Changemakers for Congo


“The greatest use of a life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” 
~ William James


HandUp Congo’s advisors are unpaid volunteers who regularly travel to Congo to maintain relationships and monitor projects. Above, the HandUp Congo team works side by side with their Congolese partners in Lotumbe’s nutrition garden.


Anne hobgood Zolnor
(Mama Bolumbu), Founder

Anne Zolnor brings more than 30 years of experience in clinical, managerial and consulting experience in healthcare to development projects in the Congo, where she grew up. She is the eldest of HandUp Congo’s founding sisters, whose grandparents first came to Congo in 1912.  She enjoys linking her professional and organisational skills to HandUp Congo’s projects, and taps into her international network to increase awareness of Congo’s needs. Anne has a Master of Business Administration from Jacksonville University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Texas Christian University.


Betsy Brill
(Mama Bombambula), founder

Betsy Brill is a former journalist and business editor who has spent more than a year travelling, studying, and writing about microfinance approaches in Egypt, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. “The world is filled with problems,” Betsy says, “but solutions fascinate me. Sharing those solutions – taught by women in other developing countries – is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life.” Betsy, who was the catalyst for the Microcredit project, lives in San Francisco and spends part of the year in a small village in France.


Lucy Hobgood-brown
(Mama Otaenga), founder

Lucy Hobgood-Brown’s career has included working as a journalist and university teacher, and she now fosters capacity-building projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she and Anne grew up. An Australian-American dual citizen, Lucy lives in Sydney and has Masters degrees in International Communication and International Social Development. In 2015 Lucy received Rotary International’s Global Woman of Action Award at the United Nations. 


Désiré SAFARI Kanyena 

Désiré SAFARI Kanyena is a community development advisor to the Disciples of Christ Community in Congo (CDCC), and works closely with HandUp Congo on capacity building projects. A native of Bukavu in South Kivu Province (DRC), Safari is based in Mbandaka, capitol of Equateur Province. His current work topics are based on reflecting with communities on how to alleviate poverty and hunger, to balance gender, to safeguard environment. He advises Congo’s Health Department in the area of community health.


Roma Mehta (Mama Ifuwa) 

Roma Mehta and Lucy Hobgood-Brown first connected in Taipei many years ago. Their partnership has continued on many fronts. When HandUp Congo was initiated, Roma came on board to design the logo and other supporting collateral. Roma is a keen supporter of HUC’s mission of facilitating sustainable development in marginalised communities. Connecting to and working with people toward empowering women and children is a passion she has shared with her father, who established and then for 35 years supervised a free school for street children in Kolkata, India. Roma is co-owner of a design and print firm in Taipei (Sir Speedy) and a former editor for a lifestyle magazine in Taipei, Taiwan (Centered on Taipei). She is involved with Red Room, a community led organisation supporting the arts.


Cynthia Nadai (Mama Mboyo)

Cynthia Nadai is an American who came to Australia over 20 years ago.  Wherever she has lived, she has helped to support the community she lives in.  In Boston, Cynthia was a management consultant teaching people how to participate effectively in government decisions.  She also ran her neighbourhood annual street fair bringing together hundreds of arts and crafts and food vendors.  In Sydney, Cynthia worked for the St James Ethics Centre (now The Ethics Centre) as Director of Operations and continues to work there as a volunteer ethics counsellor.  She is currently Chair of Good2Give, a not for profit promoting workplace giving in Australia.  In 2005 Cynthia was also a founding member of the Balmain / Rozelle Community Bank, a Bendigo bank. Bendigo Community Banks contribute 80% of their net profits back to the community.




Robyn Hutchinson (Mama Bokajeanne)

Robyn Hutchinson has spent her life linking education with community development in Australia and Asia. Over this time she has worked as a primary school teacher and principal in schools, and volunteer facilitator and mentor in community development. Her particular passion is grassroots sustainable community development with a focus on inquiry-based, experiential learning and applying restorative processes as the foundation. Currently she continues to volunteer with the Institute of Cultural Affairs  (Australia, Asia-Pacific, International), the Reconciliation movement in Australia, and
supporting HandUp Congo.


Vera Sistenich (Mama Ntela)

Vera Sistenich is a board-certified, emergency medicine specialist in Australia, where her areas of interest are Aboriginal health, medical education and the development of physician training in the field of international emergency medicine. Outside Australia, she has clinical experience in China, Nepal, Peru, South Africa, Vietnam and the UK. She has also worked with asylum seekers both at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre in the Australian Indian Ocean territories, and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. In 2013-2014, she was Health Policy Advisor to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland. She is HandUp Congo’s team leader for the Emergency Medicine Education Project.




Linda James
(Mama Sala Imbonjilo)

Linda James was drawn to the Democratic Republic of Congo as a result of the missionary work her aunt and uncle, Mabel and John Ross, did in Congo and in the remote village of Lotumbe for more than 30 years. Linda holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and German. 


Kiran Hutchinson (Mama Bofendji) 

Kiran Hutchinson is a community development advisor. 

"I haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Congo yet, but I get great satisfaction helping from afar. Whether it’s brainstorming on fundraising strategies or helping with event management, I’ve found being a volunteer for HandUp Congo to be rewarding. After participating in trip debriefs, reading reports and organising photos for presentations, I feel I’m part of the wonderful Ubuntu spirit shared by everyone that works with and supports HandUp Congo around the world. I also enjoy working on HUC projects in Australia that involve Congolese refugees and participating in events that recognise their wonderful contributions."


It is the tradition of the Disciples of Christ Community in Congo (CDCC) to give Congolese names to visitors. HandUp Congo’s volunteers have been blessed to receive names of honoured elders who have passed on, but who leave a rich legacy of memories and contributions to their communities. We thank CDCC for acknowledging our volunteers’ contributions through the bestowal of Congolese names.

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