In the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the capital city of Goma, Mount Nyiragongo erupted on May 22, 2021. It is one of the most active and dangerous volcanos in the world (the last major eruption, in 2002, killed 250 people and rendered over 100,000 homeless). The eruption and spewing lava this weekend took the lives of dozens of Congolese, drove much of the population across the border into Rwanda, and resulted in many missing and displaced people. Around 500 homes were flattened and 100 children are missing according to UNICEF. It also led to earthquake tremors on Monday, which shook the capital city of 2 million inhabitants.
In collaboration with our long-term partner in Goma, Yole!Africa, we launched this campaign to support people in need in North Kivu. We recognize there are many avenues through which you can donate. This campaign is specifically for people who are interested in making a local impact that supports families who are typically ineligible for or unable to access funding from large-scale donors.
For context, Yole!Africa was founded in Goma after volcano Nyiragongo erupted in 2002, leaving thousands of people homeless in an already volatile environment of war and political instability. This is a primary reason Yole!Africa established the center in the region—to provide space, resources, skills, and community-building activities that empower locals to enact long-term, sustainable solutions to the compound issues the region faces.
In that spirit, Yole!Africa’s response to this most recent volcanic eruption is an extension of the center’s 20-year legacy of community-determined support that empowers long-term sustainable change. Specifically, any funds we raise will be used in three ways: (1) to provide a network of reliable information for local communities to assess needs; (2) to identify viable sources of international support for families and individuals; and (3) to offer short-term relief (in the form of direct grants as well as land, studio, and equipment access) to families particularly those reliant on artists, farmers, and educators, whose livelihoods have been dramatically impacted by the volcano.
We are grateful for your awareness and concern for families whose lives have been impacted by the volcanic eruption and thank you for any support you can offer at this already challenging time!
Roughly two weeks after Nyiragongo erupted things look different on the ground in Goma. Most people have returned to the city and are taking stock of the damages. With your support, Yole!Africa has been able to accomplish a number of crucial things including:
- Building latrines on the Yole Farm
- Bringing fresh water to the Yole Farm
- The soup kitchen, named Mama Yuka’s Kitchen (in honor of Yukabed Sikulimwenge), is now up and running providing 3 free meals per day to 43 families (47 adults and 132 children) on the Yole Farm
- They have also partnered with a group of supporters in Belgium, who are collecting canvas tents to send to the farm and to be distributed to families in need
As important as all these actions are, the Yole!Africa team prioritizes human dignity and cooperation over statistics and wanted to send a more intimate description of what things look like at the Farm. In that spirit, they invite you to imagine Yole!Africa administrator Haissetu SUMBUNU’s encounter with Ndako, a 9-year-old boy who came to Mama Yuka’s Kitchen with his family. Mesmerized by the quantity of food being prepared, Ndako asked Haissetu if cooking is her profession. When he learned that she usually works in the Yole!Africa office, he asked why she would leave her regular job to come cook for strangers. “You are not strangers,” was her answer, “you are part of our community and we believe community is like a big family.” Only partially satisfied, Ndako asked, “Does that mean you are going to eat with us?” Haissetu assured him she would and he rejoined his family. But when time came to serve the food, there were not enough plates for the Yole!Africa staff to take one for themselves. So they put food in a large cooking pot and sat down to eat from the shared vessel. When she noticed him eyeing her, Haisstu invited Ndako to come sit with them and share a (second) meal. What she did not anticipate was that as soon as he reached his hand into the pot a swarm of other children would come rushing over in search of their share. Despite the reprimands of embarrassed parents, the children dug into the pot until all that was visible were their backsides wiggling in the air as they feasted. In addition to a pot picked clean, the end result was a precious moment of joy and laughter, which gave way to an equally precious conversation about community, family, and how we come together in times of need.
As our partners at Yole!Africa continue to talk with families displaced by the volcano, it is increasingly clear that our support is essential to keep them fed, clothed, and safe as they figure out how to rebuild. According to the information Yole!Africa staff have gathered, the most urgent needs at this points are food, clothing, help rebuilding homes, help accessing funds (mostly micro-loans) to (re)start businesses. There are also emerging questions about educational support for children whose schools got buried by lava.
These are the areas Yole!Africa continues to focus on. They are researching and connecting families with organizations with the means to support rebuilding and microfinance endeavors. In an effort to keep people fed in the meantime, they are also working to expand Mama Yuka’s Kitchen by adding chickens and a coop in order to have fresh eggs on hand; they are also preparing garden beds and acquiring seeds to plant seasonal vegetables, which will provide consistent access to healthy fresh food and reduce food costs.
We are deeply grateful for all you have already done to support this work and ask, if you have not already, that you share the link widely so as many people as possible have the opportunity to support our brothers and sisters in Congo!
Donate to Volcano Relief Fund
Mail Contributions to:
Friends of the Congo
1629 K Street, NW Ste 300
Washington, DC 20006
Memo: Volcano Relief Fund