A number of people have written and asked "what can I do?"
That is a good question. All of us who are sitting in relative safety (whether it is the safety of a hotel just across the border or a house thousands of miles away) struggle with this question.
For the past two days Goma has been strangely silent. Nkunda is continuing to hold his rebel troops outside the city of Goma. Behind rebel lines refugees camps are being forcibly emptied and refugees are being told to go home (many of whom have not been home for months or even years), sending hundreds of thousands of refugees into the streets with no water, no food and no shelter. Aid agencies are unable to reach the vast majority of these refugees because of the continued fighting and insecurity in these areas. The relative calm in Goma is largely due to the fact that heavy negotiations are taking place between Congo and Rwanda, and the international community has sent a number of high level diplomats to support these negotiations. But many fear that this is the calm before the storm. Unless a heroic accomplishment leads to a real agreement between all parties involved (and how many times has this been tried and failed before?) the war could ignite to catastrophic proportions.
So we are all left asking what we can do.
As soon as we are able to return to Congo, I hope to have a better idea of how to meet some of the needs of the many people who are suffering there.
In the meantime, the four Shona ladies are fortunate to be here in relative safety. They are staying in one room of a guest house and eating one meal a day, plus bread to tide them over. We are paying $25 a day to be able to do this. ($15 a day for the room, $10 a day for food) We hope to be able to return to Congo soon, but there is no certainty on that level. They have left behind all their sewing equipment, plus about $500 worth of merchandise that was ready to be shipped out. We are hoping that the house was not looted but have yet to receive any confirmation on that. In the meantime, we are unable to continue sewing and expenses continue to rise.
We have a stock of items in the US that continue to sell on ebay. Your purchases are always appreciated, and especially now.
If you are intersted in making a small donation to help fund the Shona women as they stay out of harms way, that is also much appreciated. All donations will be used to cover the cost of the room and food for the women.
I know that the people of Eastern Congo would also greatly appreciate you keeping them in your thoughts and prayers. They would also appreciate you spreading the news about the situation in Congo. Being in the midst of a tragedy is terrible, and feeling that the tragedy has become invisible in the eyes of the world, is devastating. Please follow the news, talk to people, and help keep the eyes of the world on this disaster.