Project Congo and Con Vista Sul Mondo agreed today to partner in providing funds to St. Vincent Hospital in Bukavu to complete the second floor of the Maternity Center.
In February of this year, Project Congo and Con Vista Sul Mondo toured the Maternity Center and witnessed the damage to the first floor, which is functioning with patient rooms, a labor room and birthing room. The damage is the result of the fact the second and third floor is exposed to the elements and during the rainy season, rain collects on the unprotected “roof” of the first floor.
A grant from the Heineken Foundation in the Netherlands seemed imminent at that time to complete the structure. However, in August, St. Vincent was notified they would not be receiving funds from that source.
At that time, St. Vincent appealed to the Consortium. We agreed to scale back the construction to one floor, and divide the cost. St. Vincent would also look at how to pull the costs in. The first stage agreed to is to enclose the structure to make it weatherproof.
St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bukavu has been supported over the years by two nonprofit organizations. Project Congo is one, and the other is an Italian nonprofit called Con Vista Sul Mondo. In many ways, Con Vista Sul Mondo is similar to Project Congo. It is an all volunteer nonprofit with no paid personnel. It has a medical focus and supports hospitals. When volunteers travel to St. Vincents, they, like us, pay their own way and do not use donor funds. They have a budget that is in the same ballpark as Project Congo. They differ in that they have supported St. Vincents in ways we have not (or not been able to). They have a wider range of volunteers including dentists and pharmacists. And they have hosted St. Vincent doctors in Italy to train them to perform complicated gynecological repairs.
Con Vista Sul Mondo has a long history with St. Vincents. They provided the funds for the main building almost 20 years ago. More recently they provided funds to build a maternity unit. That building is not completed, but the first floor is functional. A volunteer dentist with Con Vista traveled to Bukavu with equipment and supplies and set up a dental clinic. Then Con Vista funded several St. Vincent employees to travel to a hospital in Bujumbura, Burundi for dental training. A volunteer pharmacist with Con Vista set up a compounding lab at St. Vincent, and trained at St. Vincent pharmacist to compound creams, salves, and drugs. This reduces cost significantly and gives St. Vincent instant availability to medications.
At the urging of Dr. Jeff Mibi of St. Vincent’s, the Project Congo board decided in Q4 of 2015 to enter into a Consortium Agreement with Con Vista Sul Mondo and St. Vincent’s. This agreement simply states that the three entities will strive to partner on projects together. It does not bind us legally to participate in anything. But it is a legal declaration that we intend to discuss and explore opportunities to work together. Having discussed and signed this agreement, it is unlikely either Project Congo or Con Vista Sul Mondo will independently start a project without discussing it first with the other. This alone will prevent each of us doing things that might overlap and waste resources. And the prospect of partnering means we may be able to accomplish something neither of us could alone.
Project Congo, in partnership with Worldwide Labs installed a new laboratory at St. Vincent’s which will allow for diagnostic testing resulting in higher quality medical care for patients in Bukavu, DRC. The lab includes microscopes, centrifuges, refrigerator, and a variety of test equipment all set up to run on car batteries. This provides the doctors at St. Vincent’s the ability to perform blood and urine analysis both for their own patients, and as a service to other health facilities in the area (providing an income stream).
Worldwide Labs is a nonprofit based in Michigan that purchases and accepts donations of used quality laboratory equipment. They completely refurbish the equipment and provide technicians to install it onsite and train doctors, nurses and lab techs. James Borody was the lab technician who installed the lab and provided training. Prior to joining WWLabs, James spent 11 years living in Niger. He speaks French fluently.
This year’s trip to the DRC had to be cancelled for security reasons.
In 2013 the Eastern Congo saw escalating fighting and violence by the M23 rebels in the area. In late 2012 the rebels took control of the city of Goma. In the rural areas villages were liquidated and mass killing took place. Don Bosco Ngangi was able to provide shelter, food and medical care for thousands of refugees. The Nutritional Center cared for increasing numbers of sever malnourished children and St Vincent’s sadly saw high numbers of rape vicitms.
Though we were unable to travel to the Congo we were able to send continued financial assistance and ship medical equipment and supplies.
We concentrated our efforts on the following programs:
1. The Nutrtional Center at Don Bosco Ngangi
2. Medical care of refugees at Don Bosco Ngangi and Health Alliance Goma
3. Medical and surgical care of rape victims at St Vincents
4. Education and tuition assistance for girls through the Simbas Girls Soccer Club.