Congo Initiative

Rating: 4.91 stars   32 reviews

Issues: Education

Location: P.O. Box 246 Germantown WI 53022 USA

Mission: Congo Initiative’s mission is facilitate transformation—transformation of communities, the society, and the nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo. An audacious goal? Absolutely! But Congo Initiative is meeting its mission. Congo Initiative is realizing its vision to “train and develop indigenous, Christian leaders” who have the skills and moral courage necessary to lead the changes necessary for DR Congo to flourish and become a beacon of light in the continent and the world.
Results: * UCBC will graduate its first class of students, July 2011. * Forty-eight graduates will receive their diplomas, having completed their undergraduate studies at UCBC. * Major grant from Eastern Congo Initiative awarded in April 2011 for civic education, gender equity initiatives, radio/media infrastructure and technological development for academic programming. * In April 2010 UCBC received its official charter and full accreditation from the Congolese government. * Construction on the University Chapel and Community Center, the centerpiece of the UCBC campus, nearly half-completed, is currently used for classrooms, meetings, and chapel.
Target demographics: * The majority of students at UCBC are between the ages of 18 and 24. * Community members served through the Centers for Community and Family Renewal and Creative Arts are members across the local community--from children through adults. * The Center for Church Renewal and Global Missions and the Center for Professional Development target adults in the immediate community as well as the region of eastern DRC.
Direct beneficiaries per year: 1000
Geographic areas served: Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (North Kivu province)
Programs: Service Learning at UCBC: http://ucbcservice-learning.blogspot.com/
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EIN 20-3467419
919-641-8198
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

We give because we see the huge potential for future transformation of the Congo through students who go to UCBC. My husband Josh has been to UCBC four times, from 2008 and 2009, and I joined Josh for one of the trips as well. He was fortunate to spend a number of months there and really get to know some of the students while helping promote agriculture and sustainable land use at UCBC. He worked with the students during their work programs: cutting grass with machetes, breaking the sod with hoes, and planting crops. The work program at UCBC is so important because educated people in the Congo are normally seen as people who direct others, and are not always willing to get their hands dirty. By stressing hard work as well as academics, UCBC is training a new class of Congolese university graduates who are ready to really do some transforming work as they graduate and go into communities with the values and education they picked up at UCBC.

I was still in school when we were visited, and Josh went back to school for my PhD when we returned. At this time when we are unable to be in Beni at UCBC, we still really believe in the work there and want to support it however we can. We know the building fund is important, but supporting the students is what we really connected with. Many of the students really struggle to get the school fees necessary to attend UCBC, often having to ask relatives for support, and the student's families often have to make huge sacrifices for the opportunity for their children to attend. By setting aside money each month, we are able to support the great work UCBC is doing whileJosh is finishing school. By being a Kipepeo partner, we hope to help Congo become a better place through a student we help support.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I visited Beni for one month (June 2012) and taught two courses at UCBC, in the Faculty of Theology. I was richly blessed by the experience, and hope to continue working with Congo Initiative. First of all, as others have pointed out in their reviews, this is an organization with a bold vision and a radical dependence on God. Secondly, it represents a true partnership of individuals and groups from the global south and north, with Congolese staff at the forefront. This was the impression I had when I first heard of Congo Initiative, and this impression was confirmed by my actual visit. As an African myself (though not Congolese), I was inspired to see how CI is finding a new way, challenging standard NGO models, and demonstrating innovative servant leadership by Africans. Because of UCBC's aim to transform the Congolese educational system, I was encouraged and given tools to help me implement creative approaches to teaching that enabled students to be empowered agents in their own education. The staff and students are very warm and welcoming, and I had a good balance of guidance/support and room for independence. The university is in the midst of developing a strategic plan, so some of the issues that they will need to address in the coming years, as they grow and expand and refine the implementation of their vision, are already well-known to the staff. One of the challenges they face is that everyone has too much to do, due to financial limitations which do not permit expansion of staff and facilities. Beyond the university, CI has a number of centers which are just as active, in their own way, as the university. While this is wonderful, and they are doing amazing work, I sensed that the decentralized format combined with the need for greater central coordination meant that some resources in personnel and diversity of gifts and talents are not always fully utilized. Coordination of communication is also an issue, although I think part of that for me was the fact that I am an outsider and still learning how the mechanisms for communication (among staff, between administration and staff, to the students) functions here. I hope that they will be able to provide more of a participatory role for the students themselves, so that they feel greater ownership about the policies and activities of the university. The service-learning project (e.g., in the class on DRC Realities) provided an excellent example of the effectiveness of student participation. Also, in my class, the students presented a chapel service to demonstrate and disseminate what they had learned about reconciliation and conflict (and, simultaneously, about theologies of music and worship). They did an excellent job, and introduced creative innovations which have the potential to impact the status quo at the university and in the communities in which they live and work. One other issue is the bilingual piece. On the one hand, I think it is an excellent goal to educate students to be able to participate in the anglophone and francophone worlds, which is critical for the development of DRC. On the other hand, UCBC has not yet gotten where it needs and wants to be in terms of bilingual education. I taught my courses in English, and had a translator, which made things easy for me (I speak some French, but am very far from fluent). However, I noticed that some of the students whose English skills were not as strong as their colleagues struggled somewhat with the English portions of the course, even when a translator was present. The university is new, and I am not sure if the bilingual piece is something that just needs more time to develop, or if more effective mechanisms need to be put into place to ensure that all students achieve proficiency in English. Also, if funding could be expanded, it is important that more Congolese and other African faculty can be employed on an ongoing basis, with visiting faculty in a supplementary role, and all faculty be provided with training and support to enhance their pedagogical effectiveness and improve the implementation of UCBC's innovative vision for Congolese education. This is already being done, but could be done even more extensively and regularly. I understand they are working on improving their faculty development. Mary Henton has done a great job facilitating this, and I learned a lot about the UCBC models of pedagogy from her. All this having been said, it is clear that the road to meaningful and sustainable transformation in the DRC is a long one, and I greatly admire the work the Congo Initiative is already doing. I pray that God will enable them to continue on this path, growing and learning as they go, and I hope to accompany them on that journey, in whatever ways I can.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

visiting the university and the offices of one of the centers; working at the university; speaking with administration, staff and students; corresponding with staff and administrators before my visit; hearing from other people in the community about their impressions of UCBC

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

enable them to increase funding so they can (among other things) afford to employ more Congolese faculty to teach more regularly and to expand their training for all faculty in the innovative methods and vision which CI wishes to foster; expand their arts program, integrating it with their other activities (service learning, social justice, classroom learning, etc.); increase the number of Congolese and other African women involved in the leadership and teaching at UCBC (beyond those already involved).

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

Maybe an orientation session for instructors before we come (perhaps via Skype or something?) Bethany (staff person) and other staff and administrators were INCREDIBLY helpful before and during my visit, and there are some things for which one cannot really prepare beforehand. But a standardized (and updated) orientation would be great, including information on educational standards and procedures, what to expect/how to prepare for the bilingual aspect, academic schedules (hours of instruction, academic calendar, etc.), the situation with electricity and internet access (so we can know in advance how much outside work we can realistically get done while we are in Beni), etc.

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Very much so! I was blessed by my time here in many ways, including: learning about the situation in the DRC first-hand (though I was not here long enough to get more than a glimpse); acquiring professional experience teaching; being introduced to and inspired by a vision for multifaceted transformation (social, ecclesiological, spiritual, national, etc.); learning better how to listen; being compelled to challenge my own stereotypes; making many new friends; and feeling compelled by the experience to maintain a long-term commitment to DRC and the work of Congo Initiative.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Satisfied, inspired, full of ideas for future possibilities (both for new CI projects and the refinement of current practices), excited about all I have learned from the administrators, staff, and students, conscious of having experienced just a small glimpse into the situation in the DRC and hoping to learn more in the future, deeply moved by having found sisters and brothers in Christ here with whom I trust I will grow in friendship and love and learning, humbled by my own ignorance but thankful for God's grace and the patience of my Congolese and international sisters and brothers, frustrated at the obstacles and problems with which my Congolese sisters and brothers deal on a daily basis; hopeful that God will indeed transform this country and that CI will play an important role in that work.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I visited UCBC in March 2012. I was able to teach a class to theology students and lead a few basketball clinics. The leadership is solid, passionate, and full of vision for the future. God is using this university to change the face of Congo.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I just returned from a brief visit to UCBC, CI's university, and cannot speak highly enough of the work that they are doing. The passion of staff and students is extraordinary and the opportunities they have to change this country for the better are great. I will be counting the days until I return for a longer time. This organization is what international partnership and sustainable development looks like!

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

Have the funds to cover living expenses within the Congo. However, the amount I did pay was minimal and well spent, in my opinion.

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Yes. I am convinced to return to work at UCBC on a more long term basis.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I am an executive/electrical engineer at a large engineering firm in the States. I had the privilege to participate with Engineering Ministries International in helping CI develop a master plan for their campus in Beni, DRC. I was extremely impressed with the great work they are doing in that war torn country. They are definitely taking education to a much higher level than is currently available. They are truly making a difference. Right now, in addition to their academic building, they have a partially complete community center. Once this center is complete it will greatly increase their service to the local community.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

visiting with students and staff. It is great to see the change the Congo Initiative and UCBC are having with students and in the community

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

none

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

They did an outstanding job utilizing out talents

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Yes. Seeing the impact the Congo Initiative is having in the community has given me a great respect for this organization

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Fulfilling that I could be part of this great work in the DRC.

Was this review helpful? 

Bob, thank you for this review. But even more, thank you for the time and energy and attention you gave during your work here with the eMi team. It was wonderful to meet and work with you all. We (CI and UCBC) are so thankful for your work on our behalf. The dedication and professionalism you all demonstrated was a great example for our students; and the teaching you provided along the way a gift from which many benefitted.

Rating: 5 stars  


I am Francine NABINTU, I have graduated from UCBC in communications. Actually, I am one of the rare Congolese women who are skilled in multimedia and journalism. I got my state diploma in 2000 and did not have any vision for my future life, except getting married and take care of my husband and children as any authentic African girl could think. But, coming to UCBC had changed my vision, perception and hope about myself and my country.
I was challenged by an American multimedia professor, Anne Medley, who came to teach us at UCBC thanks to some donors. She showed us pity stories of Congo that had been told by foreign journalists. The most heard stories of Congo are: war, corruption, rape, bad management or anything of such kind. She asked us why we can’t tell our own stories to change the image of our country. Since than I am getting more and more interested in writing stories, www.francongostories.blogspot.com; editing audio, video, photos about my community and my country.
Thanks to UCBC I now have a vision for my country: “to speak for those who suffer in silence”. Since women have suffered a lot in my country, I have joined the office of Gender Advisor at HEAL Africa. I am dealing with Gender issues within the organization and networking with many women associations. I am applying my communication skills for advocacy and mobilization to change the perception of woman’s place in the society.
I thank Congo Initiative for the seed of hope that they have sown in me and in the life of many Congolese women and men. I do not have enough words to thank anyone who contributes to support ever so little UCBC. May the lord continue to touch and bless you as the fruit of your work will benefit a whole nation.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 

Thank you, Francine, for your review. We are proud to call you a "UCBC Graduate." You were an example of integrity, dedication, hard-work, service and leadership during your time at UCBC. May God continue to bless you and sustain you and your family.

Rating: 4 stars  

I visited Eastern Congo in 2004 with Dr. David Kasali and Pastor Dick Robinson and an Elmbrook team on a vision trip. The upstart was, the planting of a seed to sow the future of the University Christian Bilingual
of Congo UCBC. The Congolese seem to be a happy family oriented people, but 50 years behind in commerce, educational opportunities and technology. The young clearly want more. They want educational opportunites, business opportunities and political stability....the establishment of UCBC is a big step in that direction. The task was daunting with little money, little political support and problematic communication (no English). However, moving ahead 2011 graduated the first class of 100 students, due to the exceptional volunteers-architects, technology support and monies provided through grants, trusts and generous personal giving. Congo Initiative is a charitable organization supporting this effort.

There are many parts of the university not completed, technology not installed and students not enrolled because of the lack of financial support.

Congo Initiative needs your help!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Personal support

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

none

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Rating: 4 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

I volunteered with Congo Initiative for a year teaching courses within the social sciences and assisting UCBC's administration with curriculum development. In addition, Congo Initiative has given me the opportunity to continue working with them, this time from both Congo and the US. The differences to Congo Initiative and UCBC in Congo from just one year to the next were profound. The quality of the students, academic buildings, student resources, and teaching had risen so much, and I felt more than ever that this was a university.

This encompasses how I see Congo Initiative and UCBC. It is a young organization and university, and change is happening very rapidly in large part to the desire of the Congolese students to learn. In the Congolese context, which is also changing rapidly, I am very excited to know that more and more UCBC students will be seeking the same changes they went through but in the whole of DRC. Watching Congolese students decide how to reconstruct their home continues to be formative of how I learn and work in the US and Congo.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the friendships with colleagues, faculty, and students which continue to shape my work in the region.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

focus on how to develop community in Congo for international volunteers that guides them well through cross-cultural engagement and professionalism.

Was this review helpful? 

Thank you for your review. And thank you for your continued work on behalf of CI! You bring experience and insight that have helped to shape programs and curriculum. And just as you are inspired by the students, you have touched their lives and helped them develop intellectual capacity and skills to do the work before them.

Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

I had the opportunity to visit CI-UCBC in March 2011. This was my first international missions experience, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We were greeted by the students and teachers of UCBC with open arms. They treated us like we were family, and allowed us to immerse ourselves in their lives for two weeks. I found through both conversations and observation that they truly live their motto, "Being Transformed to Transformed." Every student I spoke with has a desire to transform the Congo by bringing their education back into the community. Their unwavering spirits and love for their community is so inspiring. I believe in the mission of UBCB, and feel that the education these students are receiving will have a powerful impact in Congo.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

-

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

-

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

CI-UCBC is training and empowering future Congolese men and women to change the DR Congo. It has been an incredible experience to be a part of CI-UCBC for the last 2 years. I have treasured every minute of it. I love how the students have the desire to learn and grow through the education and Christian principles they are receiving. The faculty and staff are a blessing and have shown leadership that is influencing the rest of the UCBC and Beni communities. The vision and mission of the university is what is drawing more and more people to be a part of this effort to build future leaders.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

seeing people making a difference in their communities. It has brought people from different backgrounds together to form a community that wants to impact others around them. An example of this would be our Service-Learning program. Through this program we are building partnerships all over the city. Students and teachers are implementing what they have learned in the classroom and creating ways for education and service to go hand in hand. This gives students desires to serve even after graduation.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

recommend developing new ways to generate more funds and create ways to recruit more faculty and staff.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

I've become more confident in professional and social settings.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

It made me feel like I belonged to a community.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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