Nadine might answer to her Swahili name, Munguakokonkwa, but she also goes by Professor Math. Nicknamed by her classmates for her love of mathematics and prowess when it comes to explaining it to others, she reports, “They like me, by the way, because I always explain mathematics to them whenever there is something they do not understand.”
Her mother, grateful for an easy birth, named Nadine “Munguakokonkwa,” which means “thank you God.” Perhaps her name shaped her outlook on life, because 21 years later, Nadine overflows with gratitude. Growing up in extreme poverty in a corner of Congo where she and her mother would work on other people’s farms for a dollar per day to feed themselves and her younger brothers, often kicked out of school for lack of funds, Nadine ticks off a list of all that she is grateful for. “For instance,” she says, “God helped me graduate from secondary school this year, even though I had never dreamed I might finish school because of poverty and hardship in life.” She is grateful to Action Kivu’s work in Congo for providing the path for her to go back to school.
With the opportunity to attend university, Nadine, aka Professor Math, plans to major in computer sciences and technology. “Computer science is important because it helps people to be aware of what is going on in the world,” Nadine explains, standing on the very ground from which many minerals are extracted that make up critical parts of the world’s technological devices, from smartphones to jet engines. Nadine knows that, and wants to enrich that knowledge with a college degree, so that she can educate others in Congo to know how important their country is to the world.
Many of the things on Nadine’s gratitude list center around school. “My favorite memory is when I was in elementary school and I finished with a 91%. Our headmaster gave me so many gifts! Also I spent three months without have to pay school fees when I was just at the beginning of my elementary school. This is a memory, an experience that I will never forget.”
“My life has not always an easy one,” Nadine shares. “I remember that there were times I needed to stop going to school because we lacked the money for school fees, and during those times I had to spend time farming with my mom. I should have already graduated from secondary school 3 years ago. Now I am 21 years old, I have been delayed, but it’s never too late, I have a goal to achieve.”
“My life changed by being in school because I know how to write and read, I know the history of my country and other countries, it has changed my behaviors, it has given me value and standing, not only in my family but also in my community. Being in school helps me believe in myself. I just graduated from Secondary school, many boys failed and I succeeded, that is another reason why I strongly believe in myself and I can achieve more and more. I am ready to stand and go again.”
Envisioning her goal of a university degree becoming a reality with the support of partners around the globe, Nadine sees a bright future. “I see myself so far in 10 years,” she says, beaming. “I’ll have my bachelor degree, allowing me to find good work, which will allow me to support vulnerable children, orphans, and widows.”
Nadine wants to pay forward the opportunity she had to attend and graduate secondary school because of Action Kivu’s partner in Congo (ABFEC). “Going through [this] program has transformed my life entirely, and I want one day to be in a position to give back.
“I want to tell other girls in Congo and around the world that education is the only way to have a bright future. If we have the chance or possibility of studying we must do and take it seriously. And also we must work hard to change the world, and as African girls we can.”
(One year of university plus supplies, books, room & board for Nadine costs $7,000 USD.)
At 20, Cibalonza has already discovered that caregiving is a part of who she is, and what she wants to do with her life. “I don’t like seeing someone suffering reason why I am think that if I become a medical doctor I may help people by taking care of them in general and particularly when they are suffering from sickness,” she says. “I want to study in university and start with the school of nursing. It is important to me because I always have been shocked when I see people in my country die due to the lack of means to access medicine. There are not enough medical doctors.”
“What inspires me is helping poor people and being qualified in medical sciences with focus on pediatrics to allow me to take care of children. The mortality rate in Congo among children under the age of five is very high and I want, I dream to be part of the solution. I want to make changes, to help sick people access free medical care, especially for those who are not able to pay even a little amount of money for their medical care because of extreme poverty.
With further education, Cibalonza plans to contribute to Congo to help construct good hospitals, and to take care of the children of the street and pay school fees for them because of their vulnerability.
Cibalonza is no stranger to the power of community coming together to raise up those in need. Living with her father and stepmother, she was struggling to keep up in the fourth year of secondary school. Her family required she spend her time doing work around the home – digging in the garden, walking to find water, washing the days dishes – leaving little time for her studies. She had a rocky relationship with her stepmother, who was also employed at her school. Eventually her stepmother refused to pay the school fees for her fifth year at secondary school, and Cibalonza missed a year of school. The treatment felt so bad, “I asked myself why I was born,” she reports.
Unable to pay her own school fees, Cibalonza learned about the Education Assistance program run through Action Kivu’s partner, ABFEC. With her drive to study, to learn, and to become a medical professional who will care for others, she was welcomed into the program, and returned to school that following fall. Graduating this past spring of 2017, she has repaired the relationship with her stepmother, and both parents are encouraging her to pursue a college degree, as the best way to a better life.
“My life was changed by being in school because I have improved my knowledge, and it gives me respect and consideration in my family,” Cibalonza says today. Without the support of others, she says, “I could not graduate this year.”
What advice would Cibalonza give other girls? “I would advise other girls to avoid anything stopping them from moving forward and to concentrate on what makes changes around them and in the world. I am calling other girls to remain strong and courageous, courage and hard work are good values.”
One year of university (including room and board and books) for Cibalonza costs $7,000 USD.
“I want to continue my education because it will help me be a responsible and strong woman. I want to attend the school of medicine or nursing at university — it is a big dream.” Chanceline wants to study medicine to care for people who lack means for medical care. “In our country,” she says, “so many people die and will continue dying because they lack the funds for care. That’s why I want to be a doctor and build a hospital to help solve this problem. The mortality rate among children under five is very high, and other people are being killed in every part of our country.”
20 years old, Chanceline Cibalonza lives in Mumosho, a collection of villages 25 kilometers outside the major city of Bukavu, Congo. With only one paved road and very little access to opportunities or education, Mumosho is economically depressed. Rich in culture, the people here live in extreme poverty, despite the natural resources mined from the area that supply the world with the means to make our smartphones, tablets, jet engines, and more. This is where Chanceline lives with both her parents and her siblings.
Her parents are extremely poor, and though Chanceline was expelled from school for lack of funds, she was able to finish secondary school thanks to ABFEC, Action Kivu’s partner in Congo, and our Education Assistance program that sends to school children whose families are unable to afford the fees. Chanceline and her whole family believe that if she has the opportunity to continue her education and get a college degree, this will change her life, and theirs, and eventually the community around them.
“My Swahili name, Cibalonza, means ‘what people want or what they are looking for.’ My parents wanted a baby girl, and when I was born, they saw that I was what they were looking for.”
There was a time, however, that her parents turned their backs on their daughter. Because of a culture that holds that rape is the girl’s fault, they were led to believe that she was no longer the one they were looking for.
“The story that I always remember and I will never forget is the day I was impregnated and abandoned by my family and friends,” Chanceline shares. “I was forced to give up on my studies even though I was ready to graduate.”
“My parents were very disappointed and told me they were ashamed of me and they abandoned me. I lost hope because I saw my life destroyed. I was mistreated, I was a pregnant woman who stayed awake from morning to evening without eating and I had to work for myself. I was still very young and I lost hope and my future became very dark.
“The man who raped me ran away and fled the area. I suffered a lot, I was losing weight every day. I was so miserable, I felt very desperate. When my family learned all of this, they felt badly, and my mother especially.”
Chanceline’s family made amends with her, and welcomed her home. There, she gave birth to a baby girl, but was still afraid, worried about her future with no income, and no education. Every day she went to work on a farm, for approximately one dollar a day, and mourned that she had lost out on school. “But God is great,” she says, “I heard about ABFEC (Action Kivu’s partner in Congo) and I went to talk to my family, who knew about the vocational training programs there, and the Teen Mother’s program (supported by a grant from Jewish World Watch). My mother took me to the Community Center, and I was welcomed, to live there with my child, and receive job training.”
Chanceline chose the Sewing Workshop, to learn how to measure and make clothing for customers. One day during an empowerment group session, she listened to Amani, the founding director of all we do, tell the group of girls and women that they are strong, and they already have the power to decide what to do to change their lives.
“That day I asked if I was still able to go back to school,” Chanceline says. “I was surprised by the answer Amani gave me.” He asked, ‘What do you think about yourself? How do you feel about going back to school to pursue what you want to do?’ He encouraged me, saying, ‘No matter what happened to you, be strong, no matter what, you can transform your pain into power.’
“That was the beginning of a new life and I decided to go back to school. I gained power and I decided not to fail, and I just graduated from secondary school and I am on the journey to achieve my goal. I was supported for two years and in 2017, I finished my secondary studies. I am so happy and proud of myself. This is the story that I will never forget and I will always tell it to everyone.
“What I see in my life, and in the world, that I want to be a part of, that inspires me and excites me is to become among those people who are helping people in difficulties like Action Kivu’s partners — I dream to become a big supporter and expand the ongoing programs to other parts of Congo.”
Chanceline has witnessed more than most in her short life, and because of the support she received, she has hope for others. In addition to becoming a nurse or a doctor to serve the medical needs of the underserved in Congo, she sees the desperate need to educate children and women in literacy, and also to reduce the level of corruption in her county, one of the main reasons, she states, “why my country is not standing correctly.”
The memory of the day she was raped may be strong in her mind, but her other strongest memory is when she received her high school diploma. Even before she had to quit school because of her pregnancy, she was often forced to drop out because her parents couldn’t afford her school fees. “I was one of those poor children that my teacher kicked out from the classroom for lack of school fees. I felt ashamed and I left studies for a moment. My shame ended when I entered the education assistance program, and now I have my diploma.”
“My life changed being in school because at school I learned so many things in short it has developed my skills and gave me knowledge. Today I am proud and feel respected because of my education.”
Now that she has graduated secondary school and is waiting on funds to start university, she is proud to spend her days earning income, sewing. “My life has changed because I can take care of myself and my child with the money I gain from sewing clothes.”
What does the future hold for Chanceline? “In 10 years I see myself very far because I will be done with my studies and have work which will help me to meet my needs and help others in difficult situations. I will be realizing my dreams.”
With your partnership, Chanceline will not only realize her dreams of practicing medicine, but she will pave a path for others to follow.
“What I can tell other girls in Congo and around the world is to never lose hope, listen to those who encourage you. And also I can tell them to study if they have that chance because with studies we can be presidents, doctors, teachers, and lawyers…” The list goes on.
One year of university plus supplies, books, room & board costs $7,000 USD. Chanceline will have to live on or near campus, so her mother will care for Chanceline’s little girl during the school week, giving Chanceline time to pursue her degree, paving the road to a better, brighter, more just world for that little girl.