SEWING SCHOOL

KALUBI CLEMENCE was a destitute young widow from the Kasai province. When she was about 15 or 16, her family married her to a man who worked in the mines at Tshikapa. Two months after her baby girl was born her husband died. Her in-laws were supposed to provide her with the dowry her family had paid, so she could support her child. They told her to come to Kinshasa (a considerable distance away, where a different language is spoken). When she arrived, Kalubi’s in-laws had run off with the dowry, leaving the widow and her four-month old baby destitute. Kalubi found some people who spoke her language and asked the pastor for help.  He refused to take her into his home but he told her to sleep in the church (where windows are just open spaces), and she and the baby were terribly bitten by mosquitoes. The next morning Mme Monique heard about Kalubi and immediately rebuked the pastor and took Kalubi and her baby home, and they lived with Monique’s family for some time.

The first plan after rescuing them was to find a way to send them back to the Kasai, but Kalubi explained that she had no way to support herself there. She knew that Mme Monique was running a sewing school, and she asked to be enrolled. She learned to sew very well! When she finished, Kalubi was not only able to support herself and her daughter, but she earned enough to take a computer course and now has a job as a business secretary while continuing to sew to supplement that income. Her daughter is a happy schoolgirl. Kalubi and her little girl are very grateful for their “family” at Mme Monique’s and love to visit “grandmother.”

Story told by Sewing School Student to Elsie McKee

“I am called Makongolo Dina. I am the third of six children; our father died when we were young. We did not go to school, except my oldest brother who paid his own way. When I was at home, one of my sisters told me that there was a non-profit here where you could study sewing. I wanted to do that; I came and talked with Mme Monique and she accepted me. When I came I could not read or write but now I have learned to read and write and I am learning to sew. There were many things I did not know but now I am in the process of learning and advancing. I understand sewing now and I am making clothes for a five-year-old child.

I am not married but I have two children, a boy of six who is in first grade and a girl of eight who is in third. I had lots of problems; there were times when I did not have anything to eat for three days, and nothing to wear. That is how I got acquainted with a policeman. Policemen are not well paid; he gets $40 or $50 a month. So he does not have enough money to rent a house for his family, but he supports his two children. Every few days he brings about 3000 or 4000 Congo francs (less than $5) to buy food for the children. Sometimes he gives me 10,000 Congo francs to buy them clothes. At the end of the month when he receives his salary he pays the school fees for his children.

I like to sew because in the future that will allow me to support myself. If I have my work, I will not wander here and there, or prostitute myself to have a little money. I will be able to take charge of my life myself.”

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Miss KALAYA KAMBALA, one of the first graduates of the sewing school which Mme Monique began, was the daughter of a widow.  Unlike most of the students, Kalaya had been to school and completed secondary education to get her state diploma – but she could not find a way to support her mother and sisters.  She needed a job: so she came to the sewing program… and succeeded wonderfully! After graduation she worked in Congo for a while and then went to Angola where there was a very good market for her creations. Finally, she moved to France where she has a large cliental for her couture.

 
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Story as told by Sewing School Graduate to Elsie McKee

“My name is BOYATA JEANETTE. I am the wife of a soldier and we live in Camp Kabila. I am very happy to sew. When my husband was passing by FEBA he saw the poster which said they were seeking people who wanted to learn to sew. He talked with me about it, saying, “You like to sew; I like for you to do it. You are the mother of three children (whom we must educate).” It was my husband who urged me to come. I enrolled in 2013 and now I sew very well. When someone sees how I sew, he asks where I learned and I say, “At Mme Monique’s.” Also I have brought many young girls to this sewing school.

Since the salary of a soldier is not much, I thank God that I can now sew and contribute to our household. I have a sewing machine at my house and I can earn $20 and pay the school fees for my children. The oldest is in the fifth year of secondary, the second is in primary six, and the youngest in primary four. I don’t have enough money to open an atelier (shop) for myself. But in spite of that, now we do not lack food. For example, if someone comes with a broken zipper, I can repair it, or if the pants are too big, I can adjust them. That way we can eat. I thank the Lord for this machine. My husband came the day of graduation and saw me in my beautiful dress. He was very happy when he saw the machine (my graduation present from Woman Cradle of Abundance, Inc.). He said, “Having a machine was a dream and now the dream has come true!” A machine is something extraordinary in the house. I appreciate Mme Monique very much and I am happy that she invited me here to speak about my life. Many thanks to Mme Monique because she has done so much for us.”

BATTERED WOMEN and GIRLS

Sixteen-year-old GLORIA was separated from her family during the war. Her mother was a soldier and was sent to Goma in eastern Congo. Gloria ended up on the streets of Kinshasa with no place to go. She often slept under parked cars, or any other place that provided shelter. Then Gloria was raped—she didn’t know who had attacked her - and discovered that she was pregnant. She heard about a woman from her home region, Mme Monique, who welcomed everyone in need, especially young girls. When she found her way to Mme Monique she learned that FEBA would take her in and help her get medical care. Gloria gave birth to a healthy baby and a few months later Mme Monique was able to reunite mother and child with Rebecca’s own family.

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A young teenaged orphan named NATASHA was left in the care of her uncle. He ordered her to become a prostitute to support herself, but she refused so he threw her out of the house and she was forced to live on the street. Natasha took refuge wherever she could find shelter, but she was not safe...; she suffered multiple rapes and ended up in a hospital. Hospitals do not feed patients; they must rely on family for food, and Natasha had no family. When members of FEBA visited the hospital to bring food to their friends, they also fed Natasha, and when she could leave the hospital they brought her home to Mme Monique. When she was well again, Natasha enrolled in FEBA’s sewing school. Now Natasha has a future, and a safe and respected way to support herself.       

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Thirteen-year-old EPHRASIE was an orphan. Her parents had died of AIDS, which is considered a mystery and curse, so Ephrasie was accused of killing them by sorcery. She was left with her mother’s relatives but they beat her and starved her and she caught tuberculosis. Only one of her cousins tried to help her by bringing her to Mme Monique. Immediately Mme Monique took Ephrasie into her home and got her medical care, in spite of the warnings of her neighbors that she risked catching TB from the child. Not long after Ephrasie was well and strong again, a beautiful young girl, relatives from her father’s side of the family turned up at Mme Monique’s door. She told them the story of how Ephrasie had been abused, and they began to cry. They offered Mme Monique money but she said, “I did not steal your child for money. I took care of her because God teaches us to love those who are afflicted. Ephrasie needs to feel she is loved; here with us she is surrounded with love.” The family promised to take good care of Ephrasie and send her to school; she went with them and returned to primary school and on to secondary school. From time to time she came back to visit Mme Monique until her family moved away from the area.

 

ORPHANS and DESTITUTE CHILDREN

Some years ago SHARON, a young girl of 16, got involved with an older married man; when she became pregnant, her family cast her out and she went to live with the man as his second wife.  Polygamy is not legal but it is quite common.  Sharon had two sons.  However, the man contracted AIDS and then his first wife got it and soon Sharon did, also.  First the man and his wife died, and then Sharon died.  No one in either family was willing to take Sharon’s little boys, ages 2 and 4 years.

Finally, her older sister ROSE could not bear to see the boys abandoned and took them into her own home.  Rose already had four children of her own, and her husband was angry that she was adopting her nephews.  When he lost his job, he blamed the two little boys, saying they had used witchcraft to destroy his life, and he divorced Rose, abandoning her and their four children as well as the two little nephews.  Rose was desperate for a way to support all six children, and turned to Mme Monique for help. FEBA has a program to support orphans with school fees and uniforms, so they enrolled Sharon’s two boys; in 2015 Daniel, the second one graduated from high school.  FEBA also helped Rose with a little money to feed herself and the children, and then took her children into the school program.

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HIV/AIDS

Odette Kalanga

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Odette’s family lived in a rural area in the Kasai province, a considerable distance from the capital city of Kinshasa. Her family earned a subsistence living through farming, which is women’s work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Odette’s husband moved to the capital to look for work with the plan that she and the children would follow. While he was waiting for his family, he took up with another woman and contracted AIDS. When Odette moved with the children to the city, he kept his infidelity and the infection a secret from her.

FEBA has trained women to raise consciousness about AIDS, to identify the signs and help victims get testing and medicine, and to accompany those living with the disease.  One of them saw Odette and invited her to be tested. She was afraid. She also had to ask her husband’s permission and he said “no” because he knew he had infected her; he threatened the women of FEBA. (Mme Monique said, “Let him take me to court!”) Finally Odette was persuaded to go for testing. The result was positive. She fainted and then was furious with her husband. Mme Monique prayed with her and counseled her through the whole process. FEBA helped Odette with medicine and food and a small micro-loan. She lived with Monique for a time, and FEBA continues to accompany her and help her educate her children.