DR Congo

DR Congo: Goma one year on - the reconstruction continues

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Opota Tosanga was in his workshop when the Goma volcano erupted on January 17 2002. The father of four immediately dropped his tools and rushed to his house, where he found the lava was just 40 metres from his door. He did not, however, find his wife.
As people were running in the direction of Gisenyi, over the Rwandan border he, decided to follow them, frantically searching for his wife along the route. He eventually found her, and his children, among a group who were waiting to leave for Bukavu, about 70 miles south of Goma, by boat.

Six hours later they arrived, with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They were escorted to an area nearby where international development agencies and local NGOs were establishing a camp to provide humanitarian assistance.

Soon the news came through to Tosanga that both his house and workshop had been completely destroyed. He did not have enough money saved to re-start his life and was deeply traumatised by the events.

He first came into contact with Christian Aid when he was one of the 882 displaced people interviewed to identify need in June 2002. Like so many, he requested a loan to help re-establish his small business, as well as assistance in making a shelter.

On his return to Goma, Tosanga was forced to live with a friend in a crowded house. He bought some basic tools and started working again. But any profit went on feeding his family and rent.

Soon however Christian Aid partner Cooperative d'Epargne et Credit Tumaini (COOPEC) started a programme to provide small business loans. He also borrowed US$60 to pay the rent for six months. Almost 450 families received loans from COOPEC between September and October 2002.

Tosanga, together with four others he met at the Bukavu camp put forward a proposal for a loan. With their initial savings of just a dollar each, they opened an account and deposited their money. Two weeks later, after their business plans had been thoroughly analysed, they received US$100 each and started their businesses.

Tosanga re-started his workshop, where he also made a bed and chairs for his family. He now employs three others to assist him. He saves US$1 a week and pays the US$4 per month interest on his loan. Now future plans include buying more tools.

Christian Aid's Isobel Perry says: "The Goma volcano destroyed the livelihoods of many. Tosanga's story shows how with hard work and determination, micro-finance projects can help families put their lives back on track."