All around us, women and men are quietly working to create a more just, healthy and peaceful world. They care for survivors of conflict. They share skills and ideas that strengthen communities. They are today’s unsung heroes.
Every once in awhile, one of these heroes is brought to light. Lyn Lusi, HEAL Africa’s co-founder, was recently awarded the prestigious Opus prize for her work in solving today’s most persistent social problems in Congo. Yet she also represents the tireless efforts and dedication of countless others.
Doctors, counselors, teachers, engineers – all of them play vital roles at HEAL Africa. Yet there is one member of our family who is an integral part of every patient we treat, every woman we teach. That person is you. You provide the funding that allows our mission to move forward every day in the hands of dedicated staff members like Chief Medical Engineer John Bizi, Dr. Kayumba Bienvenu and Healing Arts teacher Marie Biliya. Step into their shoes for a moment and see how your support makes a difference in the lives of women, men and children in Congo.
We hope you’ll be inspired to make a gift to help our unsung heroes continue their work. Together, we can create a healthy, vibrant Congo.
Marie Biliya remembers her first day at HEAL Africa very well. “There were so many women, and I had to teach them!” Marie might be shy, but her desire to help others won out. She joined HEAL Africa’s Healing Arts program in 2007, teaching hospital patients and other local women how to produce clothing and accessories. With this skill they can earn a living and gain respect in their communities – a goal that resonates with Marie. “Whatever happens in my life, I wouldn’t want to be a burden for somebody else.”
But there were times when Marie did feel like a burden. Her husband, the family’s sole provider, died of an illness in 2000. Left alone with their three children, Marie opened her own tailoring business. Among her clients were several women who worked for HEAL Africa, including Lyn Lusi. When she was invited to be a teacher for Healing Arts, she saw the opportunity to help other women like herself.
One young mother had a daughter who broke her leg; her husband chased them away. She joined the Healing Arts program and now spends every cent she earns from her sewing on her daughter’s treatment. Marie hopes the girl can go back to school like all her own children. “For me it is so touching that these women do everything to care for their children,” she explains. Marie is proud to give them the skills to provide for their families.
John Bizi grew up in Rwanguba, a town not far from Congo’s border with Uganda. As the fifth of 11 children, he worked from the age of 12 to pay his own school fees. Today, John is HEAL Africa’s Chief Medical Engineer.
John met Lyn and Jo Lusi years before he thought of joining HEAL Africa. He recalls eating some fufu (a staple starch) prepared by Lyn Lusi, “My first time to eat fufu made by a white person!” When John got a scholarship to study medical engineering in Kenya for three years, he knew he could help heal the people of Congo. So he joined HEAL Africa’s hospital in Goma after completing his studies in 2006.
John makes sure that the hospital has everything it needs to serve patients effectively, from running water to medical oxygen. “Recently we received a patient who was oxygen dependent. The cost for oxygen is high around here: $80 for an oxygen tank, $1,500 for an oxygen concentrator and $110 for a flow meter. We did not have proper equipment, so I used the flow meter from an old machine and fixed it onto a newer but incomplete tool, and it worked.” Now the patient lives at home and breathes naturally.
At HEAL Africa, John is an engineer who saves lives. He’s honored to have the opportunity, saying simply, “I like the way HEAL Africa works for vulnerable people.”
Dr. Bienvenu joined HEAL Africa in 2008 and provides sexual violence victims with medical care. He admits it is not easy to hear the horrifying stories his patients have to tell. But Dr. Bienvenu relates to his patients with compassion and humility, offering personalized care and a full commitment to their recovery. This commitment can bring him into the hospital at any time of day or night. He recalls going in on a Saturday afternoon recently, on his own time, to operate on a 22 month old baby who had been physically abused by a neighbor. “I felt really moved by this patient and was happy to contribute to her recovery,” he says.
But Dr. Bienvenu did not always see himself as a doctor. “When I was at school, I wanted to become an electrician. I started my studies in that field, but my father – who is also a doctor – encouraged me towards medicine,” he reveals. The first born of a family of five children, he felt he had to follow his father’s wishes. Today, Dr. Bienvenu is glad he did: he loves his work and is devoted to helping people in need of specialized care. “In the three years I have been at HEAL Africa, I have seen many changes in our hospital’s infrastructure and services. I’m proud of the investment the organization makes in people. I only hope for a lasting peace in Congo so that the country can reach a real level of development.”
Dr. Bienvenu, John, and Marie are part of a global community of people who believe a peaceful Congo is possible. They are working on behalf of the vision we all share. They are the power behind Lyn Lusi. And you are the power behind HEAL Africa.
We invite you to make a gift to HEAL Africa this holiday season. Your donation will allow Marie, John, Dr. Bienvenu, and hundreds of others to continue their brave but quiet efforts to create a healthy, vibrant Congo. Join us in celebrating the dedication of Lyn and the entire HEAL Africa family. Together we can bring hope and healing to Congo.