Justine and HEAL Africa

After three weeks in Congo and spending quite a bit of time with the organization, I have to say a word about HEAL Africa.

The war in Congo touches all, women, children and men, young and old, military or civilian.  HEAL Africa’s mission is to ease their suffering and help them take control of their circumstances by providing holistic health and trauma care.

HEAL Africa is unique in Congo for it is Congolese founded and run.  Dr. Jo Lusi and his British wife, Lyn Lusi have been dedicated to serving the Congolese people since 1971.  They founded HEAL Africa in 1998 (check date) and have been unwavering in their commitment to the people of North Kivu.

The most important thing that HEAL Africa brings the people of Congo, however, is hope.  Hope that there is a way to end their suffering, hope that they can learn a skill, create a business and provide for their families, hope that they can connect with others who are suffering similar circumstances and hope that they are not forgotten and that someone cares.

While traveling north to Kayna, I met a woman, Justine, in the HEAL Africa house who had come to seek treatment for a fistula.  The woman had walked 7km to meet with a counselor and was quickly referred to Goma.  She had been raped many years prior and had been suffering since.  She was meek, soft spoken and isolated, sitting in the far corner of a room, not interacting with others.

Justine was taken in an ambulance to Goma.  I saw her off from Kayna and was rewarded a tiny smile as she drove away.

Back in Goma, I was walking through the hospital grounds and saw Justine again.  I almost didn’t recognize her for the huge smile on her face.  In only a week, her entire demeanor had changed.  Justine beamed with hope.   Thank you to all at HEAL Africa for your support of my project and dedication to transforming the lives of the people of the DRC.

*fistula is a break in the wall separating the vagina and the bowels and is often caused by severe or gang rape, or extremely difficult birth.  The most serious side effect of fistula is incontinence, a continual leaking of urine and feces from the vaginal opening, however there is often pain and weakness resulting from infection.  Women with fistula report having to change rags 10 times a day and 2-3 times a night.

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3 Comments

  1. Art Stevens February 12, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    HEAL is amazing. Another great group is FINCA DRC. I was going to try to commision some pictures, but my shop unfortuntely decided on a different group to invest in, not in the DRC.

    I think you are doing fabulous work, keep it up. I hope you are well.

    Art

  2. Michelle Begin February 24, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    Alissa, your contribution to society never ceases to amaze and inspire me. I have no doubt that your presence and obvious dedication have played a significant role in HEAL’s mission to bring hope to the people of Congo.

  3. Judy Anderson December 10, 2009 at 11:24 pm #

    Glad to see that through your efforts with Care Through Action there’s a new house for Wamama Simameni (the program for women that links counseling for rape survivors, referral to appropriate medical care like Justine got, and is also a resource center for women in the village to learn new skills as well. It’s a community center for all women! Judy Anderson, HEAL Africa

One Trackback

  1. By Helping Africa Heal | SFluxe on March 7, 2009 at 7:35 am

    [...] One of the people who worked with HEAL Africa, and is doing her part to help the women of Congo, is photographer Alissa Everett.  Alissa, who is co-founder of Care Through Action in San Francisco, recently spent three weeks in Congo and spent quite a bit of time with HEAL. She wrote about the experience at her blog. [...]

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