Butoke update, December 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
November has come to an end; and the year 2010 will soon come to a close. 2010 has been a memorable year for most of us, but particularly for Butoke.
At the end of March 2010, our CIDA project in human development for the Kasaï Occidental came to the end of its contract. Our report was very well received by CIDA, but a new project could only possibly be done in 2011. This meant that after March 2010 we could not maintain a high momentum in food security activities, and we had only the capacity to finish the treatment of malnourished children under our care in Tshikaji. We could not take on new ones, which we referred to IMCK; we had to slow down on secondary medical care of the poor; and our educational activities had to be curtailed. But we needed to maintain the capacity to pick up quickly in 2011.
In March 2010, after many changes of people in charge of UNICEF in the Kasaï Occidental, we were losing their support for nutritional rehabilitation in Tshikapa and Luiza and more than 2,000 severely malnourished children which we had started treating became, under our helpless eyes, likely to perish for lack of continuity in their treatment. We struggled hard to convince UNICEF to extend the contract period and stay within budget so that we could carry out the treatment to the end but to no avail. Children died and health workers signaled us their demises. But some died in their villages unbeknown to health workers. It all happened far away from the offices of UNICEF. Moreover they left us holding the responsibility of the cost of four months of nutritional rehabilitation, entailing consumption of our reserve and debts. Only by the end of October 2010 did UNICEF finally pay up half (USD 14.660) of the sum due to us.
This double whammy brought forcefully home the fragility of project support. Two strikes against major Butoke activities: nutrition rehabilitation and food security and health care. We were left with the orphanage for which the only sure regular income was Cecile’s pension. So the orphans’ survival depended largely on her own survival and given her age that seemed too risky. They will need another 20 to 25 years of increasing support when she would be 95 to 100 years old as some kids will be able to go on to university level studies.
We thought hard and decided we should find out whether we could encourage the creation of networks of regular supporters abroad, which could protect us from vagaries of project timing, provide first and foremost support for the orphanage and if possible for other activities. To test the feasibility of such an approach, it was decided Cecile would travel to Canada, USA and England. These are the countries from where Butoke received in the past years most of its individual support.
It was a moving experience both for her and the hosts. A love fest, only slightly disturbed in Baltimore USA by a false alarm of a suspected thrombosis in the left leg of Cecile.
But all discussions were held against the background of a deepening worldwide economic crisis. In Canada, this reflected itself in Help the Aged, our NGO partner so far, feeling unsure of their fundraising ability. But happily, World Hope Canada took the relay to partner for CIDA support in 2011. In the US a generalized apprehension about retirement funds, jobs and cost of fuel seemed to dominate the scene even as a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to continue without an end in view. In England our main supporters met with each other for the first time. Even so, all were agreeable to form an NGO to support Butoke.
Everywhere, the individual willingness to support Butoke seemed to be very strong, but it would have to be carried out with people’s slimming resources and competing needs. People of good will were concerned about helping the homeless of their own country and the much more publicized and closer Haiti. We prayed to God for guidance on how to solve this new equation, heightened need in Congo and diminishing availability of resources abroad.
It became also obvious that the official creation of «Friends of Butoke« NGOs in the US and UK would take a lot of effort, time and money and would stabilize us at the earliest starting in 2011. While Cecile was traveling and wondering how to assure a nucleus of people and activities could be maintained by Butoke during 2010, Dr Jean and the team worked at it in the field and seized the opportunity of opening a «proximity clinic» in a lower middle class neighborhood based on a gift of Dr. Jean’s family. The clinic offers primary health care and the most frequently needed aspects of secondary care. The clinic works for lower fees than others, but achieved, from the very first months, cost recovery which permits covering indigents at still lower rates or even free while the clinic is still able to make a profit. Secondary, rural hospitals built mostly in the 50s are losing their foreign support and are becoming unaffordable for almost all urbanized Congolese people in view of transport fees and charges, as the hospitals have been staffed increasingly with Congolese medical doctors.
We shared our hopes and worries and came to the conclusion that the international and national general context seems ominous for at least the next five years and therefore Butoke would need to be more active in Congo as the groups that have no access to services is widening to include the lower middle class. International support would probably be more attracted if it is used for investment costs only, but Butoke would need to be more independent than before for recurrent costs. We would need to identify in the different domains activities that satisfy the needs of the lower middle class and some consumer poor at affordable real costs. Those activities should only demand modest investment that generates self financing and if possible offers some profit that we can use for the orphanage or other indigents. This seemed to point to the direction we should take to continue God’s work.
When Cecile returned, we doubled the efforts to become a nationally-registered NGO and were successful! Our national recognition and new vision has led us to prepare a popular pharmacy in Masina, a suburb of Kinshasa. It is exciting to be in Kinshasa, where we can be known by international donors. At the same time, Kinshasa is fraught with temptations. Kinshasa is the seat of power, attracting millions of Congolese to mill around, day after day, lost in traffic, but dreaming of being part of the power, either based on nominal jobs or dreaming to discover the golden opportunity by participating in a project. So officially-subsidized projects abound and are often aborted midway for «lack of funds» due to voluntary or involuntary wastage, high costs of transport and not the least, collateral benefits to various categories of officials. We know the traps and cliffs, so we will try hard to remain efficient and economic and bring rationality, while serving those that have difficult access to meaningful services.
Now, as we look forward to 2011 we pray that all people reflect on the worldwide crisis, on what went wrong where, how each nation can reorient itself and how to share the resources that are available worldwide as well as locally so that all may live. The crisis may lead to scapegoating, to ethnic strife and worse, but the crisis is an index that our democracies are badly managed and probably have structural flaws. We need to rethink at a global level how to manage global solidarity for human development. God has permitted this crisis as a challenge to us all. We need also to develop in the poorest countries efficient mechanisms that serve those presently barred by factors of distance and cost, but who can contribute to a reasonable cost recovery and even leave some resources to cover the poorest.
May we all in 2011 respond to His challenge. With your help Butoke will do so by investing
· in clinics and popular pharmacies, as medical care as structured in the early 80s is unable to function well for the lower middle class and the poor. In the CIDA project we will work with ten health centers on their quality of care and their coverage ;
· in one or more cybers so as to open for the young the possibility of developing marketable skills ; and
· most importantly we will develop cereal banks preferably in the 40 villages where we have agricultural efforts planned with CIDA for food security.
We will also search for support for retraining of primary school teachers. We have trainers and manuals for 1st and 2nd primary already. We will develop material for 3rd and 4th primary This retraining is a strong need, as so far kids finish 6th grade functionally illiterate
We wish all and everyone a fruitful 2011 in good health, with sufficient resources for self and family, with renewed dedication to participate in God’s work around oneself and around the world
In His love
Jean and Cecile
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.