Photos by Ken Kobré, Maureen Burdynski, Lucy Hobgood-Brown
Over the years in Lotumbe we have provided farming training, tools and fast growing seedlings to improve health and wellbeing. Villagers now have community gardens, duck raising enclosures, beehives, more fruit trees and a community store.
At present the community of approximately 3,000 people has identified food security as its top priority.
They have prepared a list of items that would improve life.
The Lotumbe hospital is the only general reference hospital in the rural health zone and services over 80,000. Many travel for days by canoe or walk on forest paths to receive medical care. This is a 'full service' hospital that provides surgical, orthopaedic, obstetrics, family planning, AIDs and Ebola treatment.
In conjunction with Pink Umbrella, DAK Foundation, UNSW Medical Students' Aid Project and others, HandUp Congo has provided funds for latrines, mattresses, medical equipment and training.
As their contribution to hospital improvements, the local women have also made medical uniforms using the cloth and sewing machines we provided.
The hospital is BYO - bring your own food, mattress and carer
The patient's family is responsible for bathing, feeding, laundry and cleaning. Barter is an accepted way of paying for hospital care. You are not discharged until your bill is paid.
Healthcare teams at rural hospitals including in Equateur Province jumped at the chance to have emergency medicine and family planning education.
Doctors and nurses travelled to the provincial capitol and also to Lotumbe by canoe, motorbike and on foot to participate in training and to receive donated medical equipment, eyeglasses and contraceptives.
HandUp Congo has facilitated this training in Lotumbe and at hospitals in 7 provinces since 2015. [Photo to the left is of Dr Vera Sistenich (r) with Blandine Diangemba at IME Kimpese Hospital.]
The staff now have the training to assist with:
Neonatal emergency care
Trauma and resuscitation care
Watch our video.
Congo: Saving Lives with Emergency Medicine, produced by Ken Kobré, 18 May 19
There are now two groups of Microcredit Mamas at Lotumbe, more than 60 women, who are earning enough money to pay for school fees, medical care and solar panels.
Lotumbe women have been educated in a savings-based microfinance project model which now includes an expanding number of borrowers as loans are made and repaid with interest thereby growing the fund.
The model works and is replicable.
What a difference a motor makes
In 2017, HandUp Congo supporters purchased a motor for the Lotumbe Microcredit Mamas enabling them to to access multiple riverside markets to sell handmade soap, bread, manioc and more - saving them many hours each day.
More canoe motors, bicycles and motorcycles would make an enormous difference to many!
After providing sewing machines in 2005 and facilitating the establishment of a new sewing school in 2018, seeds have been 'sewn' creating:
clothes for newborns
properly outfitted medical personnel
single mums running sustainable, income-producing sewing enterprises that include providing washable hygiene kits that help keep girls in school
Capacity Building Success
More Pygmy orphans are enrolled in school via the duck and fruit tree raising initiative. The goal is to sell eggs and fruit to cover the cost of the Pygmy orphans’ tuition and uniforms.
Pastor Entonto (left) works with the entire community on capacity-building projects that are prioritised by a management committee. His salary is made possible by ICA Australia.
climate change and Reforestation
"Debout Lotumbe" (Stand Up Lotumbe) is the community's capacity building management team that identifies needs and works with HandUp Congo to make things happen.
In 2017 Lotumbe school children planted 50 bee-friendly fruit and palm trees as a climate change and community service reforestation project.
Lotumbe is located in the world's 2nd largest rainforest, after the Amazon. Deforestation is occurring due to large numbers of displaced people cutting down trees for shelter and fuel.
This project was supported by Rotary E-Club of Greater Sydney (District 9685) in collaboration with Rotary Ekanga Mbandaka (District 9150).
In 2006, the first community garden was established. HandUp Congo has provided funds for tools and training while land was donated by the community.
Food security is now a bit easier for Lotumbe’s vulnerable widows and vulnerable single mums.
A small library has been established as a resource for the teachers of Lotumbe's seven schools.
With your help, HandUp Congo aims to provide funding for more books for teachers and more than 1,000 children. One book costs $12. The Ministry of Education determines school curriculum and reading lists.
This would enable the printing of original hymnals and schoolbooks which deteriorate quickly in the tropical heat.
Soccer balls and jerseys make a difference too! Football Federation of Australia and individual donors like David Heimer have supported HLotumbe youth with both.
Sport is uniquely effective in improving health, fostering social inclusion, interaction and cohesion - and gender equality.
Sport provides safe and supportive community spaces for women and pygmies who are at an increased risk of experiencing violence.
Sport also provides governments and public health organisations with a mass audience platform to deliver high-impact messaging on health issues.
investing in Schools
Over the years we have funded school benches, rehabilitated tornado-damaged school buildings and provided books.
At the request of the community, HandUp Congo has also provided pre school toys, cloth for school uniforms and funds to buy schoolbooks and pay for pre school teacher stipends and Pygmy orphan tuition.
In 2005 we provided funding for sewing machines and fabric. In return the local women sewed the school uniforms. Great teamwork!
HandUp Congo's Emergency Medicine Education Project leader, Dr Vera Sistenich, is also a hobby apiarist. She identified the opportunity to introduce sustainable beekeeping in Lotumbe.
The locals were burning down trees to access honey. With HandUp Congo's help they have had training from Congo's Beekeeping Association (PLAAC) and now have the equipment and skills to sustainably retrieve honey from trees and build their own hives.
Vera has enthusiastically championed this new social enterprise in Lotumbe - and even produces and sells Australian honey to benefit this initiative. Learn more.
Lotumbe has the only store for 100's of kilometres. It sells everything from batteries to combs, cooking oil to cloth, tinned food to school notebooks.
With help from supporters, HandUp Congo built the store and has provided seed money for merchandise. Local entrepreneurs also sell their wares.
In Lotumbe there is no optometrist and nowhere to buy eyeglasses. And no one has the money.
Every year HandUp Congo volunteers carry used, good condition eyeglasses with them to Lotumbe. The hospital staff facilitates dispensing them.
If you would like to donate new readers from the Chemist or used eyeglasses in Sydney, please contact email@example.com
Lotumbe has 13 residents who without wheelchairs are isolated and confined to home.
With wheelchairs they can attend school, socialise and run a business. Most of these people are polio victims.
In 2018, we purchased 2 wheelchairs for Lotumbe (made in Kinshasa) with a Rotary E-Club of Greater Sydney district grant for US $500 each.
That's a good start. It takes $500 USD ($800 AUD) to facilitate the purchase and delivery of a wheelchair to Lotumbe.
This is a relatively new project for us.
We have seen the impact that solar panels have on entrepreneurs, school children and community leaders in Africa.
We aim to build on this with our project colleagues.