work on the ground.  Donate here!  And read more about our programs in Congo here.

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Creating New Stories for Women in Congo: Sewing, Reading, Farming, Your Dollars Make a Difference!

The stories coming from Congo are often about war: the crimes against humanity, the rape of women, the poverty and malnutrition that is created by a country constantly in conflict.

We want to share stories of change —women learning to sew, to read, to farm vegetables and healthy grains to feed their families and sell at the market.  Women who are not giving up on their lives, or the future of Congo, flooding our Women's Center to learn to read, so they can choose whom to vote for in the next election. Starting sewing businesses or earning income through our partner in Fair Trade, The Peace Exchange, and earning the income to send their children to school, to educate and empower the future leaders of their communities and country.

This spring, we've set a goal to raise $20,000, to fund our monthly stipend that keeps these crucial programs running, including paying the sewing trainers salaries of $150 / month for 5 days week of work. $12,285 will be used to launch new businesses for the 63 women graduating our sewing workshops in Mumosho and Bukavu.  For $195, we supply them with sewing kits that include a pedal-powered Singer sewing machine, thread, scissors, and material to start earning income using the new skills they have learned.

Any amount we raise toward that goal is crucial in creating sustainable growth in eastern Congo. Can you give today? Your tax deductible donation goes directly to the work on the ground, telling these women that they are not alone; you've heard their stories, and they matter.  When we invest in women and girls, we change the future.

According to the United Nations Foundation, via the Clinton Global Initiative:

  • Women who have control of their own income tend to have fewer children, and fertility rates have shown to be inversely related to national income growth. Girls and young women delaying marriage and having fewer children means a bigger change of increasing per capita income, higher savings, and more rapid growth. 
  • One quarter to one half of girls in developing countries become mothers before 18, and girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their 20s 
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families."

To move beyond the staggering statistics, meet some of the women we partner with.  Cozi, a girl whose life was changed with an unplanned for pregnancy.  She shared with us that her "entire life is a new story" since joining the sewing workshop.

And Cikwanine, whose family "gave up on her," after she was "impregnated without her consent," but she chose not to give up on herself, and joined the sewing workshop and Teen Mother program at the Mumosho Women's Center.  She shared, "My life has changed a lot since I joined the ABFEK program. I share my experience with other people here in the sewing program and I feel comforted, now I have hope, joining this program gives me a new hope for my future."
If you haven't met our partner, Amani, who started the non-profit ABFEK from his own income, this post tells why he so strongly believes that empowering women is the path to peace and growth in his country.  The video at the bottom of the post was created a few years ago by The Enough Project, and gives a great sense of who Amani is. 
Please share in the story of one of our sewing graduates, Ernata, who graduated with her sewing certificate in June, 2012.  When we met her in January 2012, her story echoed that of a society where women have very little rights or value, and can be divorced without recourse for not bearing a male heir.   "I have a big wound inside my heart," Ernata told us. "If I don’t have children with my husband, he will kick my out.  I’m noticing some changes, bad behavior, from his family members, who might urge him to chase me (from the home)."

Nine months later, Ernata gave birth to a different dream, as she works hard to sew uniforms for the kids in her village.  She takes a break from her own sewing to supervise a fellow seamstress. "I am very proud of myself today," Ernata shares, "and my husband is proud of me and he's happy to have me as a wife, especially as I help make an income for the family."
There are so many stories of how the women's lives have been changed, both by our entrepreneurial trainings as well as knowing that people around the the world believe in them and support them.  Can you help us raise that thermometer?  Donate here! And please share the women's stories of hope with your friends, family, and colleagues!


Seed Distribution at the Demonstration Farm - Photos by Emma O'Brien

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