I am approaching the end of my time here in Congo and yet there is still so much we have on the agenda to do. What a whirlwind trip - and an incredible one at that. I try to remind myself that I am actually here, experiencing so much for the first time. But like anything else intense in life, we usually only likely gather the full picture once removed from the environment. Africa is too different from anything I have known to give justice to my experience with words. The smells, the food, the government, the lifestyle, the people, the hardships, the simplicity, the pace - it is all foreign but incredibly special, and certainly sometimes scary.
I am seeing how Mwana's operational model continues to peak interest among many, given there is truly no other refuge like it that exists elsewhere in Congo. With that, we were invited to visit a community, Nkayi, about 4 hours away from Pointe Noire by the local mayor. Cheryl, myself and a member of the local Mwana team took the road trip and spent a couple intense days visiting several families to confirm a need and viability of Mwana opening a second refuge home. The trip was both sobering and rewarding as I can attest firsthand that the need is certainly strong to establish a local presence in the Nkayi region. Both mayors we met with gave Mwana their blessing and support - a crucial step in the process of expansion. (see picture in this blog of us with the officials after our meeting). We explored several possible locations to rent a house until a more scaled solution of building a permanent Mwana refuge could be financially possible. To that point, we were invited to view a generous parcel of land in Nkayi that has been donated to Mwana for this purpose from the mayor himself. This was another testament to the growing alliances we are establishing in the country which are essential to securing the vision of Mwana Villages in Africa. That vision has never changed: to provide a holistic, sustainable hope and a future to vulnerable people.
Congo isn't easy. Sitting against a back drop of fertile land and lush forest, the Congolese people understand toil and hardship more than I ever could. As my return to Canada is only days away, I continue to soak in as much as I can of this unique place. On a personal note, I am thrilled that I haven't been held back by sickness during my trip. I brought a pharmacy of medicine with me to cover every possible ailment I could think of and haven't used any of it! I'll be wrapping up my work here tomorrow and I continue to post several pics our Facebook page. Make sure you jump over to Facebook to check out some amazing moments we have captured so far.