BY Ryan McDougall | April 12 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Meet the individuals thriving because of donations to SCIAF

Ryan McDougall tells the stories of two previously impoverished African families who are now thriving, thanks to donations to SCIAF.

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund has been fighting tooth and nail to secure better rights, futures and lives for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the vast African country, where rebel militias murder and pillage communities and the government struggles to contain relative peace, most of the citizens have their own personal horror stories to tell that would leave a person shaken to the core.

So far, we’ve told you about the incredible life-changing things SCIAF and its partners have done for the Congolese people, and of the plight of the women who have survived the most depraved sexual abuse one could possibly imagine.

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Success stories

Now, we can share some of SCIAF’s success stories in the DRC, where a growing number of people are now financially independent and free to live without fear of poverty, oppression and death.

The most powerful testimonial for SCIAF’s hard work comes from one family, consisting of dad Philippe, mum Olivia and their two sons—one of which is named Don Sciaf, which roughly translates to ‘gift from SCIAF.’

Don Sciaf, aged four, sat next to his parents patiently as his younger brother, Christophe, climbed on classroom tables and chairs.

The family’s incredible and immense gratitude for SCIAF comes from what was initially a place of tragedy.

Philippe, 39, and his beloved wife were not long married when they were separated after the war hit their village.

Rebels groups plundered the town, brutally murdering their friends and neighbours before their eyes.

Split up

“They came to our village and had to flee and were split up. We had to run from the rebels and we lost everything,” he recalled.

Unfortunately, while Olivia was able to escape, Philippe was captured by the rebel groups and forced to work in one of their Coltan mines.

Coltan, short for columbite-tantalite, is a mineral found in rich supply in the DRC.

From tantalite, tantalum is created and is used in the production of electric components, including the capacitors in mobile phones, cameras and laptops.

Slave-labour

Philippe was forced to mine the mineral, which in turn is sold illegally across the Rwandan border which in turn funds the rebels’ murderous lifestyles, essentially giving them the means to exist.

In turn, the conflict mineral is sold to electronics companies, whose wares we rely on, meaning all consumers in some way, albeit unknowingly, have bought into the corrupt industry.

“I escaped the mine and started going home,” Philippe recalled.

He spend days on foot heading back to his ravaged village and when he returned, was able to find his wife.

The pair reunited, but sadly the trauma of the rebel attack and the conditions he was subjected to while working in the mine had warped Philippe’s psyche.

Trauma

Olivia said that, while she was ‘happy’ he had returned to her, ‘he had changed.’

“He was different,” she said. “He was not as patient as he used to be.

Indeed, Philippe had grown irritable and angry. He would treat Olivia badly and said he didn’t care for her opinions or needs.

He told reporters that his constant need for sexual gratification from her made him feel like he was abusing her.

While the family state he did not sexually abuse her, he says he ‘felt like a rapist in [his] own home’ because of his lust.

“I didn’t respect or listen to my wife,” he added.

Poverty

Philippe also struggled to make and save money during this time, meaning he and his wife lived in poverty.

However, their lives changed when SCIAF found them.

They provided Philippe with gender equality training, risk reduction, taught him how to save money and as a result, they now live a happy life.

“I benefited from the gender rights training, risk reduction and how to save money and now I work as a data collector,” he said.

“We called our son Sciaf as he is like a gift from SCIAF. I want to build a good house and a farm and Don Sciaf can become a farmer. I want to thank the people in Scotland for supporting the Congolese people.”

Rwanda

Across the border in Rwanda, SCIAF has had an established presence for several years.

In one village, around two and a half hour drive from Kigali, there is a community of women farmers who have become the driving forces behind their communities as they almost single-handedly cultivate their fruitful and prosperous fields and in turn sell their crops to sustain the village.

The village was previously impoverished however, and the community lived with little to feed themselves, the children lacked education and morale was low.

However, SCIAF and its partners worked hard to equip the women of the village with the means to sustainably care for their crops, meaning the village now has a booming farming industry.

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Jacqueline

One woman, Jacqueline Niyoyita, 40, is a mother of free and previously struggled to feed herself and her children.

Now, she is a millionaire.

She said: “I was the poorest of the poor. I had to stay in the fields, but now I have millions of Rwandan francs in assets, I bought my own field and a house.”

Jacqueline, a devout Catholic, spoke of her success to an audience of reporters, media workers and her equally successful peers, who clapped and cheered as their friend told her story.

Because of SCIAF’s work, Jacqueline, says the women, who are often oppressed or hushed in her country, are now becoming strong and independent.

“The ladies in Rwanda are developing themselves and becoming strong,” she said.

Her success, a combination of SCIAF’s support and her own hard work, has now paved the way for a brighter future for her three offspring.

Healthy

“My kids are able to have two meals a day. My daughter wants to be a nun and my other children want to become doctors and study abroad.”

SCIAF has had a presence in Rwanda for a few years longer than it has in the DRC.

From the trip, it was evident that in Rwanda, the charity’s work has had a lasting and positive impact that has allowed thousands of Rwandan citizens to create happy lives that will go down through the generations ahead.

Positive results

In the DRC, where SCIAF has not had a presence for quite as long, one can already see country’s people become more prosperous as a result of their own dedication and SCIAF’s support.

In just a few years, with continued support, the DRC will be bursting with success stories like Don Sciaf’s and Jacqueline’s.

Scottish Catholics can play an important part in doing so by donating to the 2020 Wee Box Big Change Appeal, which is receiving aid match funding from the UK Government.

Make sure you give generously to the appeal this year, and if you don’t have one, you can still donate online at www.sciaf.org.uk

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