By Stan Friedman
GEMENA, DR CONGO (August 20, 2012) – Since beginning their work less than three months ago, volunteers already have registered 12,000 children for the Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision project.
“Registering 12,000 children in this short of time has never been done anywhere by World Vision,” said Bob Kisyula, national director of World Vision DR Congo. Typically, World Vision starts with no more than 1,500 sign-ups, he said.
One hundred volunteers have gone door-to-door in several Congo communities to meet with local government leaders, pastors, and families. They also have held neighborhood meetings to explain the program.
Volunteers have worked from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day – almost literally sun up to sun down. “It really puts the ball in our court to make sure these kids get sponsored,” said Adam Phillips, a Covenant minister who is the project consultant. “It’s a great responsibility.”
Local Covenant congregations and individuals throughout North America will have an opportunity to sign up to sponsor a child during Hope Sundays that are being scheduled throughout the fall and winter months. Churches are being encouraged to contact Covenant Kids Congo staff and register for a Hope Sunday to receive materials and orientation, if they have not already done so.
Phillips and other representatives from the Evangelical Covenant Church, Congo Covenant Church, and World Vision met with families at the children’s homes. Extended families showed up at some of the meetings.
“There was a sense that everyone was proud of the child who is a representative for them,” said Phillips.
One child is matched to a donor on behalf of his or her neighborhood. Through sponsorship, one child serves as a representative, but all the children in an area benefit from the community development project. World Vision expects to be active in an area development program for 15-20 years.
Some residents were initially afraid of the project. “They thought it was a program for white people to take away their children to the United States,” said one volunteer.
Other parents and leaders were skeptical because other non-government organizations (NGOs) have a history of not following through on their work. “They come in and make promises – and then nothing happens,” the mother of one child said during one team’s visit last Thursday.
The volunteers have been able to allay the fear and much of the suspicion by continuing to work with the families. Parents said they were impressed by the concern shown to them.
Families and community leaders have the opportunity to speak into the planning and ongoing development of projects. Kisyula emphasized that the projects are being done with the people, and not just for them.