COBALT CHILDREN: THE CHILD MINERS BEHIND OUR SMARTPHONES
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Connecting with Ian Harvey, founder of Congo Children Trust, the registered charity which runs Kimbilio, now the home of Dorsen and Richard
Ian Harvey, Director of Congo Children Trust, Kimbilio, DR Congo

www.congochildrentrust.org

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Ian Harvey: I'm from Whitley Bay in the North East and I had a connection with DR Congo from an early age. My aunt has been in the Congo for over 50 years. She still runs a hospital on the border with Angola. As a teenager, I would travel to Congo to visit her.

The vision for a children's sanctuary first came about in 2006 when I was working as a volunteer election observer in Kinshasa, the capital of D.R.Congo. I noticed that there were a lot more street children than I’d noticed as a teenager. I heard about an outreach food distribution project for street children run by the Anglican Church in Lubumbashi that had to close due to lack of funding.

I was managing a team of social workers supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Manchester at the time, and thought that I could set up a charity to raise the funds to get an outreach project up and running again.

Setting up the charity, Congo Children Trust, which supports Kimbilio

After two years of fundraising, I gave up my job in Manchester social services and moved out to Lubumbashi in 2009. We decided to work in partnership with the Anglican Church of Congo as they already had a good track record in social development at a local level and had worked with street children previously. They don’t believe in child witchcraft accusations or religious conversion. They simply provide the social support in answer to need. Congo is a highly Christian country, and therefore the children we support do not feel alien in a project run by a Church.

We initially opened a day centre which attracted about 60 street children on a daily basis coming for food, showers, a safe place to sleep during the day, football/literacy etc. We called our project, Kimbilio, which means ‘sanctuary’.

Kimbilio

Soon afterwards, the Congolese government opened a ‘children’s centre’ (in reality more like a children’s detention centre). Police cleared children from the streets overnight. Many of the children we were supporting came to ask us if we could provide them with shelter as they didn’t want to go to the government centre. We offered some emergency accommodation in a church. We then raised funds to build our first home, called Josue Manda House, which accommodated 12 boys living with a Congolese family.

A year later, a large group of girls came to our day centre as the brothel they were working in had been raided by the police and closed down. They were sleeping on the streets and being abused. Amazingly, a construction company heard about this need and offered to renovate a house for them. This is the house we currently call Transit Filles, where girls can stay for up to 3 months while we try to reunite them with their family, if possible.

Incredibly, we were then given another house near to the girls’ house. We call this Transit Garcons and it is used for boys to stay for up to 3 months while attempting reintegration with their families. We also developed a long term house for girls who were alone or unable to return home.

The future of the Congo Children Trust and Kimbilio

It is an evolving journey. We have a longer term vision to open similar models in other cities in Congo where there are large numbers of street children. We also would like to build a primary school on our long term site in Lubumbashi where our children will have more specialist education as well as offering education to local children whose parents can’t afford to pay school fees.

This gradual evolution has enabled us to develop relationally with our staff team, many of whom are living on low incomes (although our team is relatively well paid by Congo standards). There’s a sense of a family team working together at Kimbilio which helps the children feel part of a wider family. Some of the children that we initially supported in 2009 come back to visit and play football with the children who are with us now.

I returned to the UK at the end of 2013, handing over my role to Jean Bosco Tshiswaka Kabeya.  I now spend time speaking about Kimbilio and fund raising. I have a Skype meeting once a week with Jean Bosco where he is able to consult and discuss any issues arising on the ground. Jean provides me with budgets and I transfer funds on a monthly basis. He is accountable locally to a management committee and I am accountable to the UK Trustees for Congo Children Trust.

 
Volunteers and volunteering

In the UK, the Congo Children Trust is run by volunteers. I have two volunteers who work with me, one morning each per week. We have free office space from our local church in Manchester, and our only current UK costs are linked to publicity, leaflets, internet, website, festival stalls etc. We send 98% of funds raised to Kimbilio.

Our hope is to employ staff in the UK; to increase our fundraising with the aim of reaching more children in Congo.

Fundraising for Congo Children Trust

Ian Harvey: Selling goods made in DR Congo relies on people travelling to and from Congo to bring items out, as shipping (and corruption) results in huge export and import costs. Instead, we bring back Congolese cloth to the UK where a few volunteers make the cloth into tote bags, aprons, hair bands, mobile phone sleeves, which we sell at festivals and events. We also sell greetings cards.

We are always looking for more supporters to help us make things to sell, or to find new markets to sell our bags and cards

Ian Harvey: We have summer and winter fairs in Manchester, where we sell our products, and we invite local craft designers to participate at £10 per stall. We sell teas and coffees, mulled wine and Pimms. We’ve been able to raise almost £1000 at each twice-yearly event, and these funds go to Kimbilio.

It costs approximately £150 per month to support a child at Kimbilio. Costs fluctuate regularly in Congo with the changing political situation and each child has individual needs.

If anyone would like to help us, we would be grateful. Please get in touch.

We gratefully accept donations. Global Giving and Just Giving. It is also possible to transfer funds direct to our Congo Children Trust bank account.

Email: ian@congochildrentrust.org
www.congochildrentrust.org

The story of Richard and Dorsen, two child cobalt miners, who are now cared for and supported by Kimbilio, run by the Congo Children Trust
Meeting Dorsen

When Alex Crawford Sky News first met Dorsen, he was just eight-years-old, hadn't eaten for days and was working long hours in a cobalt mine. He and his friend, Richard, now have a new life at the children's sanctuary, Kimbilio, run by the Congo Children Trust.

Posted by Sky News on Wednesday, 14 February 2018
 
 
Cobalt Children, 2018
Site edited by Flinty Maguire
Content includes images and film copyright: Sky News, 2017
Also images copyright: Congo Children Trust