Sewing Hope in the Congo

Fifty years after gaining its independence from Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo is struggling in the face of a corrupt military dictatorship and guerrilla warfare, Elsie McKee said during a First Day School presentation on Jan. 23.

Dr. McKee is the Archibald Alexander Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship at Princeton Theological Seminary, an ordained elder at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton and a native of the Kasai region of Congo.  Dr. McKee’s professional profile.

Despite its abundance of valuable minerals like coltan – used in cell phones and hybrid-car batteries – Congo’s corrupt leadership has not shared resources with the country’s population, Dr. McKee said.   There are just 300 miles of paved roads in a nation the size of Texas and Alaska combined, she said, and education – typically provided by churches – entails tuition that few people can afford.

Women, who are shunned if they are raped, afflicted with AIDS or childless, face especially dire circumstances.

Women Are the Cradle of Abundance is a small but plucky organization that has begun offering hope in the form of marketable skills to vulnerable women, Dr. McKee said.

The fledgling organization teaches sewing and tailoring skills that enable women and girls to produce lovely dresses, shirts and purses, Dr. McKee said.

Marketing and selling the group’s handiwork remains an intense challenge, Dr. McKee said, due to a combined lack of postal and transportation services and corrupt officials who seek payoffs from the organization that it can ill afford.

During the discussion that followed Dr. McKee’s presentation, HMM members discussed plans to develop a means for providing resources to the Kinshasa-based organization.

Submitted by Sarah Greenblatt

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