Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Alternate Reality of Africa: Amani needs a 4x4

"How's it going with the African?" (Overheard at Groundwork coffee shop, Hollywood.)

The African.  On my bus ride to Groundwork, I was truck by the alternate reality happening in Congo, that I had recently been living in during our Action Kivu trip to see the work Amani has been doing via his Congolese organization, ABFEK. Here in Los Angeles, I ride the relatively clean and efficient Metro bus that arrives on time if not a minute early.  I wear boots, jeans and a light sweater and scarf on a late January day, the air as crisp as a Southern California winter allows, the sky bright blue and cloud-free. Around the world and not so far in my recent past, women in eastern Congo stand on crowded streets, the heavy, humid, hot air filled with dust from the dirt road and exhaust from the cars and trucks that narrowly miss their sandal-clad feet.  They wear long skirts in bright colors and beautifully busy patterns, carry fruit, water or a basket on their heads, waiting for overcrowded buses that have no schedule to run on, squeezing into the seats with neighbors and strangers, thighs and arms brushing as the bus bumps over the pot-holes that fill the width and length of the roads.  When it's muddy during the rainy season, the buses slip-slide through the sludge, getting stuck in the ruts, skidding sideways and putting passengers' lives in jeopardy.  This is their reality, and it's how Amani and his program assistants get around Bukavu, and to and from the surrounding villages.  Without a 4x4, if the roads are rain-washed, plans are canceled and work comes to a grinding halt.

Take a look at one of our many rides, lovingly nicknamed a "Congo massage," through Bukavu, on the road to the hospital, out to the even rougher roads on our way to Mumosho. Amani narrates:

"If you're stuck, you can't do your work."

How are my two realities so disparate?  Many tell me that I've given up convenience by giving up a car, but in reality, almost everything about life in Los Angeles is convenient, by comparison.  We can't fix the roads in Congo, but we can try to help Amani navigate them with more ease, and safety.  He needs a vehicle.  A 4x4, to safely transport him to and from the many projects he oversees via ABFEK.  To visit and check in on the progress of the Bukavu Sewing Workshop to the Mumosho one, to the various schools where he sends children to receive a basic education, to the shared farm or the animal husbandry project.  A used 4x4 can be purchased for around 20 to 30,000 U.S. dollars.  If you know of anyone with connections in Tanzania or Rwanda, or a generous benefactor, please let us know!  Unlike a sports utility vehicle driven on the paved highways of Los Angeles, a 4x4 is required equipment in Congo.

Amani holds on during the drive from Mumosho to Bukavu.

Baby on board - a mom handed me her son while she climbed into the bus.

Women walk the road from Mumosho to Bukavu, to sell their goods in the city.

Read more about Amani's and his work empowering women on the Enough Project blog:
In a Corner of Congo, the Ideas of a Man Named 'Peace' Take Hold