JWW in Congo: “The Flip of a Coin”

by Diana Buckhantz

Congo is unlike anything I have experienced.  I can barely process what I have seen and heard today.  The poverty and desolation are unimaginable.  There is such a waste of human potential. 

Three years ago the volcano at the edge of Goma erupted destroying the entire town.  Today people live in stone huts on top of piles of black molten rock and garbage.  Electricity is intermittent as is flowing water.  It feels unfathomable that in 2009 people live like this.

Last summer I visited Vietnam.  With outdoor markets and people working rice fields with oxen, it was like stepping back in time.  It was primitive.  It was charming. 

Goma is not charming.  It has heartbreaking abject poverty.  I look around and wonder how it is that I was born where I was born and these people are born into these circumstances.  What flip of the coin gave me the life I have? 

At the Heal Africa hospital, which is considered a model in the region, we met a personable young man who had been shot in the war and who needed a special diet to build himself up before surgery.  The hospital could not provide the special diet and his mother could not afford to purchase these foods.  Most likely he will die in the hospital before surgery.  He is 20 years old. 

There is hope, however.  Tomorrow we will visit a program designed to prevent death in childbirth.  Today we saw a gardening project which will help people in remote villages sustain themselves.  But there is much to do…so many to help. 

Tonight their faces haunt me: the faces of the women we met who had been raped and still suffer physical and emotional damage and the faces of the engaging children with no education and no foreseeable future.  But tomorrow I will wake up reinvigorated and renewed.  I believe, because I must, that our visit here will lead us, Jewish World Watch, to a project that can begin to make some small difference in these lives.