December 12, 2023 ・

D.R. Congo, the Advocacy Officer of Still I Rise: "How we save child miners"

What impact has Still I Rise’s school had in Kolwezi?

We continue our "Through Our Voices" journey in DR Congo to talk about our role in fighting child exploitation in the cobalt mines. Accompanying you this time is Frank, Advocacy Officer for Still I Rise at the Pamoja school.

"My name is Frank Byendelelo, I am from South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I have a degree in international relations with a minor in journalism.

At the age of fourteen, I risked dropping out of school after working in the gold mines of South Kivu, where I was a victim and witness of child abuse. I was saved by my family who made huge sacrifices, and once I finished my studies, I decided to fight for the cause of children in vulnerable situations.

After completing my university studies I immediately started working in the humanitarian field, and in recent years I have worked for other international NGOs, such as Doctors Without Borders, on issues always related to critical issues in my country.

Since March 2023 I have embarked on this new adventure as Advocacy Officer of Still I Rise in Pamoja School in R.D Congo.

I am in charge of gathering information, interviews, and audiovisual materials related to the situation of child labor in the mining sector, collaborating with Still I Rise colleagues working remotely.

An important part of my work is also maintaining a good relationship between Still I Rise and the local community and families, whom I often visit to listen to their needs, check the situation and gather information useful to our organization.

Before Still I Rise opened in Kolwezi, the concepts of the right to education and child labor exploitation were not well established in the community. Today, thanks to the work we are doing, most people in the community have enough information to understand that children should have the right to go to school and that their place is not in the mines.

We have also seen a significant change in all aspects of the lives of the children and their families.

Our students come from mining sites, where there is no good education among the people, and where they are constantly exposed to all forms of mistreatment. Therefore, most of them have poor behavior because of the context in which they grew up. Now, through psychosocial support and the educational process, we are seeing significant progress,  their behavior is changing as they attend school.

On an intellectual level, these children who once could not even hold a pen are able to write, read and follow all the lessons, thanks to our trained and experienced teachers. Thanks to meals and constant medical care, the health of these children has improved, because when they arrive from the quarry they are in an extremely fragile condition, often with many illnesses.
 
On the other hand, as far as the community is concerned, thanks to the outreach meetings and home visits, we have seen a great change in the behavior of members of our students' families. Changes not only within the family walls but towards the whole community, where delinquency is gradually decreasing.
 
In addition to the education and full support given to their children, families receive food support each month that puts them in a position where they do not have to send their children to work to support the family economically.
 
I feel honored and privileged to work with Still I Rise, an organization that puts children at the center of its mission, which allows me to fulfill the greatest dream I have since my childhood, that of taking children out of the mines and especially that of advocating for the rights of the oppressed, to be the voice of the voiceless, the voice of the unheard.

The best part of my job is when I am at the mine site recruiting children to take them to school, because I know that educating a child means changing the world."

 

And you, what can you do to help?

Join the "No more child miners” campaign and sign the petition!

Join Still I Rise’s BIG FAMILY and donate now!

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