News / Africa

Rebuilding Lives after War and Rape in the DRC

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua

In the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, many families have been battered by war, rape, poverty and a lack of education.  However, a humanitarian group says there’s a way to help families not only deal with the issues, but rise above them.

The eastern DRC has become synonymous with war and rape.  In recent years, various rebel groups have attacked and looted villages, driving civilians into the bush to escape.  Attempts by government forces and U.N. troops to defeat them have often made matters worse for civilians, as militias launch retaliatory strikes against villagers.  But many aid groups working in the region have blamed all warring parties for attacks on civilians.

Weapon of war

Rape is a weapon of war in the Congo.  It’s done to subdue, demoralize and humiliate populations.  And it spreads HIV/AIDS.  The attacks often occur in front of family members.  Many women are so brutally assaulted they need surgery to repair the damage.  But it doesn’t always work.  And then there’s the psychological damage.

In Goma FXB founder Albina du Boisrouvray, meets with a woman benefiting from aid program
In Goma FXB founder Albina du Boisrouvray, meets with a woman benefiting from aid program

In the Goma area, the FXB Foundation has created a village of hope and healing, but not one that you would find on any map.  FXB founder Albina du Boisrouvray says it’s a village nonetheless.

“It’s a network of 80 families in the same region.  It’s not a real village.  It’s a virtual village in a way because we don’t take people who are neighbors next door to each other,” she says

She says families must meet certain criteria.

“We choose in a community the 80 poorest, most destitute families, who have the reputation of being the most hardworking and honest ones in the community.  And those who have the most children to raise,” she says.

She says some in the program have experienced unimaginable hardships.

“One woman comes to mind of those I have visited, who was a woman who has been raped six times, has a kid from one of those rapes, has a daughter who she’s taken in with her, who also has a kid from the rapes.  That means that in the little hovel – nine people living in there,” she says.

When the woman first joined, du Boisrouvray says she was emaciated.  She now weighs 48 kilos.  Food is a big part of the program.

“We bring bags of rice, of beans, of flour, whatever. (The) usual food staples these people eat and enough quantity for the whole family.  We also bring them immediately basic lessons of hygiene.  Usually we try to build latrines, first thing,” she says.

A better life

In the first year of the FXB program, a family’s broken shelter is repaired as best as possible.

Rebuilding Lives after War and Rape in the DRC
Rebuilding Lives after War and Rape in the DRC

“The second year we’ll try to get that person with their savings to be able to get out of that hovel.  Now with the savings that you have you should be trying to get a little piece of land.  At least rent it if you can’t buy it.  And then we will get other people, other families, other volunteers or our people to help you build your house, which will be a much more solid house,” she says.

How do they go about saving money?  Du Boisrouvray says FXB helps families start small income generating activities.  In rural areas, it may be growing food on small plots of land and selling it.  Families may be given pigs or chickens.  In more urban areas, families may receive sewing machines.

She says mental health is just as important as physical health.

‘We just give them psychosocial counseling by helping them regain their self assurance and their dignity as human beings.  I think that’s a very important component,” he says.

Change comes quickly.

“And you see the difference,” she says, “When you see people in the first few months when they’ve been picked and taken in, they have their heads down.  They look miserable.  They’re ashamed.  Even a few months later they’re standing up more erect.”

The women tell FXB they no longer worry about how they’re going to feed their families.

Women who’ve been raped are tested for HIV.  If they test positive, they’re counseled on how to live with the disease.

Du Boisrouvray says the program succeeds because it wins the trust of the Congolese people.

“I work with only local people.  I don’t have any expats (expatriates) coming in and saying, look, this is what we feel you should be doing. It’s their own peers.  I mean all the social workers and the nurses. So these are local people who they know, local people who they trust,” she says.

The FXB virtual village also ensures children get into local schools, paying any fees if necessary.  The foundation runs many programs in Africa and elsewhere around the world, many of them providing assistance to AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid