Just got home from a listening and learning trip throughout rural eastern Congo. Seven years ago, I founded @EasternCongo Initiative (www.easterncongo.org), a grant making and advocacy organization, focused on investing directly in the Congolese people. I feel beyond fortunate to have had the opportunity to again return to Congo, seeing friends, visiting with longtime grantees, and some of our newest partners.
Hard to believe this was my tenth trip to such an amazing place, a country I have fallen in love with. During my week-long visit, I visited several coffee communities and many of our community-based partners in the field. I also saw the positive impact Starbucks' investment in the coffee sector is making to thousands of families along Lake Kivu.
Additionally, I spent an afternoon with women and girls, one as young as 7, who have survived horrific sexual violence. Thanks to the extraordinary work of our long-time grantee La Dynamique des Femmes Jurists (http://www.dfj-rdc.org), these brave women and girls are being provided judicial services to bring their cases to court, receive medical support and psychological counseling.
It was also stunning to trek into Virunga – the African continent’s very first National Park – to witness a family of Mountain Gorillas in the wild, alongside the inimitable Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode and the park’s valiant rangers. (www.virunga.org) I am hopeful that they will continue to win the fight against the ongoing threats of oil exploration and violence towards the gorillas in this precious place.
Every time I visit, I leave even more inspired there will be a brighter and more peaceful future for the Congolese. The challenges are real, and the road is long, but the Congolese are the hardest working and most hopeful people I know. We often speak of heroes - I count these among the many. It’s the honor of a lifetime to support Congo. My heart will forever be there with them.