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Freedom Project in the DRC

Freedom Project in the DRC

From Hastings to the Congo

Hastings people were moved by a heart-warming carol-singing fundraiser for vulnerable girls in remote African plateau writes HOT’s  Vanessa Alves.

Members of the St Helen’s Residents’ Association joined singers from St Helen’s Church for their delightful annual road carol-singing on 12 December, and raised £350 in just 1 ½ hours for LOAF Project’s latest ‘FREEDOM’ Appeal. The group gave local people a real festive treat with their heart-warming carol-singing performance, which was greatly added to by LOAF Project Trustee, Roger Mitchell’s joyful trumpet playing.

LOAF Project is a charity which brings together churches and people across Hastings. Together they have organised everything from hi-octane parachute jumps and 26 mile-long cross-country sponsored walks, to a Kytes band retro concert, raising over £500,000 to-date and transforming hundreds of people’s lives in underdeveloped countries. LOAF Chairman, Dr John Geater MBE says, “We have already teamed up with our partner Eben-Ezer Ministry International in the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide water-filters, and it was through them that we became aware of the terrible plight of teenage girls living in the cut-off, remote DRC Minembwe Plateau.

Example of a hygiene kit.

Example of a hygiene kit.

“Many of these girls have suffered the ravages of war and abuse, losing their parents to diseases like HIV and having to raise younger siblings. They have no hot showers or soap and cannot afford expensive feminine products, which like sex- education, are ‘taboo’ – never spoken of in their very traditional culture. So not knowing what to expect as they become young women and having no sanitary care, they get teased by other pupils and even their teachers, and drop out of school, missing out on important education with no hope for the future.

Girls in school in DRC

Girls in school in DRC

“This really touched all of our hearts at LOAF, so we decided to take action, and our FREEDOM Appeal was born. Our plan is for Hastings churches and people in the local community to raise £15,000 by the end of 2019 – enough to pay for 450 ready-to-use hygiene kits, plus sewing machines and training in how to run a business, so that young women can make these locally in the future. This badly needed money will also pay to re-train teachers in 300 Plateau schools, equipping them with new skills on how to teach all pupils with the respect they deserve, and sex-ed too so that they know what to expect as they journey into adulthood, to keep girls in school and helping to reduce teenage pregnancies.

Working closely with the LOAF team, is Alex Mvuka Ntung who was born in a semi-nomadic community in a remote, dangerous area of the DRC and is now the Cultural and Fundraising Advisor to Eben-Ezer Ministry International, and a past Policy Advisor (Community Cohesion Strategy) at Hastings Council.

Alex Ntung

Alex Ntung.

Alex helps Eben-Ezer to raise money, working with partners like LOAF Project and has played a key role in developing the planned fem-care and new teaching programme. Alex told us, “I have seen first-hand the horrors of living in a war-zone but I was fortunate enough to be a boy, so I was able to stay in school, and then I managed to escape. I made my new home in Hastings where until recently, I lived for 17 years in a wonderful and welcoming community and was able to get my degree which has been life-changing.

“It is so shocking that 89% of girls in High Plateau will still leave school because of period poverty and the taboo issues, not because of the war, unless something is done. My younger sister could have been one of them, but I send her money to buy feminine products, and she has told me that this has completely changed her life for the better, giving her dignity and the education that means that one day she’ll get a job and earn a good living.

St Helen's carol singers,

St Helen’s carol singers,

“The St Helen’s carol-singing event sends a message of love and hope – it’s incredible to think that people here are moved by the issues facing girls living nearly 4000 miles away. I am so excited about the special new Loaf Project FREEDOM Appeal which will change attitudes and help these brave young girls in my home country.”

Alex regularly speaks around the UK to raise awareness of the poverty in the DRC and has written a book about his life in Africa entitled “Not My Worst Day: A Personal Journey Through Violence in the Great Lakes Region of Africa”, available on Amazon.

John Geater adds, “We want to appeal to you and everyone in our community to help us hit or exceed our target by giving a one-off donation or by raising larger sums by doing something challenging or fun on your own, or with your family, friends, work colleagues or church community. We have already been so encouraged by the amazing number of people and organisations like local schools that want to help, and so we’ve come up with an A-Z of FUNdraising ideas listed on our website, to get you all started! Please take part and help give the DRC girls a safer, healthier and happier future.”

Trustees Christine Boulton-Lane and Richard  Keep from LOAF are organising a fun dance night with live performances by The Kytes in May and their Publicity Advisor Lizzie May hopes to raise at least £300 with her sponsored healthy eating 3 stone weight loss target.

To find out more about the project, fundraising ideas and how to donate, visit: www.loafproject.co.uk/freedomproject.

Posted 14:47 Friday, Jan 25, 2019 In: Hastings People

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