Educate a Community: Strategically in a SlumSeptember 5, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Bukavu is a city in the Southern Kivu province in D.R. Congo (DRC). It shares a border with Rwanda and has been plagued by war for many years; a war caused by various groups trying to gain power, territory and protect its own interests. To this day there is still instability within the country and tensions run high. Within Bukavu, there are several zones; one of those zones is Keredi, and that is where ELI’s school is located.
Keredi was originally named after the word, credit. It was called this because it was being used as a form of payment, like one would use a credit card. However, the indigenous people could not pronounce the word, credit, and it started to sound like its current name, Keredi. Keredi is now a huge slum. Our school is in the midst of it, surrounded by small houses made from stones, wood, baked bricks and mud. All the streets are dirt, so, when the rains come, it leaves all the roads muddy and often times very difficult to traverse. It is not often that a car comes through the slum because it becomes so muddy.
Keredi is located in a valley between two hills. One hill acts like a border between DRC and Rwanda. Part of the hill that stretches above our school houses a makeshift cemetery. The cemetery is not well taken care of and often times people’s remains are dug up because the gravesites are not well marked. These remains are then discarded to make room for new corpses. There are also people who try and plant crops in this area because land is so scarce. On the other stretch of this hill are homes and above those homes is a DRC military camp.
The other hill leads up to the main paved road where there are stores and businesses. More of the affluent residents live on this side of the hill. This hill is steep and when the rains come, it makes the muddy steps slippery and dangerous. To get down to the heart of the slum, one must walk along open sewage canals, cross over makeshift bridges (which consist of two wooden planks stretched over the sewage and covered in mud) and walk through narrow pathways where one side drops off 15 feet below.
Large mounds of dirt intermixed with trash can be found everywhere because there is no organized waste management. The smell of stale urine is prevalent everywhere you go and cleanliness is non-existent.
Children can be found during all times of the day roaming the streets. They are often shoeless and dirty. Parents and guardians often leave children at home while they look for work or try to earn enough money to pay for food for the day. Young children are often left at home to care for siblings even younger than they are. Many families are not able to send their children to school because they are not able to afford it.
The effects of war and current unrest are clearly present in Keredi and ELI’s school is in the midst of this severe poverty. While DRC is one of the richest countries in terms of natural resources, it is one of the poorest. The people suffer much from the aftermath of war, a weak and corrupt government and the current fear of more unrest and violence. Fortunately, there are still glimpses of hope throughout the Keredi slum with the presence of ELI’s school as we seek to provide a safe place for children to gain knowledge that will help them in their futures and where they learn about the love of God for them.
$30 per month pays for 3 children to attend our school.
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