Congo Widow Escapes Violence With Life, Children, Little Else

Congo widow

Jasmine Bates, the head of CRS’ office in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, hugs Degereje, a widow with three children from Ngungu, an isolated town in eastern Congo. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

By the time Jasmine had heard her story, she knew just what Degereje needed.

The 40 year-old widow and mother of three has had a rough year. The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo flushed her from her village. She didn’t have time to pack. She just grabbed the kids and ran. When things calmed down, there was no point in returning to salvage what she could: the armed forces that blew through picked her house clean. So when she showed up in Ngungu, a chilly hilltop town in the east of the country, she had nothing.

Most of the people that fled with Degereje were taken in by friends and relatives, straining already limited resources.

CRS gave her and 5,000 other Congolese who had been displaced in Ngungu an assortment of goods to help them get back on their feet. Everything from soap and a water jug to bowls and blankets. Degereje deeply appreciated the help.

Things are better now, but still pretty difficult. Jasmine could see that. Only one of Degereje’s three children is in school. She rents a stick and mud house that is so brittle, it crumbles like Feta cheese when you touch it.

To Jasmine, Degereje was no longer a beneficiary, someone who had received NFIs (that’s humanitarian jargon for non food items, things like buckets and bowls). She was an unemployed mom with no money trying to raise three kids. Growing up near Appalachia, Jasmine had seen this before. And she knew just what to do.

She got up, planted herself right next to Degereje, leaned into her, and gave her long deep Southern hug.

– Lane Hartill, CRS regional information officer, West Africa

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