Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 31, 2002
Share, for the Earth is for all
Development and Peace celebrates its 35th birthday
By AL MELLA
"We are poor, but at least we have work.
Share Lent is an important occasion when Canadian Catholics demonstrate their commitment to the South's development. It is a moment of renewal - a time to pray, reflect on the roots of our faith and respond to the Gospel's call to work for justice and peace.
It provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the situation of the peoples of the South, and to respond to their needs in a concrete way. The Share Lent contributions to Development and Peace goes to help partners that transform their lives.
In Rwanda, it reaches out to widows and orphans, providing small loans to assist them in growing soy and peanuts or starting their own small business. Baloncilla, the president of the Rokaza gacaca, says "We are poor, but at least we have work. With support from you, we can eat."
This small group of women cultivates cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots and soy in the hills of Rwanda. They are just one of the 95 gacacas that make up COCOF (the Musambira women's advisory council), an organization of more than 2,000 widows.
All are working in their communities after the horrific genocide of 1994, in which up to one million Rwandans were murdered. Many of the women are raising orphans of the genocide as their own.
Concilie, a member of Rokaza gacaca whose husband was murdered during the genocide, has been able to support her eight surviving children with the help of a COCOF loan of $166. It allowed her to launch several successful projects, starting with selling small goods such as salt.
As well, COCOF encourages gacacas to set up revolving loans. Concilie and the other women in Baloncilla's gacaca contribute a small amount monthly to a lending circle, which then makes loans to women in need.
As a result of COCOF's work, members are able to purchase new clothes , pay school fees and buy medicine. Thanks to nutritious crops such as soy, members have fewer malnourished children.
Best of all, the number of COCOF gacacas is increasing every year, and the organization's ability to assist them is rapidly improving.
The women learn valuable organizing skills through running their gacacas, lending circles and monthly meetings. In a country where most social organizations were destroyed by conflict, learning to function in groups again and meeting specific goals is an essential part of rebuilding society.
Gacaca by gacaca, organizations like COCOF, supported by Development and Peace Share Lent donations, are helping rebuild Rwanda.
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