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Butoke update, January 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It has been about one month since I came back from a quick trip to Canada and the USA, but it seems ages ago. The trip was very comforting, as it permitted me to share with people of like disposition how we try to serve the poor. During the trip, I met old friends and felt all the energy of our dreams when we were young and I made new friends giving thanks to God that we have a joyful band of people joining hands and hearts for His kingdom on earth, even though we all know it isn’t easy; there are crosses on the way.

Upon my return, I found our orphans and malnourished all alive and all but one thriving. Several were visibly relieved that I was back. The one who not thriving was “Captaine,” a kid left a year ago by neighbors who knew not his name, nor his family. Before my trip he had seemed so self-assured and happy within our circle, but when I left, he refused to eat beans and even milk, and developed kwashiorkor. The village had been rife with rumors that I had left definitively. Abandonment has been the lot of him and most of these kids before. It is hard to relearn to trust, but maybe my departure and quick return will help towards that.  We went also shopping for second hand clothing, especially for our smallest kids who quickly outgrow and destroy whatever they have.  It was comforting to see their faces lit up, even if we were a bit sad not to be able to give also to the bigger children. By now Capitaine is eating well and seems confident again. So we give thanks for his recovery.

What happened to Capitaine is a signal that we need to work even harder so that children receive not only services but also affection and encouragement by our staff on a daily basis and parenting is not limited to Jean and myself.  We thought it was happening already but probably not consistently.        

Dr. Jean had come to meet me in Kinshasa and seemed exceptionally subdued.  He had recently come back from Luiza supervising the 10 nutrition centers. On his way up there he accepted a request to take the corpse of the academic Secretary of the CIDEP (Centre Interdisciplinaire d’Education Permanente), a unique university without walls with an antenna in Luiza.  We render often this service when people die far away from their home base and we have to go that way anyhow.  Upon arrival in Luiza all the students of the CIDEP had gathered, very agitated. They were convinced the death had been part of a conspiracy by traditional “fetishers”  to kill by sorcery three leading intellectuals,  and the students wanted revenge. They did not listen to the explanation that the man died from diabetes.  One of the students is a traditional chief to whom we are close.  Dr. Jean advised him to lead the students in the parade they make traditionally when one of them has died but restrain them from violence. Unfortunately the chief lost control of the crowd.   Result:  27 houses burned, 21 other families lost all possessions - a major calamity, creating a rift in the community and a simmering collective rage which may break out again.  We mull over how to prevent new outbreaks.

Food security remains our major concern as about half of the province is in Phase 3 of food insecurity according to FAO.  Butoke is active in 2/3 of these most affected areas.  The major harvest period is still ongoing.  It should be a dry spell, but instead we have daily abundant rains.  This requires much care to prevent rotting.

For our associations, harvests of cassava seem very promising.   We had introduced an improved variety and each cutting has generated 3 or 4 major tubers and also 3 to 4 branches that can yield each 3 cuttings. We estimate that each hectare will give about 15 tons of cassava. We consume for the nutrition center and orphanage in Tshikaji about 6 tons of cassava per year.  For the average family about 400 kg of cassava is sufficient for a year, if an equal amount of corn is available. So when we distribute the cuttings, we will aim at 300 cuttings per family.

The harvest of peanuts seems instead suffering from the rains, some nuts rotting, some germinating. The harvests of beans and corn seem to be average.

More news on the harvests in our next letter.

We struggle even with food security at our centers in Tshikaji, Luiza and Tshikapa.

Tshikaji center is purely a Butoke responsibility which we took on mostly based on my pension and to some extent, CIDA.  But since June 2009 my bank in Belgium does no longer accept Email orders.  They also changed the office responsible for my account. So we have had difficulty receiving my pension and currently we have two months delay in payment.  Today I was able to get someone to hand carry the letter to Kinshasa which will be faxed and hopefully get my pension rolling again. Thanks to some friendly shops we have fed everyone here on credit.  Generous recent donors’ gifts just arrived as we were near to a breakdown of the system.

 The Tshikapa and Luiza Butoke centers together with 40 other centers should be provided for in food by UNICEF.  It has been touch and go as UNICEF supplies have been delayed repeatedly and we have never had the full set.  Health workers speak of deaths of children but have been reluctant to document what happens when there is a break in supplies.  It is even hard to get them to provide exact counts of what remains somewhere in the pipeline as that pipeline stretches over 200km and large parts have no coverage by telephone.  Until the exact count is in, UNICEF does not order, let alone supply.  Currently we have about 1500 children actively under treatment and doing very well and more than 1000 in Kamuesha (part of Tshikapa) in danger of perishing due to a rupture in supplies for 2 months - a terrible hecatomb.

The pressure of it all got to Dr. Jean.  He returned to Tshikapa just after my return from USA.  He was tired.  We thought nothing special but checked the blood pressure.  It was 215/125. I started him on treatment.   He has remained fully active and involved as ever , but is regulating diet, exercise and rest as well as taking medication.  We are happy to report we have now had three days in a row normal readings.  We pray that the crisis may be over as he maintains the changes in life style.  We should take a picture as he has slimmed considerably thru the two health crises and his facial expression beams peace.

As you remember,  Butoke is active in the health field.   We see and treat patients on 24/7 basis from 4 points:  Kananga, Tshikaji, Kanzala, and Luiza.  The primary care is supported by CIDA.  We refer at our cost mostly to IMCK (the Presbyterian hospital near our nutrition center), emergencies for which people cannot pay.  During 2009 the total bill at IMCK amounted to about $21,000 USD, of which $13,500 was covered by CIDA and $7,500 was to be covered by Butoke’s fundraising.  This activity is vital, as it saved 32 lives.

The collaboration with IMCK has significantly improved with the arrival early 2009 of new missionaries, Dr. John and Mrs. Gwenda Fletcher.  They were joined by other new doctors, as the old ones moved on to South Africa or International NGOs for prestige and better pay. The new doctors at their turn have entered in dialogue.  There is some hope we can do a joint fundraising for indigent patients. This would hopefully permit taking care of more people who otherwise are condemned to die neglected.  If you want to assist the emergency care, please designate so.

All our ongoing projects with UNICEF and CIDA near their end dates in March and April, 2010.  We are working hard on new proposals for CIDA, FAO, UNICEF and Canadian Embassy.  All have been discussed but nothing is sure yet. But the harvest rolls on.  Soon new planting of cassava and then new sowing. Literally more than a thousand severely malnourished kids continue to be in danger of perishing.  The orphans in the schools need school fees and new supplies.  The orphans in our care keep increasing; we have 45 now. We need your prayers and assistance.  Help us to help people witnessing to His love and bringing hope and the desire to build a better future for all. The challenge is great.  We need to overcome the chronic anxiety which seems to be growing in the community and bursting out in violence and destruction. To do so we need to demonstrate there are real solutions which benefit all.  By God’s grace we will overcome, united across several continents.  Hearty greetings from all three of us!

In His love

Cecile, Jean and Lazare



How to help (updated to year end 2010)


About 4 years ago, Dickens Warfield initiated “Friends of Butoke,” modeled on the 1930’s “March of Dimes” fund-raiser to fight polio in the USA. The idea is to contribute on a regular basis an amount of money small enough that “you wouldn’t notice it” to Butoke, the thinking being that if many people did so, the results could be significant.  If any of you would like to become a member, please send your contribution through H. Branch Warfield or through Maryland Presbyterian Church (above).  Dickens sends out an annual report. Contributions sent directly to F of B are not yet USA tax deductible. Currently F of B has 30 members; a few give small amounts regularly; many others prefer to donate once a year, or so; some people have made large contributions, which F of B naturally accepts.  No amount is too small or too large.

Friends of Butoke, Inc. is now incorporated and application has been made for 501-c-3 status in the USA.  Until it is granted, contributions in the USA can be made payable to Maryland Presbyterian Church, 1105 Providence Rd., Baltimore, MD, 21286, USA, marked “for Butoke.”  These contributions may be tax deductible in the USA. 

For those not interested in a USA tax deduction, contributions can be made payable to H. Branch Warfield, 13801 York Rd., V-3, Cockeysville, MD. 21030, marked “for Butoke.”


Contributions to Butoke in Canada can be sent through World Hope Canada, Box 21082, RPO Ottawa South, Ottawa, ON K1S 5N1


Contributions in the United Kingdom can be sent through Paul Evans, 5 Westville Ave., Illkley, LS29 9AH, United Kingdom.