Hope and happiness filled my heart today at this school in Goma DR Congo!

Photographing for Gilbert Kabango & World Center for Compassion – Capturing Grace in Democratic Republic of Congo

December 13th – From my travel journal:

Hope and happiness filled my heart today at this school in Goma DR Congo!

Yesterday, My heart sank at a village where people in extreme poverty live lives of hopelesness and desperation. I can still see their haunting eyes and protruding rib cages when I close my eyes. Children that bore signs of tremendous neglect and abuse, it always shows in the eyes, it is as though they can see right though you, eyes with no spark, no hope.

At the end of that day I felt hopeless myself, all I could do was cry. I felt like a fool for even trying, thinking that myself, or anyone could make a difference here. The magnitude of the problems are inconceivable, the pain can be seen and felt, the numbers staggering.

This morning I rolled over in my humble bed at Gilbert Kabango’s home in Congo, still feeling the weight of yesterday’s experience. To be honest, I continued to cry my eyes out while listening to Lauren Daigle’s “Everything” (Everything I need) which always pierces my heart with renewed faith and vision. I packed my things and headed out with Gilbert who is founder of World Center for Compassion. It’s a big name for a small organization with little money but a big heart.

Gilbert works so hard to raise funds to allow children in areas like that which I experienced yesterday to have food and attend school. Gilbert was raised in the very village I had visited, born into extreme poverty with no father. Gilbert is now 44 years of age, married to his sweetheart from school and together they have 6 children. Gilbert understands the lives of orphans and vulnerable children and his heart is for re-writing their stories.

Today we used a variety of “public transportation”, riding on motorcycle taxi’s (with my luggage ?), nine passengers vans with twenty + heads jammed in to get to places where Gilbert is making a difference.

These photographs are from my experience at a school that many children attend through World Center for Compassion‘s sponsorship. He works closely with Pastor Musaada Baribusa Matthieu to insure these children are fed, clothed and receive a quality education in the most primitive of environments.

The area this school serves was buried by lava flow from the eruption of Nyiragongo in 2002. Even a short walk can be exhausting due to much of the ground being badly scarred by volcanic rock.

I was amazed that in one of the harshest enviroments I have traveled, the students are so well behaved, honoring me with beautiful greetings in French in each class (there are no “rooms” – see photos) I entered.

Having had some less then successful photography attempts at a previous school, I persuaded the staff and parents who poured out of the village to see the man from America to wait away from the property so that I could spend time alone with teachers and children. These are the images that resulted.

I just can’t say enough about these teachers. They are my ABSOLUTE HEROS!!! The respect that they receive from these students who come from the lowliest of huts is nothing short of a miracle. This school is run by the church and Gods presence is experienced here in a powerful way. The moment I first shook the hand Pastor Musaada, I knew he was someone special, his love for the students is exemplary indeed. My heart expanded in proportion to yesterday’s brokenness when I witnessed a mutual connection of love and respect between students and teachers.

There is one teacher in particular that needs to be in the worlds best teacher hall of fame. She is in photograph # 5. With her own baby (LARGE ?) strapped to her back she zips around the classroom with energy and life that’s so contagious. She truly is remarkable. Please understand these teachers themselves live in this impoverished community. They work here because they want to make a difference.

World Center for Compassion has no website or infrastructure, just a dream to change lives. Gilbert has begged me to come to DR Congo for almost a year to photograph for his ministry. He is praying to use my photographs to develop a website to tell the story of what he is doing, expanding the impact of his ministry… that is why I am here. ❤️

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