Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Something About Mulongo

Kitchen conversations in Mulongo
Alright, so I promised to tell you about what I was doing in Congo last month (beyond getting ordained), and since the U.S. government in an ‘abundance of caution’ has said I should avoid leaving the house this week, now seems like a good time to write.

To start off, let’s clear up a common cause of confusion about where exactly I went and who is in charge of the programs I’m (via FPM) assisting. Imagine, if you will, going to a big church event and meeting a Rev. Joe Monroe. Rev. Monroe inspires you with stories of the struggles and initiatives in the town (coincidentally named Monroe) and district (also called Monroe) that he oversees. You’d love to visit Monroe someday, but you doubt you ever will since it is in such a remote place. Soon after you get a call from Denver, an acquaintance who met a Dr. Ivan Monroe and was inspired by Dr. Monroe’s sharing of the unmet health needs in the community where he was serving as head medical doctor and of how he had recently started a nursing and midwife training program there. Your acquaintance is seriously considering making a large financial contribution to Dr. Monroe’s ambitious project and wants to know if you could do a site-visit and give him your professional opinion first. Where is this school? Monroe, of course.

Now replace “Monroe” with “Mulongo” and you’ve got the start of the story of how FPM ended up having Mulongo as its DR Congo headquarters with Rev. Joseph Mulongo as its Country Director and a nursing school headed by Dr. Ivan Mulongo as its first major bricks&mortar partnership project. The story has a lot of twists and turns—some of which you can read about in Dad’s old posts --and a lot more will be told in Dad’s book.  

Last month, I traveled to Mulongo not only with my family but with Denver’s wife (Robin) and their pastor Deanne. We wanted Robin to witness how her contribution had been transformed into cement and roofing sheets for a fully accredited nursing school--the only one in the region. The faculty and students—especially those receiving scholarships from her family—wanted to testify to the many lives being saved because of the education received at this school. Robin was overwhelmed by what she saw and has decided to take the lead in the state-side efforts to raise support for scholarships, construction materials, and equipment for the nursing school. (Dr. Ivan, now a congressman, continues to be the main contributor and fundraiser for it in DR Congo.) She’d be happy to speak with your group about the school and ways you can get involved.

While in Mulongo, we stayed in Joseph and his wife Mary’s beautiful home. (Have I mentioned that Mary was one of the first graduates of Ivan’s nursing school and that she now teaches there?) As you can imagine, there is a very good story behind how a United Methodist pastor built such a nice house when most of his colleagues’ parsonages threaten to collapse with every rainfall. It starts with a laptop he received when visiting the Indiana UMC’s conference office and a desktop printer he bought with his personal savings. Mulongo used them to open the region’s only printing station. With those profits he made thousands of bricks—half of which he sold, and half were for his house. We figured that a pastor who is entrepreneurial enough to turn a budget laptop into a 4 bedroom house (with indoor plumbing!) all while leading several community development initiatives is exactly the sort of person who should be vetting and coordinating FPM-funded projects. 

Thus far FPM's decision to put Rev. Mulongo in charge of the programatic-side of operations has been successful beyond our wildest dreams. Now he's proposing some ideas of income-generating projects that could fund FPM programs and salaries (If the Catholic Church has its own gas stations and hotels in Congo, why couldn't we start a business?). We believe strongly that FPM should walk its talk by leveraging local assets to fund its work, so we plan to give at least one these ideas a try in 2014. We're not ready to broadcast all our plans just yet, but if you are interested in investing, please let us know! 
There are plenty of rooms at Joseph and Mary's house

Joseph and Robin by the Nursing School's sign

Meeting with some of the nursing students

The Nursing School

The school's maternity wing under construction

Nursing students at the celebration for the completion of the first building

Words of appreciation to Robin for financial support

Want to see more photos of Mulongo?  Check out the public album's on Bob's Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment