Although the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Congo Mission Network focuses its efforts on long-term, sustainable solutions, sometimes there’s a need so glaring that emergency relief is the only option. When members of the network learned that the Tudisha Bana Bimpe Nutrition Center in Tshikaji, Democratic Republic of Congo, had closed because of a lack of funding, they acted quickly and decisively.
Affiliated with PC(USA) partner IMCK/Good Shepherd Hospital, Tudisha Bana Bimpe means “Let’s feed the children well” in Tshiluba.
For just $2 per child, the center provides three meals a day to severely malnourished children referred by the doctors there. While the children are getting the nutrition they need, the center is teaching their mothers how to provide necessary nutrients using available resources.
“Sometimes when you are facing a problem, you just have to break it down into small pieces and tackle them one at a time,” said Charles Johnson, a member of the mission network who took a leadership role in the project.
The mission network and hospital determined that the monthly cost of operating the center — including meals, education and staffing — totaled $974. Other groups soon joined the partnership, including Mattresses for Congo, Rivers of the World, Medical Benevolence Foundation and Myers Park Presbyterian Church. Larry Sthreshley, PC(USA) mission co-worker, also assisted by providing a new cookstove for the center.
The effort quickly gained steam and several lump sum donations allowed the center to reopen in just 60 days. At the same time, Mattresses for Congo, a online fund raising project initiated by Johnson, began a grassroots effort to raise additional funds in the form of 100 recurring donations of $10 each to ensure that the center will continue to operate.
Mattresses for Congo wanted to engage as many individual supporters as possible for several reasons. First, this strategy helps connect people directly to the work of the church in Congo. Second, it shows supporters that they can make a huge impact with a relatively small monthly donation. Finally, as donors become engaged, they tell others about working with Congolese partners.
The center teaches mothers about balanced nutrition, the importance of protein and ways to incorporate locally available foods into their children’s diet.
One such resource is the moringa tree. The trees, which had been grown at the center, produce leaves during the dry season and times of drought. The leaves are an excellent source of protein when little else is available and provide many necessary vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The foliage, which can be eaten cooked or dried, has been compared to spinach in both its appearance and nutritional quality. Moringa seeds have traditionally been sent home with mothers to plant so that they can continue to include moringa in their children’s diets.
Sustainability can come in different forms, said the Rev. Debbie Braaksma, Africa area coordinator. “As PC(USA) World Mission supports programs to provide long-term solutions for malnutrition, including the Presbyterian Church of Congo’s Community Health Evangelism Program and the establishment of a Public Health Program at IMCK, we are grateful for this compassionate response to the urgent needs of malnourished children.”
The Tudisha Bana Bimpe Nutrition Center is now up and running, fulfilling its mission. Donations can be given to E320402 IMCK Community Health and designate for the nutrition center.