My interest in Run for Congo is not only to help women in need, but also because my connection to the cause is not a continent away, but rather exists in my everyday life. My long term boyfriend was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo and luckily escaped the war when he and his family migrated to the United States in 2000. He was quickly able to adapt to the new culture, learn a new language and succeed academically by attending a top liberal arts college and directly advancing through a prestigious law school, which he just graduated from this past May. Prior to meeting Michel, my knowledge of the conflict stemmed from movies, books, and news articles but civil wars in other countries seemed to be a world away. Over the years, Michel shared personal stories from his childhood and I began to understand the reality and severity of the issue. He reminded me I am not a world away and that educating people about the civil war is the first step toward making a difference. I am inspired by Michel and his family to help in any way that I can, and I am thrilled to participate in the Run for Congo (Boston). Michel was also willing to share a snapshot of his experiences growing up in DRC:
I came to the United States in 2000 leaving behind the place I had always called home. Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had always been tough, but it was all I knew. The sounds of machine guns, the lack of proper medical care, the constant corruption were a way of life—you hated it all, but you knew they were part of your existence. As a young man, I had seen more death, heard more crying, and seen more desperation on people’s faces than a young person should ever have to witness. However, as is the norm in the DRC, people went about their daily life uncertain on whether they would be able to live another month, week or day. Despite this constant state of fear, Congolese people are generally happy people—we sing, we dance and we pray for all the blessings we have received. The same state of chaos that makes people sad also makes people appreciate each day and thankful for the little they do have.
When I came to the United States in 2000, I was grateful that I escaped the Congo, but I will never forget the lessons I learned there: humility, appreciation of the little things, hope for a better life, and giving back to others. Unlike many Congolese, I can sleep in a bed, I can go to school each day, I can speak to and see my parents and siblings, I can eat more than once a day, and I can go to sleep not fearing death the next day—those are the things I am most thankful for and value. I am very glad to be in the United States today, but I know many people in the DRC do not have such a luxury. Therefore, it is incumbent upon me and others who have the privilege to be in the United States to help those less fortunate not only in the Congo, but all over the world.