Congratulations to the 2015-'16 Congolese Climate Leadership Fellows!

Our 2015-’16 Congolese Climate Leadership Fellows have finished another academic year and we want to celebrate their dedication, hard work, and testimonies of transformation. The Climate Leadership Fellowship is a selective program for university students through which we aim to train and equip new Christian leaders to promote a biblical understanding of and response to the climate crisis on their campuses, in their churches, and in their communities.

YECA Congolese FellowsOne of the central components of the fellowship is the opportunity to develop a specific strategy and project for engaging the fellow’s campus, church and community around climate action. Y.E.C.A. has been privileged to work with three Congolese fellows throughout the last year at the Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC): Jolie Sifa KpakaKambere Simbamtaki Faden, and Diane Kyanga

Jolie currently serves a member of the Economics Faculty at UCBC and teaches a number of the university's English courses. Jolie also serves as a Y.E.C.A. Regional Coordinator. Faden is a third-year student at UCBC studying Computer Engineering. Faden has been a leader in his community since his early work with the youth ministry at his church. He currently leads the Creation Care Volunteer (CCV) group at UCBC. Diane is a second-year communications major at the UCBC. She has developed a love for bird-watching and hopes to be able to learn more about their identification and protection in Congo.

In May 2015, Diane, Faden and Jolie were able to travel to Kenya for the Lausanne Creation Care and the Gospel conference in Nairobi and a Y.E.C.A.-led natural science training at the A Rocha Kenya field study center.

Learn more about our unique partnership with UCBC

The following highlights have been shared by our Fellows through their program reports:

Global Day of Prayer for Climate Action (April 4, 2016)

Day of Prayer - Beni, Congo  

On this year's Global Day of Prayer for Climate Action, the UCBC Fellows organized a prayer gathering during their University's Chapel time. In their own words, "we prayed, worshiped and praised God for the gift of the whole creation. We asked forgiveness for not being good steward of God’s creation. We prayed for everyone involved in the protection of creation. We prayed for God’s mercy on those impacted by climate issues around the world and, particularly, in Beni. We prayed for renewed strength and new commitment towards the good stewardship of God’s creation. We also had a short devotional time to explain why it’s important to pray for God’s creation and the climate crisis around the world."

How have you supported Christians, churches or other Christian groups to live differently?

The stewardship of God’s creation is a responsibility given to us by God. We encouraged our fellow Christians to live our this responsibility. We encouraged them to TAKE ACTION. Some people among us did not seem to be aware of this responsibility and did not recognize their role. We helped those who still had questions to understand this calling, and we strengthened the understanding of those who knew of our role as stewards by challenging them to live differently in order to please God.

Some UCBC staff members said, “We didn’t think that it is also important to pray for the creation but now we can see that it is very powerful. Considering the creation as God’s and that he loves his creation, he might be happy to see people gathering just for praying for the creation.”

Some student were encouraged to join CCV group in order to learn more, as many of them expressed: “It seems like there are still so many things that we need to learn about creation care.”

Has this program enabled you to work jointly with new partners?

Yes. We were blessed to be joined by the Eastern Congo Initiative DRC Director for the day. He actually spoke and mentioned in his speech “Earlier, just at the beginning of my professional life, I started working with an organization which mission was to protect the environment. I learned so many things there and all I learned have had a real impact on my whole life. This is a Global issue, CLIMATE CHANGE is affecting the entire world now. I was encouraged by what you are doing here at UCBC. It is not everywhere that people can understand that they should pray for the creation. This is amazing! Others do not know even why to do this and they don’t care. I encourage you to continue with what you have started because what you do small here will impact others and God will be glorified.”These were encouraging words for us. And through this event, this man was again encouraged to work and support UCBC.

We also worked in collaboration with a local radio in the area and they helped broadcast the news about the Global Day of Prayer. We received calls from different small groups in town asking us to always let them know about every event happening at UCBC through the Creation Care Movement because they need to get more knowledge in order to strengthen what they are doing in their respective organizations.

Farming God’s Way (Conservation Agriculture) Training (April 18-20, 2016)

Farming God's Way Collage
(See the whole Flickr album)

Jolie, Faden and Diane helped facilitate a conversation around conservation agriculture practices and organized a practical workshop on their campus. The fellows, who help run the Creation Care Volunteers (CCV) group, and sit on the university's Creation Care Committee (CCC), partnered with the University’s Agribusiness department to host the training day. The interdisciplinary training sessions were taught by three Ugandan partners and were focused on teaching best-practice farming methods as spiritual principles of faithfulness. The fellows then mobilized the participants to put together a demonstration plot, putting into practice the methods they learned. The event brought together over 60 members of the community, including local church leaders, several university departments, and student groups.

Most encouraging stories of change as a result of this program:

Participants all agreed to start their own demonstration farms. They were excited about the project and encouraged organizers to pass by their plots to see what they were doing. They also indicated that they would love to participate in future trainings to continue practicing what they have learned.

How have you supported Christians, churches or other Christian groups to live differently?

Farming God’s Way (FGW) is a tool of discipleship and works to feed the hungry. Africa is endowed with many natural resources: it has significant mineral deposits, amazing agricultural potential, generally good weather, several rivers and streams, and very rich biodiversity. We believed that FGW is a resource given to the body of Christ, to serve the poor and deliver them from the yoke of poverty, and to offer solutions to the food security and poverty crises. FGW imparts not only a knowledge base, but a practical empowerment to bring about change in one’s life and to prayerfully become an agent of change in communities for the King and His Kingdom.

Local church representatives were also given plot border strings to begin practicing these methods in their own gardens. From a ministry perspective, FGW also facilitates true discipleship when participants invite others to join them in this stewardship practice as a result of what they have experienced themselves.

Creation Care Volunteers Conference with High School Students (April 23, 2016)

CCV Conference with High Schoolers

The Creation Care Volunteers (the student creation care group led by Faden and Diane) organized a community outreach conference in order to reach out to local high schools and speak to them about creation care and stewardship. CCV led some basic training and teachings about climate change. They also wanted to address some of the current issues and challenges that the Beni community faces, especially waste management. They led a workshop with high schoolers to brainstorm different strategies that could help deal with the issue. Trash cans and recycling bins, which schools in the community don’t have, were given as gifts to the schools that participated to help them begin thinking about waste management. The conference had 150 participants.

What were some of the achievements of this program?

Climate change is a global issue. It is an issue that people need to understand when they are still young. This younger generation is the hope for the creation renewal process. This conference was held to draw the attention of students to these issues. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, poor waste management practices are a significant contributor to disease and pollution in cities. The majority of cities in the DRC lack waste management regulations and appropriate facilities for waste... Here in the city of Beni, residents know that waste is piling up everywhere... In several districts of the city, residents are forced to dispose of their waste either on the street, in gutters, or to wait overnight and dispose of the waste in the neighboring plots. Poor management of household waste has contributed to health concerns in the DRC, particularly in Beni. The lack of proper waste management policies in Beni has direct consequences, including increased risk of disease: the waste represents a great danger to human health, and exposure to chemical wastes such as batteries and insecticides can cause life-threatening illness. 

Has this program enabled you to work jointly with new partners?
Six high schools were represented at the conference. CCV is going to collaborate with these schools to make sure that they have set up waste management programs on their campuses. CCV agreed to distribute recycle bins to help support waste management at these institutions.

What impact will this project have in the future?
Protecting the environment and increasing safety in our community will not be achieved only by lawmaking, but by raising awareness and building necessary skills among the people. This requires training and information-sharing. The long-term objective of such training is not a simple transfer of knowledge, it is creating and developing a sustainable culture of safety and concern for the environment. Protection of the environment is a collective process and waste management is a daily effort that touches every person in the community.

What were some of the most encouraging stories of change as a result of this program?Here are some words and statements recorded from participants:

  • These environmental pollution situations reflect on how the future of our younger generations will be.
  • Everyone should reflect on his shared responsibility for the deterioration of the environment.
  • Protecting the environment is to preserve the quality of the air we breathe.
  • Protecting the environment is to preserve the survival and future of humanity.
  • Indeed, "the environment is our source of food and drinking water; the air is our source of oxygen; the climate allows for our survival and biodiversity is a potential drug store..."

All these statements demonstrate that preserving the environment is a matter of survival.

The headmaster of one of the schools emphasized again at the end of the conference that “Students, you were not invited to participate in this conference for nothing or joking. You need to take everything you learned and put it into practice in your homes and among your colleagues who did not attend this conference.” The headmaster suggested to CCV: “You need to spread the news and continue sensitizing through radio broadcasting in the town.”

Creation Care Promotion Week (June 6-11, 2016)

In order to keep the members of the UCBC Community aware of and active in Creation Care, the UCBC Academic Office, in collaboration with Creation Care Committee, set aside one week on its Academic Calendar to promote creation care activities. The schedule of activities is developed by the Creation Care Committee, and all staff, students, and faculty participate. The timing of the week is intended to overlap with the International Day of Environment, June 5. This year's activities included chapel, community work program, a space for staff and students to present on key topics, and classroom discussions. 

What creation care projects did the campus community become most excited about?

The campus has been particularly excited about starting our compost pile on campus. We hope to have no littering on UCBC campus in the future and have placed waste bins around campus, some for non-organic waste and another for organic waste. All organic waste will be put in our compost pile and we hope to work with Work Program Department of UCBC and Ground Crew team to make this successful. CCV members have taken charge of all the non-organic waste in order to find creative ways to reuse materials. One idea is to fill plastic bottles with plastic bags and use those to make wall around the compost pile. The group is also looking at other ways to locally reuse plastic materials.

Some new students joined CCV group because they were very excited to see progress on the Creation Care Movement on Campus. One student from a local university in the area came to our promotion week and asked us to let him know every time that we have events about Creation Care. He said he would like to be more involved in Creation Care and to start something similar on his own Campus. 

Cafe Kivu Project - Creation Care Committee (In Progress)

Recently, the fellows identified an opportunity to partner with a local business to improve their energy usage and waste management strategy. The business is a new, locally owned and operated coffee shop, called Cafe Kivu. Cafe Kivu sources, roasts, and sells locally grown coffee. Currently, they use propane to power their coffee roasting machine. The Creation Care Committee is working to developing a business proposal for a biogas system, run and maintained by the CCC, to run the coffee roasting machine. By partnering with Cafe Kivu, they plan to address some of the waste management challenges in Beni by sourcing fuel for the machines from local sources. They hope to explore using biofuel from various sources, including methane and ag waste. The vision is to partner with an already established local company and explore practical, life-changing ways to live out the biblical call to be stewards of creation while also addressing local issues with local, innovative solutions. 

Congratulations again to our UCBC Fellows, Jolie, Faden and Diane! We are encouraged by all you are doing to galvanize your community to protect creation and care for your neighbors. We are proud to partner with you.

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