This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking about my work with Refugees International on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the first ever Westport Circle event.
Organized by two young, energetic and passionate friends of RI, Peter Finlay and Sefra Levin, the event brought together more than 65 people from the Westport, CT and New York City areas to spend an evening learning more about RI and how they can support our work.
The event was generously hosted at the beautiful home of Sefra and her mother Louise, and it was wonderful to have the chance to meet so many of their lovely friends and neighbors, who were clearly moved by the work of RI and wanted to see how they can get more involved.
During my presentation, I spoke about the recent mission I took to the DRC in July and August
, and shared a few personal stories I heard there from some of the over two million people who remain internally displaced. I talked in particular about a 45-year old displaced woman who I met, who is now living in a town called Kalungu.
Francoise told me that she fled her village when fighting broke out between the Congolese army and the FDLR rebel group. She walked for 7 days in the forest with her husband and 8 children, with little food and water, to reach Kalungu. Each night they slept out in the open, without shelter or protection. Along the way, she saw women who had been raped by armed men and people whose belongings, what few they were able to escape with, were looted from them.
Francoise shared with me that in Kalungu, where she is staying with a host family, she can’t get enough food for her children and that they’re unable to go to school. She wants to go home so she can farm her own fields and provide for her family, but as long as the armed groups are there she won’t go back. She said that she has nowhere else to go, so she will stay where she is and wait for peace.
While the stories of many displaced people like Francoise can seem hopeless, RI is playing a key role in pressuring policy makers
to bring an end to the fighting in the DRC and to deal with the underlying causes of the conflict. Through our advocacy, we are also working to improve the lives of those who have been forced from their homes by making sure they receive enough assistance and protection.
And through the support of everyone who was able to attend the Westport Circle, we hope to be able to magnify our work on countries like the DRC that much further.
September 15, 2009
| Tagged as: DR Congo, Humanitarian Response