The whole day was overcast, but that didn’t dampen the celebratory mood surrounding the first graduation at the Maman Sandra Gourdet Women’s Center operated by the Community of Disciples of Christ in the Congo (CDCC) Women’s Department. Built as a vocational center to transfer skills and knowledge to women to help them improve their livelihoods, “The Center” has quickly become a valued community asset in Bolenge, near Mbandaka
On this day the graduates completed several months of training on learning how to sew new clothes and repair old ones. The CDCC Women’s Department Director, Maman Christiane Ikete, providing a fitting welcome to all the church officials, family members and special guests attending the ceremony. The graduation program mirrored a church service, complete with songs, scripture reading and a message. Leaders from the CDCC, including Rev. Eliki Bonanga, Rev. Clement Mputu, and Rev. Ngoy were in attendance to show their support of the school and the graduates.
The graduates were adorned in matching print dresses and shirts, per the custom. It was a diverse group featuring two male graduates and one Muslim graduate. Some of the participants in the first graduation were referred by other programs under the auspices of CDCC. For example, young adults who had experienced homelessness were enrolled in sewing training by the CDCC Youth Department. A testimonial was delivered by one of the graduates thanking God and the Women’s Department for the opportunity to learn a new skill.
The graduates will now go on to earn money as seamstresses and tailors to meet the growing demand for dresses and shirts made from colorful fabrics purchased in stores and markets. It is the local custom to purchase fabric for clothing tailor-made to fit. For example, groups of a certain profession or organization will choose a fabric to wear to represent their profession or group at a community event. The long skirts worn by women in the Equator region are not only an extension of the principle of modesty, but also practical for protection against mosquitos.
The Center features three classrooms, an office and a large gathering room where most of the trainings and meetings take place. The Center sits on several hectares of land that border the Congo River. A good portion of the land is utilized for community gardening. Future graduations will involve women and men who participant in agricultural training that will help them adapt new crops and techniques to strengthen food security.
Please pray for the CDCC Women’s Department in their efforts to provide hope and opportunity for women and men striving to earn a living and support their families.
Paul Turner serves with the Disciples of Christ in the Congo as a project consultant. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.