Fighting in the Congo officially ceased last month, peace negotiations are underway in Uganda, and the rebel army, the M23, has announced its intention to disband. No doubt there will be steps backward, but by all reports the country is embracing peace with courage and determination. From my conversations with Virginie and Justine, also of Heal Africa, it is clear to me that the real challenge begins now: how can we maintain international support for the rebuilding of the country and ensure it never slips back to the horrors of the too-recent past?
In 2007, I founded Exposing Hope to raise awareness for female and child victims of human rights abuses. Since then, we have been focused on complex and often unpleasant issues that might not get sufficient attention in a busy world with a short media cycle and plenty of causes that are often easier to understand.
In 2009 we started our work in the Congo; sharing images, telling stories, and raising awareness for victims of sexual violence. Our supporters have enabled us to fund the construction and operation of a number of safe houses where survivors of sexual violence can gather for medical attention, counselling, and skills training to enable them to return to the community.
In 2012, during a visit to the safe houses, my convoy was ambushed. We were amongst the fortunate as the young men took only our property, allowing my driver and me to escape with only minor injuries.
Following this incident, the security situation continued to deteriorate and we were forced to suspend our work in the Congo as we were unable to reach the safe houses. But with the routing of the M23, we have an incredible opportunity to continue our work in the Congo with renewed vigor.
For this reason, the 2013 Annual campaign for Exposing Hope is supporting the women of the Congo. The funds we raise will repair and restock our safe houses and restart the associated training programs. With this work, we are helping to empower hundreds of women to participate in the rebuilding of their society. We will continue to work with same local partners, the same people who have run these programs during the conflict that inflicted 20 years of damage on the people of the region.
The thought of these survivors – many of whom I know, have worked, laughed, danced with, and have photographed – alone in their villages with very little, struggling for survival, breaks my heart. I cannot imagine a better time to rally around these women and to support them as best we can, knowing that all funds raised will go directly to the women and make a huge difference in their lives.
I hope you will join me in donating to Exposing Hope and supporting the women of the Congo as peace begins to flower
To donate, just click here and know that 100% of funds received by Exposing Hope go directly to our programs in the Congo.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any of our team. And of course, please forward this message to your community to help us spread the work.
With much love and thanks this holiday season,
on behalf of the Exposing Hope Board of Directors, Advisory Board and our dedicated volunteers