Volunteering in DR Congo SDG 17
Dr. Juan José López Jiménez
Caritas Agent and Gestalt Art Therapist,
Geographer, Gerontologist and Social Researcher
LETTER to the Claretian community of DR CONGO
July 24, 2022
Dear Claretian community of DR Congo:
It has been two months since I returned from a trip through the African land of DR Congo accompanied by you -and especially by Stephan-being an enriching journey for its diversity and transformation in my being that I now have the time and serenity to share.
The return has been swift and full of obstacles this time …. I have barely had time to let myself feel everything I have experienced because of the work that awaited me in Caritas and many important personal tasks.
Now, after several weeks I stop to look at the photos and the small videos and read my notes, and the emotion envelops me in an atmosphere full of colors, smells, and voices of Congo. It is as if I could touch thousands of kilometers away the souls of so many people, tasting the sweet and bitter that life brings us in all its dimensions.
It has been a privilege to experience Holy Week with the Badara communities. When I see myself dancing and singing with them, I feel part of the same humanity that contemplates a majestic sunset when the flame of the resurrection is lit. The families of Kindi welcomed us as if we were at home, and we shared their concerns and longings, the men’s work in the maternity construction, playing with the children, singing with the women, and walking through the rural land of all. A community project emerges in a place in the world. While we were in Kikwit, with the Claretian community that so warmly welcomed us, the event of Father Robert’s departure burst in. Another opportunity to live space with the African Claretian family.
I had the opportunity to see the Pediatrie again and to remember my penultimate stay there. Also, to be with the project for young women of Believing in Them, and to enjoy the courageous women volunteers who carry it out, almost all of them Argentines.
We went to Kasumbalesa, a special place for me. I was really impressed by that land and its people. There the Claretian community lives poor among the poor, and hopefully, the reality of a parish in Kamakaya II will come soon. A social project is necessary amid such a diversity of displaced people (Kananga, Kasai, MbujiMai, and Balubakati), languages, impoverishment (without formation, without work), and a couple of wells.
In Kinshasa, we followed the construction of the Cham de Tirs secondary school on several occasions. Three years ago, it was a project… today, it is a reality.
The best memory of fraternity is living and staying at the Claretian Curia with the community of brothers. Every moment of sharing a meal was a source of laughter, anecdotes, news, and experiences. The uncertainties, the occasional guitar lesson, seeing each other accompanied our daily walks and shopping, the eagerness of each day. The lives of all of you, Eva and I, carry in our hearts, and we put them in the hands of the Father when we bring you to prayer.
Thank you for the transportation. I have never experienced so many travel incidents in such a short time: roads almost impossible to cross, a dead car battery, two punctures, a broken exhaust pipe, a plane to Lubumbashi that did not want to take off, ….
The program was intense and rich. The experience was profound and excellent. The friendliness was a gift thanks to you. THANK YOU for all that we received, and I hope we can give something of ourselves to this African land.
A note for the future: I prefer to spend more time in fewer places (two or three). In addition, I have kept the hope and the intention of being able to go to KINGANDU on the next trip to DR Congo as a priority, to live with the community project led by the missionary Franco Torres. This time it could not be, but it will be.
I have crossed different roads, water, mud, asphalt (few), and dirt … a lot of good soil, and the commitment continues. I continue to raise awareness from this side of the world, from old Europe, to obtain the means to co-finance some of the projects that Stephan presented to me. I have already met with the CLIP community, and I will meet with the CORINTO community in early August. And I am sure that by October, both communities will have decided on which project to support and with what amount of money for 2023.
I have written a sensitization article on African immigration to Europe in the international Claretian orbit: The border of fear. Soon I will do another one about the experience lived with you and the people of DR Congo.
I am willing to accompany you in the work of creating a space for volunteering in DR Congo. I offer to collaborate not only in its gestation and preparation but also in its execution, even counting on my accompaniment of the people who want to go there.
I feel deep gratitude for the gift of this trip and, in particular, to Fathers Jean Baptiste Makilandi cmf and Miguel Angel Velasco cmf. They trusted me and put their willingness to let the Spirit do amid so much uncertainty. I hope I have been able to live up to the expectations.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, the community of Claretian missionaries and delegation of DR Congo.
I send you a fraternal embrace at a distance of 7,000 km, with the feeling of being one heart at your side, and my eyes set on the African land, from the south, to build a better world, to live in peace, and to be full of humanity.
Juan José López Jiménez