Making Hard Decisions

What is the hardest decision you had to make today? I don’t often think about what the hardest decision is. And I know that is because I won the birth lottery. I was born as a healthy white woman into a loving middle class family. I knew I would go to school and I knew I would graduate from college. I didn’t worry about healthcare, or having a place to live or clothes to wear or putting food on the table. I have, at times, worried about finding the right job or worried about a relationship or friendship but my hardships have in many many ways been minimal. And they have been worries more than difficult life decisions.

Here in the Congo, life is very different. 70% of families, according to a recent study, have to make a decision every day on which child they will feed that day. If there are six children, maybe they can only afford to feed 1 or or 2 or 3. If the kids are in school, most likely the cost of education is rotated around from each child. So they might all be in school but all of their payments are late. The cost to send a child to school might be minimal but in a country where the majority of the population is listed under “extreme world poverty” any cost is a huge barrier. If the kids are in school they could get pulled at any time, for lack of payment, because they have to work, because of illness or just because.

That makes every day feel like a battle in a country that has been embattled for the last 15 years.

All around the world refugees are fleeing their countries because of war or persecution and landing in camps. In the Congo, the majority of the camps are filled with IDPs (Internally Displaced People). Rebel groups came into their villages (most likely M23 but maybe FDLR) and they were forced to flee.

Here in Goma, there were about 500 expats working for a variety of NGOs and the UN until recently when an influx of 500-700 additional expats started to move in. Since M23 was overthrown in October, Goma is increasingly becoming palace where aid workers from other areas, like Kinshasa, are being moved.

Most of the expats I’ve met work for MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping arm. However all of the major players are here - Human Rights Watch, World Wildlife Federation, IRC, MercyCorps, The Hunger Project, East Africa Initiative, etc. Then there are all of the aid groups from European governments - the Belgians (of course), Norwegians, Danish, Italians, French, Canadians, Australians.

I’m here for only a short period of time, just a few weeks. Most of the people I’ve met have been here for 9 months, 1 year, 2 years, and in one case 4 years. Their previous assignments were in Liberia and Mali and South Sudan. This is what they do. I’m just a visitor.

Still, I’m here to learn and I’m here to help and most of all I’m here to support my good friend Vijaya who has put her tremendous talents and passion into building Resolve Network.

The situation in the Congo is very dire - the UNDP’s global development report placed the Congo as having the highest incidence of violence against women, the highest number of child soldiers, a population amongst the poorest of the poor, highest incidence of maternal mortality, and dead last in development - 187th of 187 countries.

And yet, I’m struck by a wave of emotion my first full day in Goma. There is so much good in the world to combat so much evil. Yes there is bureaucracy and corruption in government funding and where the aid is going. Yes there is a long road ahead for all of the organizations here and all of the people here serving these organizations. I have a lot to absorb while I’m here, I’m lucky in that I have a dedicated friend like Vijaya to show me the ropes and show me the good along with the real of what’s happening. Which makes my perspective of what an actual hard decision is an easier story to share when I come back home.

Please see my disclosure for all Congo-related posts.

Read more ...

Kiss and Make Up
Women's Philanthropy Institute's Newest Council Member!
My Women’s Equality Party Vote Is Dedicated To…
Road To 50
You're Invited! ASPCA Young Friends Benefit
... and more posts from the archives