As volunteers for an international outreach committee of our church since 2011, we have come to know some key leaders, staff, and volunteers of Congo Initiative, both in the U.S. and in Beni, Congo, including the extended Kasali family, Cullen Rodgers-Gates, Kyle and Emily Hamilton, and members of the current Board of Directors. This is a truly amazing and transformative initiative in a troubled nation by people who truly love their neighbors. In the past few years, the Bilingual University of Congo has made amazing physical progress, adding solar energy, completing its community center (with four new classrooms for training over 300 more students), adding faculty for research, theology, and psychological counseling, and developing a new law degree program. Most importantly, Its graduates have become leaders and advocates for human rights, improved agriculture, communications, and community development, to name a few of their accomplishments. Check out www.congoinitiative.org's new website, then join us in supporting a truly transformative, proven outreach by outstanding Congolese citizens!
My heart still resides in Beni with the students & faculty of UCBC, with the ladies of The Women's Center, and with the students of The Language Institute! This place is the home that God gave to me & will forever be my Promised Land! Please help this worthy cause that is changing the world for the better!
Having lived in Beni, DRC back in the 80's and having prayed for the people there for many years, we are delighted that this university is a light shining bright in what can be a great darkness. Isn't that what God has called us to do? Bring light into the darkness and expose those things in our lives that need to be changed, that we might be transformed! This is exactly what UCBC (Congo Initiative) is doing. There is so much work to be done, to some it may appear impossible, but nothing is impossible with God! We are grateful to Him that we can join Him in supporting an organization that is so positive.
We love the mission and values of CI. We admire the organization's focus on bringing Christ's transformational life and love to the people of the Congo through higher education. It is a very much needed work and it is a joy to be able to partner with CI in their work through giving.
Congo Initiative has an inspiring vision for transformation of the nation of DR Congo through Christ-based transformation of its future leaders. By establishing UCBC -- a new university in Beni, in the Eastern part of DRC -- and developing other community-based programs in the city (programs for women and children, social justice, primary education, spiritual renewal, agricultural support, radio broadcasting, environmental care, etc.), Congo Initiative is doing hard and important work, and I am proud to support the ministry through time and giving. I have been inspired by the vision of the founder, Dr. David Kasali, and the committed work of the people that work for the ministry. I have also had a chance to visit the campus in person to see the fruits of the ministry's effort first-hand, and that was truly amazing.
I've been supporting Congo Initiative through their Kipepeo project since 2008. The reason I started was because I wanted to give something back after having been given, debt-free, an excellent education at Wheaton College. Knowing how much Wheaton impacted my life I was inspired by the idea of giving the same opportunity to students in Congo, even though I've never visited that country.
I've faithfully supported Congo Initiative from a distance (I live in Guatemala, Central America). However, what helped me to understand the project deeper was to read Dr David Kasali's biography. I received it in the mail and set it aside One day I just started leafing through, and I couldn't put it down! I read the whole thing and even cried through parts of it because of how real and beautiful God's working has been in the lives of the Kasalis. Thanks to Congo Initiative for being such an innovative, excellent and faith-filled group of people.
I support Congo Initiative as a Kipepeo partner, giving a small amount monthly to help students with their tuition. Having gone to a Christian Liberal Arts college in the US, I know how formative the college years are, and how important it is to have professors who integrate Christian character with good scholarship and social concern. As an American, I have been overwhelmingly blessed with educational opportunities, and one of the small ways I can "give back" is by helping those who, because they live in another country, have not been given the advantages I have. I want these Congolese young people to grow to a holistic understanding of God's goodness and grace for them and for their whole country. This is why I give to the Congo Initiative.
Republic of Congo... what a place!
I have taught in U.S. colleges, in Uganda, and in Congo.
The difference was huge.
My students at the University were gems to teach. They were so hungry for truth and for education that would help them to succeed for themselves, for their God, and for their country.
I would gladly teach them anywhere and anytime.
Sometimes I felt helpless in Congo. I was not helpless for myself... it was for the whole situation.
Dr. Kasali and others were there for me 24 hours a day and I never felt in danger or in any way unsupported. Looking back on it I have realized that everyone was sacrificing more than I did just to have me come over and teach.
I taught Christian Formation....a course about growing in Christ and working toward more holiness throughout one's life. The windows were behind my students,,, so as I taught them I saw other students making concrete blocks across the campus and nearby women and children gong to the spring to draw water. The pregnant woman with two small children helping her to carry water was the most poignant example of the depth of the tragedy that is Congo. I will never drink water, read scripture for the water of life, or shelter from the rain without remembering UCBC.
(It was like watching two worlds at once. The women and their little children drew water into large plastic containers because they were thirsty, and the students were just as thirsty for the water of life... while other students were making building materials that would keep rain off their heads.)
Beni is such a heartbreaking city with a light of great hope in it. I was blessed to be part of the teaching. I would recommend it to any Christian teacher who wants to volunteer somewhere in the world where it will make a profound difference on you to go there.
I recommend Dr. David Kasali, his staff, and the students to you. Teaching at UCBC or supporting the effort is prayer and money well spent.
My health will not allow me to go back. Will someone volunteer in my place?
Dr. W Michael McCrocklin
Congo is one of those places that both captures our imaginations and breaks our hearts. It feels like a place where the Light sometimes stands little chance against the dark. So rich in natural resources but so damaged for so long by colonialism and warring factions, Congo’s needs sometimes seem overwhelming.
Then along comes Congo Initiative—offering real hope in the shape of a new generation of leaders and offering people like us an opportunity to make a small but meaningful difference. Founder and Director David Kilgali was once a guest in our home, and he impressed us with his vision and integrity. In addition, a friend of ours believes so much in the work of Congo Initiative that she has given up her career here and moved from the U.S. to Congo to invest her life there. We get regular updates from her about the good, if challenging, work of Congo Initiative. Even without these personal connections, giving to Congo Initiative would have been an easy decision for us because we believe that one of the best ways to achieve lasting change in Congo is through accomplishing CI's mission of raising up new leaders.
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.
After hearing about CI's great work in Beni several years ago, I finally had the chance to visit in June 2012. While I was only in Beni for a few days, it was important to see and hear from the administration, faculty and students how they are practically realizing their mission, specifically of raising up new Christian leaders at UCBC to lead the transformation of Congo. One of the distinctives of CI is their emphasis on developing Congolese leadership, and I saw this modeled by the godly leadership of UCBC's administration. I was glad to see how international partners are included in supporting roles, and now I hope to find a way to return and contribute! I was also blessed by the incredible hospitality I received, and the eagerness of my hosts to make me feel welcome.
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.
Since Congo Initiative was in its early stages, I've been compelled by the authentic partnership and deep compassion at its core. Congo Initiative relies on existing visionary leaders to call forth and empower a new generation of creative, passionate leaders who will work for renewal in Congo and all of East and Central Africa. My own university experience formed my mind and spirit to do the work I love today, and I am honored to be able to make that possible for young leaders like myself in Congo. The Kipepeo Partners program makes that connection possible.
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.
As a monthly donor, I have found that Congo Initiative is a professional and transparent organization. CI clearly communicates with me as a donor and have shown me the direct impact of my donations. Without a doubt, I will continue to support this organization and the great work they are doing on the ground in Eastern Congo.
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!
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.
Congo Initiative 03/17/2012
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.
For my husband and I, it is so exciting to be a small part of rebuilding a nation—almost unbelievable. I remember first hearing about the vision for UCBC in the beginning. It was thrilling and overwhelming. I couldn’t help but shake my head—it seemed impossible, undoubtedly a “God-sized” task. But then, as a friend put it, “God eats impossible for breakfast.” That the Lord is in the business of redemption and restoration everywhere is true. I have heard of and wept for the sorrow and ruin in the DRC, but here is a new thing filled with hope, filled with joy, filled with life!
As soon as I found out about the work of Congo Initiative, I started giving to their programs monthly, and praying for them. While I have never been to the D.R. Congo, it means so much to me that Congo Initiative is working to build up strong and courageous women and men who will lead the D.R. Congo's future generations. I am inspired that Congo Initiative is promoting justice and nation-building on their campus...a campus where women are being respected, valued, and equipped for leadership! And, I am grateful that Congo Initiative is caring for disadvantaged women, and teaching them important skills. I wish I had even more to give. Being a Kipepeo Partner is the least I can do to help.
Masters candidate in International Human Rights Law
My husband, Kirby Frank, and I committed to a trip to DR Congo to visit our daughter, Chelsie Frank, who has worked here for 4 years. Our trip was a “sensory overload” of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. I almost did not go on the trip after reading a little about the country, its poverty, violence among tribes and faction groups, its political corruption, and health issues—almost letting fear get in the way of a great learning and growing experience. I’m glad Spirit led me past this fear…
Sights: Beautiful green scenery, with blue, sun-filled sky; dust everywhere from unpaved roads, women carrying laundry, or water, or SOMETHING on their heads, while carrying a small child on their backs, small children (8-12 years or so) carrying water, pushing bikes with bananas to the market, garbage everywhere on the main roads, men and women sitting along the side of the road, selling their fruits/vegetables, and also in the huge marketplace, earning about $20.00 a month, not seeing very many elderly persons (average lifespan male is 40 years old, female 55 years old); seeing the clinic/hospital with minimal means of caring for people but dedicated, compassionate health workers doing their respective jobs with joy, church worshippers singing loudly and joyfully with hope and faith, UCBC leadership challenging students to look beyond what they know to a vision of hope and change, UCBC students taking them up on that challenge and learning and growing in leadership, service to their communities, and knowledge in their particular major field, with dreams and goals to make their country a stronger, better place; meeting NGO (non-government organizations) workers with commitment and care working with the Congolese people, the “tree supports” of buildings, mud huts, thatched roofs,
Sounds: Motorcycles (the main mode of transportation); music, radio,
Smells: Charcoal fires, great food, dust,
It was recommended that we not take pictures in DRCongo, except inside UCBC, or at Chelsie’s home. So, I don’t have pictures to share, only in my mind where they are seered forever in my memory.
There are also locked gates, overnight guards, and a “cautious” attitude about walking the streets at night. This was reality that I didn’t get used to in my short stay there, but upon further reflection in the USA we have apartment/condo entry systems (locked gates?) and a 911 system, and police/fire system in place to monitor and “watch over us” (guard?) and I don’t walk the streets after dark in too many places, unless I am with someone) so, it isn’t so different. Also, these things took a back seat to the very warm and hospitable welcome we received from EVERYONE we were introduced to, and the call to relationship that each person invited us into.
The UCBC, funded by Congo Initiative, is an incredible place. The students we spoke to really have “caught the message” of the mission, and are hopeful and dedicated to making positive change in DRCongo with their leadership skills and passion for their chosen field. The staff there are faith-filled, hard-working, inspirational, dedicated—mostly Congolese professors who witness what hard work, education, faith, forgiveness and resiliency can bring…
There are gardens that help support the university’s food supply, goats, and chickens, too—there is a radio station, library, small computer lab with limited internet service, classrooms of 12-15 students, except for a few larger “auditorium classroom” lectures, 500 students and staff that fill up the space with learning and hope.
The stories of the service learning projects that many classes have participated in were inspirational and courageous. One group reached out to the deaf student school, where they participated in mentoring and teaching and helped raise some money by making soap, af ter learning the teaching aren’t paid, and tuition is waived for parents who don’t have means to pay. They became aware of how these students are alientated from others. And learned that “Disability doesn’t mean Inability.” Another group went to the local movie theaters to challenge the owners to offer more than the violent, immoral types of movies that are mostly offered. Another group built benches on the campus for students to sit on under shade. The concept of service learning appeared to be a new one for the students, and I can already see Spirit working as a “domino effect” and this will spread far and wide over the next years as the students, then the Congolese people, are empowered to effect positive change with a dream, a little effort, a little faith and thus a stronger, better community! Kudos to Chelsie Frank for her vision and leadership in putting this program together, along with the other USBC professors and staff.
After taking in all these moments, I found myself leaving DRCongo with a change in perspective: I came feeling despair and fear; believing that what the Congolese people have been through, and continue to have challenges about, was too overwhelming, too entrenched to be much different. I left feeling a great faith and hope as I witnessed the staff and students commit to a vision faith in a God who loves and cares for them, a vision of integrity, honesty, hard work, and a vision of change for a better DRCongo. I asked David Kasali, the UCBC President, if he was afraid of doing what he was doing--for himself or his family-- because change is always threatening to people of influence and power. His reply, “I am more afraid of NOT doing what I do—out country’s future depends on it.” Spoken just like our OT prophets, and of Jesus himself—and why the Scriptures have more passages with the message “Be Not Afraid” more than any other subject matter. I left feeling humbled that I could even sit among these people, grateful for the opportunity as it leaves me feeling empowered and renewed to be open to God’s challenges in my own life, and hopeful for our world and the DRCongo that “peace and goodwill among men (and women), is possible if we but trust and “work for the kingdom here on earth.”
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.
Congo Initiative 12/09/2011
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.
I have the privilege of working on behalf of Congo Initiative, and have done so for more than 3 years. My role has been to assist in coordinating communication and development efforts in the United States--raising awareness and resources, as well as human resources and other administrative responsibilities. I have also had the opportunity to visit Beni last year and to spend some time with our General Assembly (Congolese Board of Directors) as well as our incredible leadership team.
What I find so compelling about Congo Initiative is its commitment to genuine, international partnership. "Partnership" is a term that is used quite loosely in many different settings, but Congo Initiative is really trying to live out what it means for a North American entity and an African organization to work side-by-side, not above or below the other, but truly in mutual collaboration and dialog. It's much harder than it sounds, and messier than we might like to admit. From my vantage point, I get to see the inner workings of it all, and I can attest to the fact that it can (and does!) really work, IF an organization and its people have the patience, grace, humility and shared vision to see it through for the long haul. It’s far too easy for North Americans, despite every good intention, to assume “control” of an international organization, and far too few organizations are really doing the hard work of collaboration that is reciprocal between offices in the Global North and those in the Global South. Congo Initiative, however, is doing this, and doing it well, albeit imperfectly.
Others have articulated better than I how life-changing and transformational CI’s education, leadership development and community initiatives are. I echo all that has been written in other reviews along these lines. For sure CI has a long way to go—other than UCBC (Christian Bilingual University of Congo), none of the other Community Centers have been officially launched, although some are active periodically in hosting workshops and seminars of various kinds. We still have a lot of construction on campus that needs to be completed. We have a brand new radio station, but we need permanent staff to manage it, and we need many more permanent faculty for the university, not to mention staff to lead and organize each of the Community Centers. Despite all of this, however, I am amazed at the courage and resiliency of our Congolese leadership to press on. Our students are filled with real hope that they can actually be part of bringing change to a broken country. Even a brief visit to the campus in Beni leaves one with the palpable feeling that the staff and students truly believe in their motto: “Being transformed to transform.” More than just a catchphrase, these remarkable women and men are living out this motto on a daily basis through their hope, perseverance and faith, even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
I strongly encourage you to support this initiative. It is a unique example of an interational partnership forged to bring about holistic transformation in a country the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi river. A vast land with enormous potential to shape the future of an entire continent. Can you aim any higher than that?
I visited UCBC in Beni last year and spent the week in meetings with the Congo Board and attending the convocation ceremony to open the new school year. Having lived and worked in Africa for over 30 years, I can truly say that I have never been anywhere in Africa that was so full of hope, excitement and potential for transformation. The UCBC campus is a beacon of light to the community and is poised to become a model of 21st century education for Africa. As a US board member I am honored to be part of an authentic partnership with the Congo board and part of a real transformative organization.
I came to Beni to visit Congo Initiative's program at UCBC with the Service Learning Coordinator, Chelsie Frank. I work in Kampala, Uganda with a nonprofit organization called Cornerstone Development, which works in 'youth leadership development' in East Africa. One of our programs, African Youth Leadership Forum (AYLF) has included students from UCBC who have started their own branch of AYLF on campus.
While visiting UCBC, I immediately recognized the shared values of our organizations and was very impressed with the commitment to invest in young leaders with high potential and high character. The students and staff at UCBC are clearly dedicated to their country and community, with a vision to encourage leaders with integrity, which I believe is a top priority in moving any country forward.
I was particularly impressed with the staff's commitment to continually evaluate and improve their programs. During my visit, I saw their brand new radio station that will be used to educate the community about UCBC's programs, about how the community can be involved in spreading their vision and values, and to give students valuable experience in working with a radio program.
I'm certain that this program will contribute greatly to the positive development of each student and the region as a whole and I look forward to further partnering with Congo Initiative.
The Congo Initiative's UCBC Service Learning Coordinator, Chelsie Noel Frank, is my personal friend. I have known her both state side in the US as well had the privilege to connect with her on a mission trip to the Eastern DRC. In both capacities she has shared the vision of the local Congolese people and the ground swell of their passions to transform their society and their country. The CI and the UCBC are manifestations of such visions. I also had the privilege to get to know UCBC's Academic Dean Honore Bunduki Kwany. His calling and life commitment to the CI and UCBC is filled with hope and compassion for his people and it is contagious. While the CI and UCBC desperately need our help, we in turn need theirs. It is in the true exchange of finances and relationships, that both of us can become something better and beautiful. I encourage anyone called to check it out and give of yourselves, you and they will never be the same.
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 had the honor of visiting Beni, Congo with a few pastors and several businessmen prior to the establishment of the school. In addition to spending extensive time with David we visited with numerous pastors, area businessmen and local politicians. I have continued to follow the progress of the school from afar and have both donated to the Congo Initiative and provided some financial assistance to visitors over the past several years. What has been accomplished to date is truly amazing!
I supported a friend to go on a mission trip through this organization and heard about the impact their group was able to make in the Congo for students and others in this country.
Congo Initiative 10/05/2011
Thank you for your support. The various international staff that have come to Beni--either for short-term or long-term--have played an enormous and important role. They have helped to build buildings, install computer and network systems. They have taught classes, helped UCBC students with their English, served in the community. They have established friendships and demonstrated true partnership and shared learning. Your contribution has been of great value. Thank you!
Last year the president and founder of UCBC, Dr. David Kasali, came to the United States to share the university's mission with educators at some American colleges. He requested them to consider sending faculty and providing professional development. He asked Mary Henton, my sister-in-law, a Congo Initiative board member, to assist him in making contacts and providing transportation. I travelled with them as they followed up on their contacts. As we met with college presidents, faculty, and others involved in higher education, Dr. Kasali captivated his audience as he told UCBC's story, sharing Congo Initiative's vision that education is the key to building Congolese leadership.
David Kasali is a master at telling the story of UCBC’s beginning. He told of hiding from rebels in the Congo bush and of his vision from God that education was a way out of the problems the Congo was having. UCBC has come from that vision, and it has been blessed with a reputation that allowed it to be accredited much more quickly than what is the norm. In a few short years the school has been established, teachers have been engaged, and students have enrolled. In addition, the service-learning model used at UCBC has attracted the attention of the Democratic Republic of Congo Ministry of Higher Education.
UCBC’s students learn to deal in very practical ways with issues within their cities and communities. This past July, the first graduating class left UCBC to begin careers in communications, applied sciences, theology, and economics, well equipped to pursue their areas of expertise and to impact in positive ways the communities in which they live.
In March, my wife and I were privileged to host Honore Bunduki, UCBC’s Academic Dean when he came to the United States to generate new contacts and to exchange ideas with American educators. Honore and I visited local universities and met with small groups of interested individuals. In each context, Honore demonstrated a breadth of knowledge in education policies and philosophies, an ability to articulate UCBC’s mission, and a style of communication that connects with a variety of audiences.
The time I spent with Dr. Kasali and Honore Bunduki made clear to me that they have passion, integrity and commitment to excellence which will enable them to lead UCBC to a future that will impact the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition I believe the quality of leadership embodied in these two men ensures success of UCBC and Congo Initiative.
Congo Initiative 10/05/2011
Thank you for your kind and thoughtful review! It is amazing what has been accomplished in such a short time! You've noted it well. CI and UCBC are blessed by the leadership that David and Honoré provide. They set an example of stewardship, dedication, faithfulness, and service that inspires students and faculty alike.
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.
Congo Initiative 10/05/2011
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.
I joined the US Board supporting the work at UCBC in Congo after meeting the dynamic president, Dr. David Kasali. He has a bold, clear vision for creating a university backed by a substantial personal history in higher education and ministry. In 2010 I witnessed UCBC at work in war ravaged eastern Congo - very close to the border with Uganda. There is no question this well managed higher education community, which graduated its first class this June, is building a dynamic cadre of nation builders. It is being watched closely by the Democratic Republic of Congo Ministry of Higher Education in Kinshasha which sees in the integration of high quality academic training with a commitment to community engagement through service-learning a model for higher education throughout the country.
I recently retired - after 28 years - serving as founding CEO of a national NGO ( National Youth Leadership Council) with outreach to every state and more than 30 nations. UCBC is a sound investment in a region in great need of what UCBC offers. My suggestion to potential donors is go to the Congo, see for yourself.
I also suggest financial investments over several years to support scholarships for students and salary for faculty. Whatever resources are invested will receive the highest level of accountability. Feel free to contact me.
Jim Kielsmeier Ph.D
Founder, Senior Scholar
National Youth Leadership Council
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 have worked with several non-profits/organizations in sub-Saharan Africa, and CI-UCBC is truly special. This is an organization that is all about equipping and empowering young Congolese men and women to transform their country. "Being transformed to transform" is the motto that is posted in every hallway and classroom. I was struck by the fact that students are not pursuing degrees in order to be able to take care of themselves but are pursuing an education that will allow them to invest in their communities.
I am a part of the UCBC scholarship program - making a regular monthly contribution that provides scholarship help for students that cannot pay the full tuition. Each scholarship recipient is expected to work each week for UCBC to improve the school and community. It's a fantastic program.
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.
Going to UCBC for the first time, I didn't know what to expect. But walking in as a complete stranger, I could feel that something special was happening in that place. UCBC is unique in not only its teaching style, but also because of its students. Each person had such a unique story and was incredibly welcoming and loving to us newcomers. After only two short weeks of being there, UCBC had a special place in my heart. Amazing things are happening there because of the amazing people who fill it.
I love working with CI-UCBC. I believe that their approach challenges the conventional development model. UCBC is building youth capacities, partnering with civil institutions, and community-based organizations to effect change in DR Congo. I have worked with the Service-Learning program for the past two years. During this time I have been impressed with the self-less leadership provided by the staff and administration, especially the Academic Dean, Honore Bunduki.
Congo Initiative 09/17/2011
Thanks, Chelsie! Let's keep spreading the word. - Cullen
I have been connected to Congo Initiative since it was simply a dream in the heart and mind of its founder, Dr. David Kasali. Growing up in Congo as a child, going through the conflicts of Independence, reading about and praying for DRC - Democratic Republic of the Congo - and its peoples, and visiting eastern DRC numerous times in the past fifteen years, it is clear to me that what is needed is a revolution, not of tribalism with guns and machetes, but a revolution in ethical, principled leadership. This is what Congo Initiative is doing through its diverse programs, serving university students, women and children, the church, and emerging leadership. There are many good organizations working to improve the lives of those in Congo who have suffered greatly; Congo Initiative is not simply a good organization, it is GREAT, with principled leadership and a far-reaching vision that is being lived out daily.
In October 2007, I arrived in Beni, DRC to teach English as a second language at UCBC for a year. Little did I know my one year plan would turn into three years and provide the opportunity to work in various capacities with an initiative and University making significant impact in eastern DRC.
Higher education is often set aside in "development work" for the sake of immediate and urgent needs. Moreover, until recently, discourse surrounding international development and all its elements (education, conflict resolution, humanitarian aid) has lacked critical reflection on its western roots and management. In eastern DRC, NGOs and the UN are met with skepticism, and the desire for Congolese founded and run organizations and institutions is desperately needed.
This is precisely why Congo Initiative - UCBC is so unique, offering the younger generation opportunities to receive practical education and skills in order to help there communities flourish. Students learn social research skills to help identify the needs of their settings and ways research may lead to solution. Additionally, the University provides a platform and space to dialogue across tribal and national identities, class, gender, and perspectives, creating a diverse community centered on one goal, to bring about change in DRC.
As noted, western aid and development is often still rooted in power dynamics and lacks critical analysis that takes into consideration the realities and needs on the ground. I believe strongly in the role of education. As important as it is for students (including myself) to travel to places like eastern Congo and research and participate in its change, first and foremost, opportunity should be provided for the young Congolese passionate about transforming their own communities and nations.
I have had the privilege of witnessing the university's development from the beginning stages and look forward to participating in the first students' graduation ceremony on July 30, 2011. Their sacrifice and commitment to their educational development exhibits resiliency and I have no doubt the future of DRC is found in their minds, hands, and faith.
There remains many challenges and the Congo Initiative - UCBC will strengthened by development of consistent resource channels that will help sustain its functioning. The students (and their families) contribute immensely to their education, but in order to provide the best, scholarships and endowment funds are necessary. Additional faculty and faculty development remains one of the greatest needs. This includes Congolese faculty as well as international faculty that can contribute diverse perspectives in respective fields and create an atmosphere of research and learning together.
Congo Initiative has been a gift and an opportunity to learn and grow.
Our Congolese sisters and brothers are living examples of what it means to seek to be transformed in order to transform. They are examples of love and commitment:
- D. and K. left the safety of Kenya to return to their home country during the height of civil war to serve as salt and light and agents of transformation.
- J. survived atrocities of conflict, and now embraces as sisters and brothers, those from the group that had destroyed his village.
- A. is studying to be a counselor and work with those who have been traumatized by war and abuse.
- D. and A. give their time to run programs for local children (one a soccer program the other an after school Bible program), even though they can barely pay for their own tuition. They give of their time for others before they worry about their own needs.
- Many students have left their families, including young children, to study at UCBC. They know the quality of the education and the integrity of the work will develop their skills and cultivate their minds and hearts to be bearers of truth and light and leaders of change.