Our Search to Locate An Ideal Project Site 

Christina’s notes from the field 

In our search to locate an ideal project site for Courage in
Congo, in Goma we’ve been though an interesting process that has shed light on
the character of Goma and the region of Nord Kivu itself.  

When we first arrived, we ran into
a lot of surprising road blocks just to find a good map of the city,
demographic information on the population, and the characteristics of the
different (18) neighborhoods.  We were initially
thinking that we could begin the project with this type of information and then
proceed to select the ideal area that fit our criteria, but we soon realized
that it would be hard to track down what we were hoping for and were advised by
almost everyone we spoke with to not waste too much time trying to find it.  The sense I got whenever I asked around for
demographic information and maps of Goma was that I was posing an absurd and
naïve question.  

This struck me as strange as Goma has been a center for
humanitarian agencies for more than the past 2 decades, boasts a population of
about 1 million residents, and is home to the UN mission for the entire country
of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Goma grew into the city it is today following the Rwandan genocide,
which put into motion the current state of instability and conflict in Eastern
Congo.  What I’ve heard from fellow
humanitarian workers is that Goma had a very different feel before the genocide,
and that this – combined with the volcanic eruption of Nyiragongo in 2002 and
the ongoing insecurity in the region – have contributed to the city’s inflated
level of humanitarian activity that I am seeing today. Interestingly, what I
hadn’t realized before arriving is that most agencies concentrate their efforts
outside of the city, in the rural areas where various armed groups are
operating, and arguably, their assistance is more urgently needed. So, it seems
that plenty of information is out there on surrounding areas in North Kivu
(i.e. Rutchuru, Masisi, Beni), but, unfortunately for us, not the city of Goma.  

Another aspect that contributes to the unknown character of the
Goma population and its neighborhoods and roads, is the influx of internally
displaced people into Goma, seeking refuge from insecurity and violence in
surrounding areas, and in 2002, the volcanic eruption.  We were able to find a map of Goma with some roads
demarcated but as one progresses outward from the center of the city on the map,
the well defined roads disappear into what one would think is the bush, but in fact
it’s still Goma, and that’s where IDP’s have settled and made their now
permanent homes “off the map”.   These
areas have neighborhood names and have been there for years, but the current
maps just haven’t caught up yet.    

Into the mix of why there’s missing information about Goma
and it’s population is definitely the weakness of the DRC government itself,
who are behind on conducting public census.  The weakness of the DRC government is an
important reminder of the cause of the instability and conflict that plague
this region.  

In any case our search for demographic information, maps,
and data served to be an interesting and hugely informative endeavor that
didn’t give us what we set out for but did teach us a lot about Goma.  Also, despite this lack of hard data to help
us make a decision on which neighborhood to focus our project, we were able to
make a good and – as informed as could be – choice.    We set our location criteria to generally
be a place that was outside of the main city center, where less NGO activities
occurred, and close enough to the outskirts of the city to include some of the
newer residents, IDP’s who are a higher risk population.  With this criteria we were able locate a
center in a neighborhood called Mabanga Nord.   The center is run by a local Congolese non-governmental organization (NGO)
called CAMME (Centre d’Appui en Faveur des Mineurs Marginalisés et Exploités)
that shares our views/values of the therapeutic and beneficial role of the arts
for youth and children.   

We are happy
that in the process of carrying out our activities we will be able to
contribute to the artistic activities of CAMME.  Best of all, the center has two art rooms on
the second floor of one of the buildings that already have a peaceful and
creative ambiance.  These two rooms are
where we’ll be holding our training and activities with the girls.  To learn more about our local partner, for
this project visit CAMME on the web at:  www.cammedrc.org

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