I am from Kashitu village in Kandale, Kwilu Province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but I grew-up half a mile away at the Kandale mission station, founded in 1926 by Baptist missionaries. My life growing-up was on the tough side. I escaped five arranged marriages by age 11 to become the first woman with a graduate degree in Kandale and to serve at the national level as head of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission for North and South Kivu regions. I have fond memories of climbing mango trees, playing under the moonlight, running the steep hills to collect firewood and water, and singing in the choir at our local church. I learned to read and write at an early age because my father was a teacher. He taught me in both first and second grade. In 1980, I was elected youth leader and traveled for the first time by plane to represent Kandale mission at the youth conference in Nyanga, Kasai Province. Growing-up in Kandale taught me about God, integrity, compassion, and hope in the midst of suffering. These values are the driving force behind the creation of REVE Kandale -- to give back to a community that invested so much in me.
Greg and Colette
I met my husband, Greg Ramm, in Kandale 35 years ago. We were both teachers. I taught 5th grade (85 students!) at Kandale primary school, and Greg served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. He taught math and physics in the high school. Before I met Greg I had escaped five arranged marriages, but the vows I shared with Greg were vows that I chose. We ended up living in the United States with our children, and in 1995 I traveled back to Kandale to visit. Kandale was dying. The schools and girls’ dormitory were in disrepair. The buildings were falling down. The roofs, such as they were, leaked. There were few desks, few books, little chalk -- and yet more than 1,000 students attended school each day. When I grew up in Kandale, there were many trees – shade trees, fruit trees, medicinal trees, and special trees that attracted caterpillars, a local delicacy. With the passing years, the collapse of the economy, and the desperate poverty, the trees have disappeared and with them many birds, caterpillars and other animals. Bush fires in the dry season made things worse. But the community in Kandale refused to give up. They collected stones and red clay for a new school block, but lacked the funds for a sturdy roof of corrugated metal sheets.
A Roof for Kandale Campaign
We launched our first fundraising campaign, called “Opération 1000 Tôles pour Kandale” - A Roof for Kandale, in 2010.
That’s the amount I asked fellow natives of Kandale living in Congo and abroad to contribute toward the construction of our first six-classroom block. We raised enough to finish that building in 2013. And that was just the beginning.
We are on our way to rebuilding the rest of the school infrastructure, including staff housing, to attract qualified teachers. We have equipped the technical school with 40 new sewing machines, delivered a new brickmaking machine to Kandale with the capacity to produce 1,000 stabilized bricks per day. We delivered laptop computers, typewriters, soccer kits, and hygiene kits for girls and set up a community library. Above and beyond, we have planted thousands of trees – many of them fruit trees that are increasing nutrition for children and restoring a small forest. Caterpillars and birds have returned along with other animals (including some snakes). And this activity is attracting other development. There is telephone connectivity and solar panels for the first time in the history of Kandale. There is so much more for us to do, but your support has helped us get this far and given us hope about what is possible.