Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Leaving Goma

My husband and I love this region of the world, and have enjoyed being here for the past three years. Don't get me wrong, Goma has driven us crazy on a regular basis, but none the less, this place somehow fits us. And, perhaps against all odds, we love it.

But when we came here, we planned to stay for three years. And our three years is almost up. You see, I am an only child, and my parents live in the US, which in case you haven't a very long way away. In fact my husband's parents and siblings are also in the US. And we miss living in the same country as our families.

But my husband was born in this region of the world and grew up here, in many ways Africa is home to him. So while we have never had much of a master plan for our lives, we have always assumed our lives would somehow be spread between here and there, and the people we love in both places.

Which seems to have left us living life in three year stints.

So this three year stint will end next month. We aren't really sure what is next, as I mentioned we aren't so good with master plans. But we are looking forward to seeing family and friends, and probably returning to New york City. At least for a while.

As for SHONA, don't panic. This is not the end of SHONA, but rather the beginning. I have spent two years pouring my heart and soul into a few women. The point wasn't to build a nice craft shop, or a fancy new website. And the point wasn't for me to stay here forever. The point was to empower those women, and they in turn would empower others.

The craftspeople are ready. They already sew completely independently of me. They have learned to buy their own materials, and even to ship their own products. And now they are training our new interns. The focus of SHONA has always been to empower these young women toward independence, and I see no better test of our success than for me to be a bit further away.

But in all reality, I will not be that far away. I will continue to do all of the online work for SHONA in the US and to work closely with the craftspeople by phone, and by visits.

In fact, SHONA is bursting at the seams. What I started as a little trial project, has turned into a true business. And I need to be in the US in order to work on establishing SHONA as a non-profit organization, expanding our stock and shipping capacity, improving our product photos and online store, and the list could go on forever...

So I will have my hands full. And the craftspeople here will have their hands full.

Make no mistake about it. We are attempting something quite remarkable. I am leaving the craftspeople on their own. They will have no manager and no middle man. These young, uneducated women are going to do it themselves. So stay tuned. It is bound to be a fascinating journey, and we are just about to take the first step.


kristine said...

Oh! Wow I bet you have lots of mixed emotions! You have worked very hard to get this moving - congratulations x 1,000,000 for being so successful in helping it to stand on its own two feet. Will you be continuing to blog once you are back in the states?

shona congo said...

Perfect question Kristine! I was worried about announcing my departure because I was afraid people will tune out of my blog. So thanks for giving me the chance to address that question.

I will definitely still be blogging. You may have noticed that my comments about Congo are often guarded and cautious, as they must be when I am living here. But I am definitely looking forward to talking more freely about Congo (and SHONA) once I am a bit futher away. (and as an added bonus you will get to hear all about how not-smoothly moving across the world with no money, no job and no plan can go!)So please keep following! I promise things will get more interesting, not less. Just wait! :)

shona congo said...

Kristine, thanks for the congratulations.

Although perhaps I should save the congratulations until after I am gone and things keep going... I guess, it is often true that the greatest test of our success is when we aren't there anymore!

But I will take my congratulations whenever I can get them! :)

Thanks for all you encouragement.

You sure seem like someone who has done their fair share of moving from one place to another, so I have a question for you.

Do you think at some point you will get tired of all the travel? Or does it energize you? I am kind of on the fence on that question myself. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on the lifestyle we seem to share.

kristine said...

First of all - no, the congrats still stand - the capacity and the empowerment doesnt go away. Even if all else was to fail and SHONA was to not make it (which wont happen!!), you've still achieved something really great. I think it really is all about individuals at the end. I worked with an organization in Laos that I can absolutely guarantee will never make anything of itself (for political reasons...). BUT the young women who worked there benefited from our collaboration. They learned a lot (as did I). Thats definitely something.

Re moving...I ask myself this all the time. I grew up like this, moving every few years, so I have never known any different. I am not sure if that will mean I will get frustrated and desperate if i try to settle down, or if enough really is eventually enough. What do you think?

Looking forward to following further developments!! (know what you mean re guarded comments - i am very curious about all you have to say!)

good luck with the preparations...

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shona congo said...

Good point Kristine. I agree that actually sometimes we can't judge our success by how successful a project or program becomes. Ultimately it is about investing in people, and sometimes we never know the way that investment has affected another person's life...or our own.

As to the discussion of the travelling life...I am afraid I have no answers. I have the reverse situation. I grew up in one town, in one school, in one house etc... in some ways I feel that makes me a bit exhausted by the mobility of our life, but I also sometimes feel that it is the fact that my parents are still there in that one town and one house that makes me feel more free to travel.

But I think most people are more like you, they grow up traveling and then they do it themselves. That is true for my husband as well. And personally, I think he could do it forever...except that he hates to fly. :)

hmm... there is always a catch somewhere.

Brooke said...

All the best to you and Sam. Looking forward to reading more about the move and resettlement, as we may face our own jobless, moneyless trans-Atlantic Africa departure some day. We'll miss seeing you with students on our Rwanda trips.