“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.