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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Congo’s Future is with the Children

I have made several trips to Africa from Alaska during the past 30 years, always to remote places and engaged in conservation efforts. I have never seen a situation that offered a better chance for me to connect with individuals in a deep and profound way. You dear reader, have a similar opportunity by helping me to help the children learn and thus yourself feel a personal engagement with Muginga ngoy, Ilunga Mukoswa, Alan Deverell and the others there who are working their hearts out to create a future for the children.

During my week at the Ranger Station in the Upemba National Park deep in the Congo wilderness I came to know what passes as a school. Mai Mai insurgents destroyed the station and left the superintendents home a burned out hull; this is where the l24 students are taught by 5 dedicated teachers whom you will meet in photos below.

In the center is principal 
Matieu Muginga ngoy  and on the far right 
Ademard Ilunga Mukoswa who like Matieu was born and raised at the remote station. Ademard's father was killed when the station was over run and burned by Mai Mai terrorists. 
These dedicated fellows and the parents of the children are real hero's in trying to educate the children. They deserve our help. 

Michael in class with the children, each eager to be called upon to take up chalk and write on the board in response to the teachers questions. Note the young girl teacher with a baby on her hip. 

Even with books we all know that children learn better if they have enough to eat. 

The colorfully dressed mom just pounded   a tuberous plant like a sweet potato into flour that she is now sifting and from which she will make "fu-fu" a staple of the diet eaten daily

The restoration of the shabby and badly neglected housing for the Rangers and their families is next on the list for the team from The Frankfort Zoological Society at the Lusinga Station 

Their Ranger dads  where just shorted by about l/3rd of their meager pay of about $l5/month, 50cents/day  by the central office, the ICCN (The Institute pour le Conservation de Nature de Congo) a national agency based in the capitol Kinshasa. Stealing from the workers by their bosses must stop!

 There is food and fabric to buy in villages a day's walk away but in the past they have been frequently not paid at all or only infrequently.  Food like this and simple possessions are largely unavailable to them. 

The rangers are headed out on a multi-day partrol in remote parts of the Park 
These brave men  face armed poachers, sleep on the ground in the bush and upon them rests any hope of Park restoration. This is the Monday morning 7:30 am parade and inspection. 

Their pride in themselves shows in polished boots, clean uniforms and full attention to the matters at hand. Here their commanding officer, Atamato describes to them the work we did in the meetings in the city Lubumbashi, 2 days travel away. 

While immediate changes must be made throughout the ICCN system it is in the end the children who represent the future in the ongoing wake of the dictator Mobutu who during his 30 year rule is estimated to have stolen $3 billion from the people. This legacy of corruption lingers in the ICCN and cripples attempts to restore the Parks.

Join me in celebrating the brave, selfless and determined teachers and their students. With great courage they face their daunting obstacles.  If you could have heard all 124 of them singing to me on the front steps of the burned out school  you would have heard all of the African children crying out for a level playing field.

the tears flowed down my cheeks like a freshet as they  sang and clapped for me when I was ready to leave. 

they are so full of hope and optimism, so determined to learn, so eager for new information

Oh how I wish you were able to hear that singing!

I have happily reached deep into my own pockets after spending over $4,000 (airfare etc) to participate in this effort and have come up with an additional $500 for the children's school fund.

If you can afford $l0, $100 or $1,000 please help these kids whose photos, school and teachers you can continue to follow with my blog.

Send financial donations to:

My good friend Alan Deverell  lives at the Lusinga Station leading the work  for the Frankfort Zoological Society which is administering the EU grant to rebuild the Parks. His photo appears in previous blogs.

 Alan Deverell <>
                                 ( or to me at PO 956, Homer, Alaska 99603 and I will forward it to Alan)

It is simply not practical for you to try to send books or other materials, Alan will make purchases based on a request list written by the principal with the help of the parents and other teachers, it includes a football, a bicycle, books and uniforms which African students wear with great pride

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