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Children mine cobalt in the DR Congo. Cobalt is in things like smartphones, laptops, cameras. These children suffer. Would YOU pay a little extra for your smartphone, or laptop, to free these children from mines? We're asking companies to help us organise this. Which companies will care enough to stop these terrible human rights abuses? #smartphoneshame
UPDATES: Making contact with Sister Catherine Mutindi of Les Soeurs du Bon Pasteur in Kolwezi Town, Democratic Republic of the Congo
14 March 2017, Sister Catherine Mutindi responds from the DR Congo
From: catherinemutindi [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: 14 March 2017 09:27 To: Childrenplay.org, Working to help child cobalt miners <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Raising funds for children who mine cobalt
Many thanks for your mail.
Your solidarity comes as a big surprise and is very encouraging.
Yes, it is a very complex issue here. Your capturing of it wouldn't be any more precise! We are most grateful for your intended partnership.
Currently i am out of office and having limited access to mails. I will be back next week and will get back to you more comprehensively. We have a mini documentary too, and then, i will also send you the link.
For now, wishing you the very best.
10 March, 2017. Email sent to Sister Catherine Mutindi, of Les Soeurs du Bon Pasteur located in Kolwezi, DR Congo
From: Childrenplay.org, Working to help child cobalt miners [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: 10 March 2017 15:26 To: 'firstname.lastname@example.org' <email@example.com> Subject: Raising funds for children who mine cobalt
Dear Sister Catherine
Hello from England. I found information about you and your organization from the Amnesty International report: This Is What We Die For, published January 2016 (page 32).
Recently, I watched an informative, upsetting report by Alex Crawford of Sky News, showing the human rights abuses of children mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One boy, called Dorsen, exemplified the graphic misery of the exploited child. It was heartbreaking to watch.
I am shocked that world renowned corporates such as Huayou Cobalt, Apple, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft, are not practicing due diligence. It appears corporates are collectively exploiting extremely vulnerable informal adult miners, known as creusseurs, and children, and the corporates are trapped in a culture of passivity and denial. Whilst cobalt mines are no place for children whose welfare should be catered for with education and decent food, creusseurs are working in deadly dangerous conditions and deserve investment, equipment and education in safe mining practice.
As far as I understand it, the corporates’ idea of due diligence is to hope to put an end to buying cobalt from informal Congolese mines. This may solve the problem of due diligence, but creates alternative problems for the informal cobalt miner; that of unemployment. People endure these dire conditions because they need to eat.
I have begun a campaign to urge corporates to take a moral stance on this. Cobalt mined by children and creusseurs is traded and ends up in mainstream production. The corporates need to take a moral lead and fund a welfare program, not only to extract children from the workforce and provide for their welfare; but to invest in the creusseurs with equipment, safe practice and fair trade. This could be achieved at the point of sale of technical equipment containing lithium-ion batteries by adding a “care charge”, raising money for redirection to welfare programs in the cobalt mining communities of the DRCongo.
Knowing your work involves offering child cobalt miners a school place and a daily meal, I wonder if I can contribute to your work by raising funds and awareness? I have a GoFundMe page and have raised, to date, £230, with more privately pledged. Unfortunately, this method of raising funds results in a 5% surcharge. If I can have a way of paying you directly, I can avoid this surcharge. Do you have a bank account I can transfer money into? In particular, I am keen to fund programs to relieve children who would otherwise spend their days in the mines.
I look forward to hearing from you. Any advice you can give me as to how I can effectively support your work will be welcome.
The Amnesty International report: This is what we die for, published January 2016, mentions a charity called Les Soeurs du Bon Pasteur, a Catholic organisation also known as the Congregation of our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.
Two Sisters from Kenya, Sr. Catherine and Sr. Jane together with Sr. Margaret Lee from the Singapore were sent from Kenya to Kolwezi in 2012 to establish a community working to alleviate the suffering of the poor and marginalized in the DRCongo. The Sisters have established projects including an informal school and economic empowerment groups, including a women's sewing and community farming. The sisters also lobby for better services from the government and mining companies.
The Informal School for child cobalt miners
The childrenplay.org fundraising project has currently £230 to allocate, with more private pledges. Contact has been made with Sister Catherine Mutindi via email to enquire if a donation can be received.
From the Les Soeurs du Bon Pasteur website: "When the Sisters settled in Kolwezi in Southern DRC one of the issues that they immediately noticed was the large number of children not attending school and working/idling in the mines. This prompted them to start an informal school from where an initial 50 pupils were enrolled in 2014. Currently there are 600 pupils who are taught mainly languages and Christian formation. The teachers for the school are mostly volunteers who juggle their time between working in the mines and sharing their time with children. Plans are underway to modernize the school (acquire more space, equip the school with desks and chairs as well as books)."
"Staff members visit the mines to persuade children to come to the school. The number of pupils has doubled since was set up in 2013. Unlike other private or government-run schools in the DRC, it is completely free, and it also provides one meal a day to all pupils. The manager said that this was enough
incentive for the children’s families to stop sending them to work and send them to school instead." Source: Amnesty International, This is what we die for.
A note about fundraising on GoFundMe.com
Currently, there is a GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/saving-dorsen-and-his-friends To be honest, this was a kneejerk reaction of just wanting to help, after seeing Alex Crawford's Sky News report on television, and the story on the Internet: Meet Dorsen who mines cobalt to make your smartphone work. This report had an immediate impact on me. Dorsen and his friends' situation was heartbreaking. I was incensed that huge, rich corporates could be so diffident about human rights abuses and, by not tracking the cobalt mined by children, or making any remedial interventions, these corporates also position us, the consumer, to be complicit with human rights abuses each time we purchase a piece of equipment containing cobalt which might have been mined by children or artisanal miners. .
Amnesty International point out that:
International laws to protect people from human rights abuses are being ignored by practically everyone in the chain.
"Very few companies that are purchasing cobalt, or products containing cobalt, are taking steps to meet even the most basic due diligence requirements."*
Source: This is what we die for. Published 2016.
The money private citizens can raise to support the welfare of child cobalt miners is important and helpful, but it's a drop in the ocean to what is needed: a vast overhaul by government and corporate behaviour. Human suffering responds to practical action, and these issues need to be solved quickly. That's why corporates should take a moral lead and organise regular funds to support these children and artisanal miners. When a child is suffering, a day is a long time. People cannot afford to wait years for the powers that be to get their act together. Endless delay is inhumane. We need action and that is what I will campaign for. Corporates could become heroes overnight, if they organised regular funding for these people.
Alex Crawford's Sky New report: Meet Alex, who mines cobalt to make your smartphonework - the inspiration behind this website
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Small donations help. These boys work 12 hours a day for as little as 8p or 10cents
This PayPal donate button is secure. Apart from small PayPal charges, there are no other admin fees. Your donation will reach DRCongo. We are building relationships with genuine, on the ground, field workers. Thank you! Money raised so far: £285 GoFundMe, £20 cash donation, £650 private pledges.