Congo_-_L_James_Spr_2017_LJUMKCHIVProject(Dec2016).jpgMay peace and prosperity be a part of Congo’s 2017!

As we renew ourselves and our missions for 2017, it is beneficial to reflect back over the past year on the challenges and successes! These reflections guide me as I continue to work hand in hand with the Congo Protestant University (Université Protestante au Congo – UPC) initiating and implementing projects. After a year of political uncertainty, I am again amazed at the resilience of the Congolese people to insist on moving forward with their daily lives. Their tenacity can be a lesson to us all!

Oftentimes, the slow progress of a project requires an inordinate amount of patience and perseverance. “Expect the unexpected.” However, looking back over the past year, the results are impressive. UPC is moving forward in its mission to Build a Nation through Education.

Congo_-_L_James_Spr_2017_IMG_1495_(1).JPGTechnology has seeped into and has now become an integral part of all of our lives. Just think of the enormous benefits that technology provides – scientific advancements, improved communication, and convenience in education. The University is now on track toward having a comprehensive network that will give professors and students access to those benefits. What does that entail, you ask? It begins with a team of professionals who are committed to this project!  Oh, and lots of coordination!

With the approval of the University Development Commission and Management Committee, the technology project officially launched in February 2016. After consulting with the Congolese organization that advises educational institutions on how to install technology, retained a consultant to oversee the overall plan, sent UPC’s webmaster for specialized training, and purchased the appropriate equipment for a wifi network. UPC is currently in the process of building out the server room which includes installing lightning protection and electrical grounding. In addition, they are installing an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) that includes solar panels and a wind turbine to protect the investment. Lightning and power outages can be the death of a network! As the technology foundation takes shape, everyone at the University is getting excited!

And that malaria research project? It is in full swing! Johns Hopkins will soon be back in Congo for the third field research trip to Eastern Congo on the border with Zambia. Once those mosquitos are caught and those blood samples are drawn, they are being analyzed for potential cross border malaria transmission and other issues. UPC is waiting on final approval for funding to extend this research over several years to come!

In UPC’s goal to establish infectious disease research capacity at the Congo Protestant University Medical School, the malaria research project was started. Now onto project #2! In collaboration with the University of Missouri – Kansas City, the University is spearheading a year-long project to explore viral strain diversity in Kinshasa, DRC. What does that mean? Viruses are major causes of disease. HIV is an example of a virus that creates an enormous health burden around the world. The UPC Congo team is made up of a UPC professor and five recently-graduated doctors – four of whom are from the University. 20 health centers have been identified around Kinshasa where blood will be collected weekly and sometimes daily for analysis. If this project is successful, it could lead to a more comprehensive project in the future. Research is a main component of a university’s raison d’être.  

The third major Medical School project revolves around emergency medicine which is non-existent in Congo. This means that many people die unnecessarily from such things as heart attacks and road accidents to name only a few causes of death. UPC’s emergency medicine education initiative can help change this situation. The University is teaming up with a group from Australia and together they are proposing to change that statistic. A training program has been developed and will be presented to approximately 60 doctors over a three-week period this Spring.  

It is an honor to be a small part of a very big picture. My work gives me such joy as I experience the success of a completed project, hear a student express appreciation for an opportunity or simply know that my presence has had a positive effect on an outcome. I am blessed.

Linda James serves as a Long-term volunteer with the Protestant University in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.