Canadian donations bring healing to rape victims
By Aaron Epp | Friday, March 9, 2012
People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo courtesy HPIC.
WINNIPEG, MBA group of philanthropists from southern Manitoba are making a big difference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by donating to a relief organization that helps women who have been brutally raped in the midst of conflicts there.
Glen Shepherd, president of Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC), says the not-for-profit relief and development agency provides medical supplies for HEAL Africa, an organization whose mandate includes treating women who are the victims of sexual abuse.
Shepherd says HPIC, which works through partnerships to increase access to medicine and improve health in the developing world, became involved with HEAL Africa in 2003.
"It was really a group of Mennonite donors who were particularly interested in this," he says. "This group of donors … made this project possible for us."
The donations allow HPIC to send medicine and supplies such as syringes, hospital masks, hospital bedsanything that is needed to stock and run a surgical clinicto HEAL Africa's operation in Goma, a city in the eastern part of Congo.
Shepherd estimates that in 2010, HPIC sent equipment valued at more than CDN $300,000.
"They operate eight hospitals. They do psychological and pastoral counselling, and sort of trauma treatment for the women [there]," Shepherd says of HEAL Africa's work.
In January, The New York Times described Congo as "one of the poorest, most chaotic nations on the planet, ruined by unrest that is estimated to have claimed millions of lives in the past 10 years. In many corners of the country, law, order, electricity and medicine are virtually nonexistent."
Mass rape has been epidemic in Congo, where both government forces and the militias that dominate vast stretches of the country use it as a tactic to promote fear amongst ordinary citizens.
When raped, the women are typically sodomized by their attackers with sticks and guns. One of the main focus areas of HEAL Africa's work is helping these women by offering treatment, counseling, medical assistance, financial assistance and safe housing.
While the Manitoba donors who help fund HPIC's partnership with HEAL Africa declined to be interviewed for this article, Shepherd believes it is their concern for social justice that led to their desire to fund this initiative.
"It resonates with the historic Mennonite concern for social justice," he says. "It's consistent with that concern for the victims. Everybody [HPIC] deals with is underprivileged by Canadian standards, but these are people who have really been abandoned."
HEAL Africa was started in Goma in 1996 by a Congolese doctor who refused to leave the area no matter how bad the conflict became. Today, the organization operates 213 hospital beds with a staff of 16 doctors, 22 nurses, 14 specialists and 40 part-time counsellors and pastors.
"I think of all the things we do in terms of social justice for people who are victims, this might be the best project we do," Shepherd says.