Beyond the pages of school books and university lectures, we aim to provide leaders with real world opportunities to lead and make change in Africa. In Rwanda, a large donation of Bibles has become the seed for our Congolese students to work towards unifying Congolese refugees.
At These Numbers Have Faces our goal is far more than just providing funds for school. Yes, we provide Leadership Loans to enable young African scholars to focus on their educations while in University, but we are also continually working in each country program to develop local connections that will provide additional trainings, networks, mentorships or opportunities for our students. Particularly we want our students to have real world experience leading, so we look for opportunities for our scholars to practice active leadership, project management, team building and community change in their own contexts.
Estimates say that in 2014 Rwanda will have over 90,000 Congolese refugees in 5 camps spread throughout the country. Over 1/3 of our students in Rwanda are Congolese. Many of the families have been in Rwanda for almost 20 years as the violence and destruction continues in their homeland. When we visit the camps, refuges continually tell us that their primary prayer is that they can return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Even though some of them have never set foot in the DRC, our students and their families long for home. That being said, most people agree that Congo is a nation in a state of emergency. The government and all major institutions have declined after decades of unrest, the education system is anemic and weak and the overall infrastructure is poor. On top of all of that, our students are isolated in camps far from Congo and missing a connection to their home and their community.
On a recent trip to Rwanda, we brainstormed with our students ways that they could meaningfully connect with their peers inside Rwanda and see if together they can envision what life in Congo could be like and perhaps begin small steps towards that vision. As we talked, it became clear that the students had two primary goals:
- Expand the spiritual environment—which they believe is the most critical element of unifying and emboldening their community.
- Provide Congolese students an opportunity to connect with fellow country men and women—which creates connections to learn and maintain Congolese traditions and find ways to look forward for their community and their country.
Recently These Numbers received a generous donation of Bibles and this formed an idea in our students. What if we used the Bibles to connect to each camp, build relationships and provide a means to connect? Costs would be few but the potential connection would be invaluable. This idea was germinated on a Tuesday night, by Saturday midday the Gihembe Bible Society had been created with all 12 of our students and another 13 Congolese students on top! Leadership was selected, a budget and schedule created within 1 week and a plan in place for using these Bibles to build their community blossomed. Our students are learning how to share leadership, meet a felt need (people regularly ask for Bibles) and are so excited to do something to unite their community. Needless to say, they are stoked!
All of this because someone provided a fund for Bibles. The potential in our scholars is so great—but few of them have been given the tools and the chance to practice community leadership until joining These Numbers Haves Faces. Support from donors and foundations, provides our staff on the ground with the tools to encourage creative leadership and allow our scholars to test and hone their leadership abilities. Balanced with the school support they get, opportunities like this one are what make our program unique and one that goes far beyond the surface needs of a young leader, but digs deep to truly help transform these young men and women into leaders that will change the face of the Democratic Republic of Congo—and all of Africa.