DR CONGO: Women seek assistance from Don Bosco Center to join AVEC groups for business start-up support
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Center, located in the city of Bukavu in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is supporting women who wish join women’s groups run by the Association Villageoise d’Epargne et Crédit (AVEC), an association for savings and credit in the villages.
Participants in the AVEC women’s groups agree to deposit 1000 Congolese Francs (about 0.60 Euro) in a common fund each week and 200 Congolese Francs in a solidarity fund in the event of illness and death. The group participants can then apply for credit to start a small business to earn an income that will meet the needs of their families. Many women who are unable to come up with the initial funding to be a part of the group seek financial assistance and other support from the Don Bosco Center.
One of the participants, Adela, who is the mother of six children, lives in a small two-room house made of hard-packed earth. Three of her children are struggling to fund their studies and one school age child stays at home due to lack of money. Her husband was in the military and is still hospitalized after an accident he had in 2015. Adela used to sell charcoal in the neighborhood but had to use all her capital to pay for the children’s school. Currently, she is waiting for her husband’s salary to resume her business.
Another participant, Elizabeth, farms the land and is a war widow. She gave birth to eight children but only one daughter survives today who is also a widow. Elizabeth lives with her daughter and her 10 grandchildren, two of whom receive services from the Don Bosco Center. Their house is in poor condition and they lack furniture. Elizabeth joined the AVEC group to increase her business of selling beans in order to give more money to her grandchildren.
Another woman, Florentine, has also joined the AVEC group. She lived in Burega with her husband until he was killed in the Kasika massacre. Their house was burned and Florentine had to flee with her seven children. She was also a victim of sexual abuse and benefited from assistance at the Panzi hospital. She now lives in a small rented house but risks eviction and does not have anywhere else to go. One of her children lives on the street and another has disappeared. Florentine used to sell fuel but currently doesn’t have the money to continue.
Many of the woman who seek to join the AVEC groups and are supported by the Don Bosco Center are in desperate situations but must still find ways to support their families. The Don Bosco Center helps these women and their families by meeting their basic needs and providing education and social support.
“Salesian missionaries at the Don Bosco Center lend support to families who cannot pay their children’s public school fees,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Depending on the degree of vulnerability, the center has intervened to pay half or all the school fees for about 150 primary and secondary school children. The center also has a courtyard which allows children from the local community to come together and play year-round.”
Despite its vast material wealth, the Democratic Republic of Congo has long been a very poor nation. Half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line living on less than $1 a day, especially those in rural communities. Because of ongoing strife and violence within the country, more than 8.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, a figure that’s expected to increase to 13.1 million in 2018. More than 4.1 million Congolese are now displaced with 620,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries. More than 7.5 million people do not have enough food to eat.
Salesian missionaries have been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than 100 years ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future.
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UNICEF – DRC Poverty