Sunday, December 7, 2008

Remarkable Acts of Kindness in the Republic of Congo

In the middle of the war in the Congo, people are offering shelter to those running from the violence.  It is risky, those helping out could be hurt themselves.

Our American way of life does not allow of to really do things for other people. We may think we are being "good people" by giving a turkey or helping serve food at a homeless shelter. But that is really nothing... in fact sometimes it may seem like a superficial act of drama - it only makes the "giver" look good.

How about doing things that really make a difference? There are many other things you can do. Here are a few ideas.

1. If you are a teacher, take a second look at your students, is there someone there that you may be ignoring or stereotyping?

2. If you are a law enforcement officer, think about how you may be stereotyping people of color.

3. Spend an entire afternoon or morning at a retirement center. Have conversations with people.

4. Sponsor a kid to go to summer camp.

5. Volunteer at your local public school (not just to serve turkey).

6. Teach your own children not to hate or stereotype.

7. Do something nice for someone and keep it a secret.

8. Say something positive about DREAMers, or other undocumented people.

9. Remember everybody is not ALL bad or ALL good.

Families offer shelter to victims of Congo war

Amid the brutality of Africa's most deadly and intractable conflict, refugees fleeing the fighting are being sheltered by families - in defiance of warring factions. Though desperately frightened themselves, they cannot find it in their hearts to turn people away. In the midst of horror, there is comfort in these simple acts of compassion

* Tracy McVeigh in Kalengera, Eastern Congo
* The London Observer, Sunday December 7 2008

The melted handle of a red plastic cup and a snake of blackened cloth are all that remains of someone's home. Burnt-out circles in the grass and charred branches stretch across the plain of Nyabirehe and the smell of the fires is still strong.

Two days earlier, when The Observer passed this field, there were around 200 displaced families living in Swiss roll-shaped huts of grass and banana leaf. 'Everyone is gone,' says a woman plucking at bean stalks in the grass with her son and daughter. 'They're in the communities.' The rebels had burnt them out, she said, and the people were running again. But this time, it seems, they had found a safer refuge.

In remarkable acts of kindness that are being repeated over and over in the red mud villages of this tortured eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, people who themselves have almost nothing are opening their homes to the destitute and displaced in open defiance of the armies warring around them.

The people who had set up home in the open fields of Nyabirehe had fled fighting between government troops and the rebels in their village of Kiwanja, some 15 miles (24km) north, where more than 50 people had been killed.

'The rebel captain came to Nyabirehe and told everyone to leave, that it was shameful to live in camps,' said Nyanzira Vitwaiki, 14. 'He said they are places where spies and enemies hide. They opened fire because people didn't run fast enough. Five people were hurt.'

With her mother and crippled brother, she was taken in by a family of strangers in Kalengera, a sprawling village that sits midway along what is now a rebel-controlled stretch of line that leans out into a semi-circle from a point just outside Goma in the south, up to Ishasa, some 100 miles north, on the Ugandan border. Hundreds of people displaced by the violence of the past month have been taken in by people here..

link to map

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