We have some exciting new developments to share related to the rebuilding efforts in Tshikaji village. We described earlier about the tornado and the initial response by the CPC (click the links to view). In January, the CPC Tshikaji response committee began the most dramatic step of distributing new roof sheeting and building homes for people whose homes had been destroyed. A grant was given by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) towards the rebuilding of homes in Tshikaji. The committee started by verifying the housing status of all the families who had been recorded on a list of people with destroyed or damaged homes. Then, those families were classified into 3 categories: 1) 70 families who needed replacement roof sheeting, 2) 40 families who had their home severely or completely damaged, and would have a complete roof rebuilt, and 3) 7 widows or families whose home had been destroyed completely and who are severely poor, and would have complete house built.
On Saturday, January 15, we attended the initial distribution of roof sheeting. There was much excitement as those families on the list came to collect 15 iron sheets each. Chief Kamenge from Tshikaji participated in the distribution, as well as Pastor Mboyamba, the legal representative for CPC. We were impressed at all the preparation the committee had done to make it a quick and efficient process.
The following week, builders came to Tshikaji and began building complete roofs for the families in the second category, whose homes had been destroyed. If some or all of the walls had been destroyed, the family would have to find or make the bricks for the walls. The most expensive part of a house is the roof, especially if it has the metal roof sheeting. It is also one of the most important ways that a health can protect the health of the family, by protecting from the rain, which is why this was chosen as the way to make a significant contribution towards their rebuilding efforts.
Last week, in early February, I interviewed Joseph Kalonji, whose house was destroyed in the tornado. Tatu Kalonji teaches English in 2 of the secondary schools in Tshikaji, and if you have visited Tshikaji he may have helped you as translator. On the day of the storm, he was not in Tshikaji, because during the school break he transports goods a distance of 200km on his bicycle to earn some extra money. His wife was attending a funeral, and his 3 children were at choir practice at the church. His wife and children returned to the house that evening to find the roof completely blown off, part of their walls destroyed, and their possessions strewn all over the area. They learned afterward that the roof of a neighbor nearly 200 meters away had been lifted the tornado and crashed into his roof, which knocked it off. This was a powerful storm! His table was broken, many of his books were ruined by the rain, and other possessions were lost in the severe wind or stolen when they were scattered. They collected the possessions that they could, and went to stay with Joseph’s mother. Some of his other siblings live near his mother also, so with some rearranging they were able to make a room his family. That is where they have stayed for the last 5 months, since their home was destroyed.
Joseph is a deacon at the IMCK parish of CPC, and has been a significant help to the committee through all the stages of responding to this crisis. He was on the list of those who would have a complete roof built. He had just started to build a frame and thatched roof when he heard that he would receive a roof with metal sheeting. This has proved a tremendous benefit for him for 2 reasons: a metal roof is much more durable and long-lasting than a thatched roof, and 2nd, the size of the new house will be slightly larger than his previous house.
This project has been a great demonstration to us of generosity and cooperation between the church in Congo and the church in the U.S. A big thank you to PDA for their generous contribution to this significant effort! If you attend a PC(USA) church, did you know that one-third of the “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering on Easter Sunday is given to PDA? We encourage you to support this strategic way that the church responds to environmental disasters both near and far…and sometimes those that are not headline news! You can also contribute directly towards their support of Tshikaji here, and note that the contribution is for Tshikaji.