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Executive Director—USA

CONGO INITIATIVE USA

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Congo Initiative is an envisioned community of Christ-centered Congolese leaders and global partners united for the transformation of lives and a flourishing Democratic Republic of Congo. The mission of Congo Initiative USA is to promote Christian higher education, leadership formation, and community transformation in the DRC by providing financial and personnel support for Cl's founding program, the Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo, and for the broader work of Congo Initiative. The new Executive Director will lead the organization’s ministry here in the US while working collaboratively with the leadership in DRC.

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HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION

Congo Initiative (Cl) was born out of a call to prayer among Congolese leaders representing the church, education, government, and business sectors at the height of the civil war in eastern Congo in 2002. A three-day prayer gathering was convened by Drs. David and Kaswera Kasali, a dynamic and visionary Congolese couple who both hold PhDs from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago. While living in Nairobi, Kenya—where David had served as Vice Chancellor for the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology since 1996 (the same year that the Congo war began)—the Kasalis received a call to return to Congo and lead a response to the devastation occurring in their native country. From 2004 to 2007, the Kasalis relocated to the U.S. and presented their vision to churches and individuals around the country, while establishing Congo Initiative as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

In 2007, the Kasalis permanently relocated to Beni, Congo, and Cl's founding program, the Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (Christian Bilingual University of Congo or UCBC), opened its doors. UCBC is a four-year, Christ-centered, bilingual (English and French) liberal arts institution that offers undergraduate degrees in Applied Sciences, Communications, Economics, Law, and Theology.

 

In addition to UCBC, Cl fulfills its mission through several outreach programs, such as: pastoral training and formation, entrepreneurial training and counseling for vulnerable women, bilingual primary education for children, workshops and training for legal professionals, trauma healing counseling services, and entrepreneurial innovation toward institutional self-sustainability.

ABOUT THEIR WORK

The vision of Congo Initiative is simple. Live by faith and with confidence. Work hard for the common good. Forgive and be forgiven. Do not dwell in the past or conform to the pattern of the world. Do something new and be transformed by renewing your mind.

 

Empowered by this vision, Congo Initiative educates ethical leaders who have integrity; invests in a sustainable vibrant Congolese society; and develops grassroots initiatives for peace, hope, and justice. They are … together—being transformed to transform.

 

Everything they do is done in collaboration with their Congolese leadership. This means that they never “import” answers to Congo’s challenges from the outside. Instead, the solutions to Congo’s challenges come from within–from local communities and leaders who know the longings of their people and who lead them in finding the resources to fulfill those longings. Although they are Congolese-led, they collaborate with friends and colleagues from the international community in the spirit of “Tuko Pamoja” … meaning “we are together.”

 

Their work engages in key sectors where intervention is deemed appropriate and where CI’s programs and institutions demonstrate proven impact. Their strategy centers around leadership development through a redemptive Christ-centered community, believing that leaders nurtured by a transformational community will then catalyze renewal for a flourishing Congo.

 

This community-centered strategy for leadership development focuses on long-term investment strategies, rather than short-term relief work and “front-line” service provision. CI cultivates a Christ-centered community and develops transformational leaders through four key sectors defined as a targeted domain of intervention where CI’s projects, programs and institutions demonstrate transformational impact. These sectors are education, renewing Christian vocation, holistic family development, and governance and economic development, and also includes entrepreneurship, counseling and peacekeeping.

 

In addition to UCBC (see below for a more in-depth look), Congo Initiative currently supports the following programs:

  • Sharing the Land engages local communities and authorities around issues of land conflict, and aims to bring about solutions that lead to lasting peace.
  • La Charité Primary School is a K-6 grade school reaching the most vulnerable portion of the population by creating high quality, inclusive education featuring core academic instruction, physical exercise, music, and a loving environment are all part of the services we provide.
  • ABC Primary School seeks to apply UCBC’s transformational vision of education in the lives of eastern Congo’s youngest learners. The school has six grades for children ages 5–12, a nursery school for children ages 2 – 5, and is led by UCBC alumni.
  • Bethesda Counseling Center provides caring, loving and compassionate Christian counseling programs, including individual and group counseling; play therapy for children; grief and trauma services, counseling for victims of sexual violence; and training for local church leaders.
  • Vocational Training & Counseling serves at-risk Congolese women, training them in vocational and income-generating skills, empowering them to earn a livelihood that will provide better lives for themselves and their families.
  • Neema Congo is a resource and capacity building program that fosters entrepreneurship activity within the community and engages in robust monitoring and evaluation of small business ventures.
  • Wakisha is a business accelerator program that provides financial and mentoring support to emerging entrepreneurs to scale high impact, innovative startups in eastern Congo. Close to 1000 people have benefited from Wakisha entrepreneurship and income-generating activities, including 83 people displaced in rural areas due to conflict.
  • The Justice Initiativetrains and supports lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals to elevate, promote, and advocate for justice and transformation in a broken system, starting at a grassroots level.
  • Church Renewal and Global Mission (CRGM) Initiative envisions the renewal and strengthening of the Church in post-conflict regions of Congo so that the Church becomes a community of holistic transformation and global mission. Activities focus on church leadership training, healing, and reconciliation that respond to the needs of the community.
  • Integrated Research Institute encourages and empowers faculty, students and affiliated researchers at UCBC to use the resources of academic inquiry to engage problems relevant to the community, to collect meaningful data about DR Congo, and to publish excellent research.
ABOUT UCBC

Congo’s post-colonial history has been challenging: predatory structures of power, systemic and continuing violence and war, mass killings, sexual violence, extraction and theft of natural resources through complicity of local and international players, and rampant poverty continue to hold Congo’s people captive (1960-present).


The root cause of this crisis can be traced to a critical lack of ethical and service-minded leaders who advance the common good. Consequently, the whole nation is compromised: civil society, churches and religious organizations, the legal system, the economy, natural resource management, and education are all affected by this lack of leadership.


IF LEADERSHIP IS THE KEY, THEN EDUCATION IS

THE KEY TO BRINGING UP THESE LEADERS.

David Kasali


A Congolese solution...

In the midst of this challenging context, and out of an already resilient society, a new liberating and transformative narrative is being written and lived. It begins at the UCBC, located in Beni, where committed Congolese visionaries are developing and nurturing a redemptive community of passionate young men and women … students equipped through professional and formative education at the highest level. It is witnessed in their alumni, who identify, own and respond to Congo’s challenges with skill, dedication, excellence, creativity, and Christian hope.

After 13 years, UCBC now has an annual average enrollment of 300 students, and more than 600 UCBC alumni are writing a new story in Congo. Here is just a small sample of how their alumni are making an impact:

  • 8 are working in bank enterprises.

  • Over 20 are working with CI or UCBC.

  • 6 are working in the mining industry.

  • Over 100 are innovating new startups or working as consultants.

  • Over 15 are serving as pastors in churches.

  • Over 50 are working in national and international NGO’s based in Congo.

  • 3 are working with the DRC government.

  • Over 50 are pursuing advanced studies at universities across east Africa.


Watch a video about UCBS here.

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE

Congo Initiative’s work is based in Beni, a city of 250,000 people in the North Kivu province of eastern DRC, just 46 miles west of the Ugandan border, and is supported by partner organizations around the world.

 

They are a non-governmental agency registered in Congo, governed by a General Assembly (board) that meets twice each year. That General Assembly is responsible for:

  • Setting the vision, mission, values, and strategic objectives of the organization

  • Ensuring that all activities and programs align with the above

  • Approval and adoption of annual budgets

  • Oversight of executive leadership

 

Their executive team in Congo is the Management Committee, whose mandate is to implement the mission-based strategic objectives as determined by the General Assembly. They are in the final days of a 3-year Strategic Plan. When asked to grade their overall performance on the current Strategic Plan, members of the Committee gave themselves a “C” in terms of accomplishing the goals outlined, but a “B to B+” for the overall impact on the communities they serve, which the board views as an “incredible accomplishment” given the circumstances.

 

Partner Organizations

Both of Congo Initiative’s partner organizations (CI USA and CI UK) are registered/chartered in their respective countries in accordance with the laws and regulations for non-governmental/not-for-profit entities in those countries. Each partner organization accompanies and supports CI Congo by the following:

  • Raising awareness about the needs, challenges and opportunities of Congo

  • Telling the story of what CI Congo is doing to uniquely and distinctively address these needs, challenges, and opportunities

  • Developing human, financial, and technical resources to equip and enable CI Congo to fulfill its mission and vision

 

In doing the work outlined above, the partner organizations cooperate closely to ensure that international resources and support always match the priorities and needs of CI Congo.

 

Congo Initiative USA

Established as a 501(c)3 in 2005, Congo Initiative USA (CI-USA) exists to provide individuals, foundations, churches and public institutions in the USA with access to the work of Congo Initiative in the DRC through financial, human resource, and technical investment. The organization here is governed by a 15-member board of directors from across the country who represent a cross-section of disciplines. The staff cultivate and steward relationships and partnerships with donors, institutions and organizations throughout the USA who desire to support and participate in the work of CI Congo. They also manage and update the website, oversee communications and marketing, and facilitate all general inquiries. The work here is staff-led, board-confirmed.

 

Historically based in Durham, North Carolina, CI-USA has 2 full-time and 1 part-time staff member(s), several deeply engaged volunteers, and offers internships to college students engaged in ministry. The organization’s FY2020 budget (ending September 30) is just over $1.2 million, which is derived 60% from individual donors, 23% from foundations, 16% from churches, and <1% from other sources. It’s program ratio in 2019 was 78.3%.

 

Congo Initiative UK

Begun in October 2015, CI-UK went through the long process of registering as a charity in Northern Ireland and, by extension, the United Kingdom. In February 2019, CI–UK received its registration as a charity.

 

With a full-time Executive Director and a Board of Directors in place, CI-UK also aims to come alongside CI Congo with financial and personnel resources from individuals, foundations and institutions throughout the UK.