Last March, Word Alive photojournalist Alan Hood and I (writer Doug Lockhart) spent six days in the city of Goma, at the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern border with Rwanda. As part of our orientation to a Wycliffe-related trauma healing workshop being held there, organizers introduced us to two Congolese Christians: Dr. Ahuka Longombe [long-GOMbay] and Thomson Kadorho [ka-DOR-oh]. The two men are dedicated to helping many of the Congolese citizens who have been traumatized during two decades of war, and by the ongoing violence that still plagues much of eastern Congo.
Longombe is affiliated with Doctors on Call for Service (DOCS), a U.S.-based Christian ministry that links U.S. volunteer physicians with doctors in Africa to share knowledge and expertise. At the DOCS clinic in Goma, Longombe’s small team struggles to assist the steady stream of women afflicted by HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
All too frequently, DOCS staff must provide emergency surgery too—for women who have been brutally raped. Longombe has become a leading expert on the reconstructive surgery needed by many such Congolese women and girls.
Thomson Kadorho is the director of an Anglican relief and development ministry in Goma. Kadorho led us on a two-day tour of Goma. We were introduced to some of the traumatized people his cash-strapped agency tries to assist.
In the pages that follow, we feature some of the people Alan and I met and talked to, with help from a Congolese interpreter. Despite varying circumstances, each person we met suffered deeply as a result of the war, continuing raids by armed soldiers elsewhere in eastern Congo, or the pervasive poverty that still has a chokehold on the people of DRC. Some of the details of their lives got lost in translation—but the photographs that follow speak for themselves.
(ABOVE) This is the father of the girl above named Nyamuhirwa. He was just 13 years old when soldiers seized him and conscripted him into a life of violence. He escaped five years later, but after a fruitless search for surviving relatives, he eventually made his way to Goma. Married in 2000, he now earns meagre income by selling shoes on the street. At night, he’s frequently haunted by disturbing memories from his past, while morning brings scant relief from the depression and hopelessness that dog his days. (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) In a district of Goma, a woman glances down before taking another step on the rocky path that separates houses—many home to those displaced by conflict—in the area near Lake Kivu. Evidence of past volcanic eruptions—most recently in 2002—is clearly visible throughout the city. One expert quoted recently in National Geographic magazine says the volcano, some 15 km away, will erupt again, potentially transforming the city into “a modern Pompeii.” (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) Neema, 19, holds her 16-month-old daughter Esther in their small room at the Anglican ministry centre. Besides providing temporary shelter for up to 45 women and children, the ministry also provides job training for women. Neema, whose home is 120 km away in a region still in turmoil, discovered she was pregnant after being sexually violated by an unknown assailant. Esther was born with a malformed foot; the Anglican ministry heard of their plight and arranged to bring them to Goma so Esther could receive medical attention. (Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) Nalusambo, 65, is a destitute widow who has lived in a dark, cramped hut near Lake Kivu for the past three years. Before the Anglican ministry helped repair her leaky roof, she had to stand in a corner of the hut on rainy nights to stay dry. Married at age 15, Nalusambo bore 11 children; only one, a daughter, is still alive. Nalusambo manages to survive by selling bananas, avocados and other food items to boat passengers and crews at the lakeshore. (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) This woman and child live on the outskirts of Goma. Both face an uncertain future, living just a few kilometres away from a rumbling volcano, in a region of the country that continues to erupt in unspeakable violence. (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) Vumilia reflects on the hardships she’s endured since coming to Goma in 2009 to seek refuge from the ongoing violence in rural areas of eastern Congo. She’s temporarily living in a partly constructed house with her daughter Siuzike [soo-ZEEK] and her baby Bahati (see cover photo), as well as her son Emmanuel (in background). Emmanuel is blind in one eye, making it difficult for him to work. The family earns a bit of income by selling fish, fruit and vegetables. (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) In a small shop in downtown Goma, a woman applies sewing skills she’s learned through classes at the ministry centre. Women attending the program are equipped with marketable skills that help them rebuild their lives. They also gain something less tangible but equally important—hope for the future. (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) Cradling her infant son Bahati in her arms, Siuzike gazes at street scenes visible through an open doorway. If better days await her and Bahati, they can’t come soon enough for the 21-year-old rape victim.Thankfully, a compassionate local pastor is watching out for her and her family and pointing them to Jesus—their healer and redeemer. (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) A group of women in Goma chat in the courtyard of the Anglican ministry centre while weaving baskets to earn a bit of income. (Photo: Alan Hood)
(ABOVE) Josephine, pictured here with the ministry’s director, Thomson Kadorho, is a victim of sexual violence who has made great strides in rebuilding her life and her health since she first came to the agency for help. Her sewing shop income helps her to support a three-year-old daughter. (Photo: Alan Hood)