Monday, 29 September 2008

Greetings from a Volunteer on the ground in Uvira

Local Representative Rodolphe Menga, founder of the youth association Mutuelle Jeunesse Active (MJA), had a long-standing dream of making the Internet accesible to his community of Uvira, a rural territory located in the province of South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Along with efforts made by MJA, and support from members of the local community, Rodolphe set up the Uvira Multimedia Centre (UMC). The centre is geared towards providing Internet access to members of the community, and offering educational workshops on computing skills and multimedia arts to the local youth, in order to improve their chances of employment.

Ned Meerdink, an online volunteer from Wisconsin (USA), joined the Uvira project last year. Along with other NABUUR volunteers, Ned arranged for a shipment of 24 computers, books, and other supplies, to be sent to the UMC. Ned flew to Uvira to help with the set up of the UMC, where he had a chance to see first hand the impact the work of the online volunteers had on the community.

At present time, Ned finds himself on a return trip to the local community of Uvira, where he sent the following update:

"Hello to all at Nabuur,

Just wanted to contact you all to let you know that I am once again lucky enough to be with our 'nabuur' Rolph Menga here in Congo. I actually was able to get a fellowship from The Advocacy Project and a grant from my former university in order to get here again, and I'll be staying through March. I have been here for a couple weeks, and things are gong well. The center is at a temporary standstill while we renegotiate our connection with the service providers. But, the center worked without stopping since March, so we consider this a minor hurdle. Rolph and I are still working on fundraising, program design, and all of that, so things seem to be moving in the right direction. As soon as the connection gets sorted out, we hope to get our Nabuur profile in shape and mark the progress on UMC.

Right now, there are a lot of programs going on at the center. Seminars for single-mothers and victims of sexual violence, which is definitely one of the most common problems here in Congo. Also, courses on Windows, Microsoft Office, and PC use to encourage small business productivity and organization are all being conducted. We have hired two boys who were orphaned to work/live at the center. Their names are Claver and Isidord, and Rolph taught them for months on the use of the computers and they are now basically professionals. They, along with Rolph's brother Willy, teach the classes at UMC, with the exception of the seminars for single mothers and victims of sexual violence, which are taught by a local woman named Mawa who herself was widowed due to AIDS. She is in Kinshasa with her only son for the moment receiving some new ARV treatment for her and her son, but will be back in Uvira soon. Me, Willy, Rolph, Claver, and Isidord all live together in the back of the center (there are two small bedrooms for staff), and during the day we work on whatever we can at the center.

So just wanted to check in with everyone now that I am back in Uvira. I appreciate the connections you all helped me make here through your organization, and I feel very lucky to be able to spend time again here with Rodolphe and everyone at UMC in South Kivu.

Rodolphe and everyone here says hello, and hopefully I will be able to email you some new developments sometime soon.

Ned Meerdink"

We wish Ned much success in Uvira, and we'll keep posting updates as we receive them!

To learn more about the project in Uvira, and how you can help, please visit the project page here.

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