When writing updates of our project, we have chosen to dwell on the positive rather than focus on the difficulties and obstacles we face in this country. However, catching a glimpse of these challenges can help us appreciate how miraculous it is when things do get done. The truth is, we often feel so helpless, and totally depend on the hope that sustains us to see things through until they happen. The following example will illustrate the type of challenges we so often face.

It’s been well over a year since we got the vision to set up a library for our Kikimi school. Well, the idea actually came up after our daughter Natalie passed away, as she was such a book worm herself, and had a real vision to make it possible for children living in difficult conditions to receive an education. We decided to set up a library in Kikimi, and to dedicate it to her memory.

Looking at what we had in our hands, and our humble resources, we opted for a fairly simple solution: move the dispensary into the new medical center that was getting built, and construct a simple storage room outside the school. This would free a good size room that could be transformed into a little library for the children. All we had to do was take down the middle wall, put up a window, tile the floor, paint and build shelves!

As simple as this seemed, it still took a while to complete, due to the unending challenges Congo offers. In the meantime, we had some friends collecting books in France for our library, which they would bring in their overweight suitcases when they visited their daughter and grand children in Kinshasa a couple times a year. We purchased a library computer program to repertory all the books as they came in, with a sign up card system.

A month before school started, the room was finally ready. The next step was to build shelves. A top company offered to build them for us free of charge if we would supply the wood and varnish. We were overjoyed! We could already visualize our little library all nicely set up for the beginning of the school year! We quickly contacted the wood company we had met a couple months earlier and who had promised to supply us with all the wood we needed for our project at a good price, and to even deliver it. We placed the order, and purchased all the other items: screws, varnish, etc… (that in itself turned into a major search before we were able to find the needed items—how difficult can it be to find screws in Kinshasa?).

However, nothing can ever be certain in Congo. We are used to the transport difficulties when the roads collapse, the power shortages and the water cuts, the never-ending begging, the predictable delays for just about any task that needs to get done. But we were not ready for what happened (or rather didn’t happen) next.

With an equatorial forest covering 135 millions of hectares, who would imagine there could ever be a shortage of wood in the DRCongo? Already the price is a bit of a shock, as one would expect it to be fairly cheap in a country that exports such large quantities. On the day they were supposed to deliver, the wood company we had placed the order with announced that they didn’t have any furniture wood available after all. A little surprised and slightly suspicious (did they have any hidden motive for refusing to sell us wood?), we went to another.  And another.  And another. It took us a while to find out what the problem really was, because here in Congo, when you’re shopping for something, seldom will people tell you straight away if they don’t have what you want. They are so desperate to make a sale, they keep promising to deliver the goods….then delay… then make up excuses… it’s only after about a week of running around, phoning, knocking, trusting in empty promises, that we finally discovered that there is indeed no furniture wood available in Kinshasa at the moment. The reason? All wood comes from the Equator province, and must be transported by boat along the Congo River all the way to the capital. Reaching the end of the dry season, the fluvial roads not being maintained, sand bars make navigation impossible. We will therefore need to be patient and wait for the rains to return until wood can once again be transported along the river before we can hope to build our library shelves.

We can only keep hoping with patience, and will tell you about the happy ending of the story… when it happens!


Back to blogpost

Back to Home Page


“Congo Challenges” or “why must we wait to build shelves for our library in Kikimi”. — No Comments

Leave a Reply

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>