Empowering Amazon River Communities

Empowering Amazon River Communities

The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is famed for its biodiversity. Through the rainforest, the Amazon river flows, the largest river in the world in terms of volume and area of its basin. The Amazon river basin not only is home to a variety of wildlife, but also to many groups of people who have developed lifestyles that are well integrated with the rainforest. 

Our partners at RMDLT are working with one of these groups, the Ribeirinho peoples of Portel, Pará, Brazil. They first saw the need for water filters when they were doing a project to preserve the forest from deforestation. Their goal is to protect the forest and the local customs of the people as well as give them a better way of life. As part of this work, they interviewed the local people to understand their most pressing needs. In addition to social needs like school and health centers, clean water is a big need. There is a lot of pollution in the Amazon river that is a result of logging, ore extraction, cattle ranching and other activities on the river. The water actually causes many health issues in the communities.

Once the RMDLT team knew of the need for clean water the VERRA REDD+ program funds were used to purchase VF100s and VF200s. REDD+ projects play an important role by implementing site-based activities that directly engage local communities to stop deforestation and forest degradation effectively. While government strategies and programs provide the legal and policy frameworks for addressing deforestation and degradation, projects are able to work deeply in a particular place with local communities to address site-specific drivers of deforestation and degradation, driving finance to these critical high-threat areas and the communities that depend on them. As part of their regular work along the river, like providing high efficiency cookstoves, sharing techniques for protecting the forest, and working towards social development goals (SDGs), they distributed the filters. 

The response was very positive when the communities first received the filters. The team did training on how to backflush the filters, the recommended maintenance for the filters, so that the community would be able to make the filters last for many years. When the team followed up a few months later, the locals shared that their health improved when they stopped drinking directly from the river. They were very grateful and pleased that the group provided the means to deliver clean water to their communities.

RMDLT’s long term goal is to provide even more filters through the next year and expand to even more communities. This is to improve the overall quality of life for the Ribeirinho peoples.

This story highlights the importance of ownership in filter projects. When communities realize the benefits of clean water, they are more likely to drink the water consistently and maintain the filters properly. This leads to an even bigger health transformation.

Branching Out: Could Trees be a Solution to the Water Crisis?

Branching Out: Could Trees be a Solution to the Water Crisis?

In the East African nation of Burundi, the rainy season begins in October. After many dry months, rain once again starts falling onto farms and crops, pouring into the currents of the Nile River, and slapping the surface of Lake Tanganyika. 

Yet despite the long-awaited precipitation, as well as the country’s abundant natural resources, this nation remains in the grip of a water crisis. 

Of the over 11 million inhabitants of Burundi, almost 40% do not have access to safe drinking water in less than a 30 minute trip from where they live. In 2017, according to UNICEF, more than half of the population did not have access to basic sanitation facilities. Even in many health centers and schools, clean water is not nearby. This bears witness to the problematic reality here as in so many areas throughout the world, that water is not being distributed equitably to all communities. This shortage in coverage for water services in Burundi is due in part to destruction from the civil war, as well as the multiple changes in government within the past several decades. However, it may also have another cause: deforestation.

Deforestation has slashed the amount of trees in Burundi down to a staggering 6% of what it once was. Why? With the majority of citizens working in agriculture, many forests needed to be cut down to clear the land for farms. Far from happening overnight, this took place over many generations and under multiple foreign occupations and changes in leadership. Major crops such as coffee and tea account for a significant amount of the nation’s exports, and they are vital to a strong economy. Yet an even larger aspect of agriculture in Burundi is subsistence farming. This is the type of farming in which individual families grow their own food. These farmers are resilient, hardworking, and dedicated to providing food for their families and neighbors. However, in this process of subsistence farming, the soil can easily become stripped of nutrients if not given enough time to replenish itself through rest or carefully selected crop rotation. Unfortunately, the very trees that were cut down to clear land for more farms are proving to be quite critical components in the overall sustainability of healthy soil, air, economic systems, and even clean water. 

Effects of Deforestation

  • Loss of Biodiversity: One of the most irreversible consequences of deforestation is the loss of entire species of animals and plants that rely upon the trees in order to survive. In Burundi, the eucalyptus trees, acacia trees, fig trees, and oil palms all interact with multiple other species. For some, these trees are their home. When their habitats are removed, these creatures can perish. For others, these trees provide food, shade, water, or concealment from predators. Without them, many animals face starvation, exposure, and thirst. 
  • Climate Change: Trees naturally expel oxygen into the atmosphere, and take in carbon dioxide. As the number of trees dwindles, carbon dioxide levels increase, thus contributing to a higher level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. These gasses re-radiate heat in the form of infrared radiation back to earth, causing rising temperatures that can be harmful and even deadly to many different forms of life. 
  • Soil Erosion: When extensive amounts of trees are taken from the land, soil becomes much more vulnerable to erosion. Tree roots are no longer anchoring into the ground and stabilizing it. When rain or winds come, healthy soil is displaced or washed away, leaving behind ground that is less able to grow healthy crops and sustain agriculture.
  • Loss in Freshwater: As soil erodes, silt often deposit into rivers and streams. These feed into lakes and eventually can lower the quality of the local water. The presence of forests also helps to regulate the flow of rivers in both rainy and dry seasons, which reduces water scarcity. Without these forests, the dry seasons become drier and more dangerous. The Institute for World Economics predicted that droughts would increase in severity as the climate continues to change, and warns that the deforestation of trees drastically impacts the hydrologic cycle. Evapo-transpiration accounts for nearly half of all rain generation around the world. With less trees transpiring water into the atmosphere, even the rainy seasons produce less and less rain. 

Resilience and Hope in the Youth of Burundi

In the face of these challenges, the citizens of Burundi have not been silent. In 1980, the government of Burundi founded national parks, in order to conserve and protect wildlife. This also has helped boost the economy through the promotion of tourism, so that visitors could travel into the country to admire the beauty within it. 

As a nation of many young people, with the country’s median age being between 17 and 18 years old, we are seeing the youth rising up in their creativity, advocacy, and determination. 

UNICEF recently partnered with Cartendo and 14 other youth organizations to challenge Burundian youth to create innovative solutions to problems surrounding COVID-19. The winning ideas were given financial awards so that they could be turned into real actions within the local communities of the winners. 670 solutions were submitted and 5 were endorsed as prizewinners, including a rainwater filter design by 16 year old Johanna Bizindavyi, and a new online platform for distance learning by 16 year old Chanelle Iteriteka. 

Also during this time of COVID-19, a major hygiene manufacturing company, Savonor, partnered with humanitarian groups to offer discounted rates on their soap so that it was more easily accessible to all who needed it. The company also chooses to only use palm oil in their products that has been extracted sustainably under strict environmental standards while also paying fair prices to farmers. It is admirable to see a company like this, who could easily have inflated prices for soap and hygiene prices as the need for them surged, decide instead to lower their prices while still sourcing their ingredients ethically. Even in the uncertainty of a pandemic, hope is still being found. 

While some are addressing the current needs of a world battling the coronavirus, others are continuing to do all that they can to create a better world for future generations by tackling climate change.

One of the most inspiring accounts of hope and sustainability in Burundi is the Greening Burundi Project. This environmental non-profit organization was started in 2018 by 25 year old Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze, and its mission is to plant 50 million trees in Burundi. They have already planted over 256, 738 trees, and are preparing to plant even more in mid-October. 

“I initiated this project alone,” explained Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze, “And the hardest part was having a lack of financial resources. But I tried to inspire young people and now we have around 150 young volunteers helping me to plant the trees. We plant native trees, agroforestry trees, forestry trees, as well as fruit trees.” 

When asked about the importance of trees, Niyoyabikoze answered, “A tree is a natural climate solution. Here in Burundi, we suffered from deforestation. The reports show that in 1990, the forest cover was 57% but in 2018, it was 5.6%. If nothing is done, we will fall into desertification. The main activity in Burundi is agriculture, and this desertification caused soil erosion, soil infertility and the agricultural production became insufficient. Poverty occurred and malnutrition and diseases increased. That is why I started Greening Burundi to reforest my country.” 

With a passion for positive change, Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze is motivated by the fact that trees are absolutely crucial to the well-being of the planet and future generations. They combat climate change, increase the quality of the soil, provide habitats and food for many creatures, and even improve the amount and quality of freshwater available to local communities. 

To invest in and support the inspiring youth of Burundi like Niyoyabikoze is to water a seed. And make no mistake: from these seeds, hope is growing.

At Business Connect, we love to hear these stories of sustainable work to alleviate the water crisis. If you would like to be involved in projects like this one, you can partner with our friends at Connect for Water or Greening Burundi.

 

Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Most experts say that over 80,000 acres of rainforest are being destroyed every day, with an additional 80,000 being significantly damaged as a result of logging, agriculture, farming, mining, and dam building. Commercial deforestation occurs on a staggering scale globally, and scientists estimate that we lose 50,000 species of plants and animals annually to extinction due to deforestation.

A few specific industries are causing widespread upticks in deforestation rates, which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization notes are 8.5 percent higher this decade than they were in the 1990s. Further, researchers estimate that the loss of primary tropical rainforest, which is the wildest and biologically diverse category, has increased by as much as 25 percent since the 1990s.

As many developing nations grow at a rapid rate, their appetite for raw materials as well as land to farm and develop is threatening rainforests around the globe. However, there are still plenty of ways that we can save rainforests, which will save species from disappearing forever while also alleviating other devastating global issues including the water crisis.

The Rainforest Makes it Rain

One of the most interesting and potentially devastating effects of deforestation is the way deforestation creates a ‘negative feedback loop.’ The same trees that absorb carbon dioxide and regulate moisture levels in the air suddenly release CO2 when they are chopped down, and they are no longer there to constantly filter the air. The Amazon rainforest’s massive network of trees creates a natural cycle that causes rain clouds and moisture to accumulate nearby.

Without this cycle, the Amazon region could quickly trend towards arid, further disrupting global weather patterns which have already created a dangerous water shortage in many regions across the planet.

National Geographic Magazine has explained the interaction of the world’s rainforests as creating a “giant flowing river in the sky” as different regions’ rainy seasons push and pull moisture through the air. Rainforests have a profound effect on the weather, and until conservation efforts begin researching and prioritizing the devastating, drought-inducing effects of deforestation, the water crisis will only intensify.

This is particularly true of many developing nations which happen to be located in tropical regions which are currently home to large swaths of rainforest which are being harvested for wood to use in construction and land to farm as these nations’ populations boom.

Food-Hungry Nations Drive Deforestation

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Oftentimes, deforestation is spurred on by a demand for food products that grow in tropical regions. In West Africa, the cocoa trade has spurred on massive deforestation in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% in the last sixty years.

The global demand for cocoa has created a rampant black and grey market for cocoa beans that has caused enforcement agencies in countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast to turn a blind eye to the illegal practices that account for up to 40% of the cacao in the global supply chain.

Because it is so difficult to discern the provenance of cocoa once it is gathered in bulk for processing, industry giants like Nestle and Hershey are fueling the demand for the illegal cocoa, which is farmed primarily in freshly-deforested areas, where local farmers believe the “fresh” soil and ashes from burned down trees produce the highest crop yields.

However, deforested areas end up drought-stricken and infertile due to their inability to naturally self-regulate, which only fuels further demand for the illegally-procured deforested farming plots.
Similarly, palm oil farmed in deforested sections of Sumatra is causing major ecological crises and loss of already-threatened species like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans. Much like the cocoa industry, palm oil is aggregated at processing plants which effectively obscure the oil’s origin, thus “absolving” buyers of direct responsibility for illegal deforestation.

However, the demand for these products is created by major international companies which are acutely aware of the practices required to create large amounts of palm oil and cacao, both of which incentivize farmers to operate illegally in order to boost production and have access to a profitable market.

Sumatra’s deforestation rate is among the world’s highest alongside Indonesia and Brazil, and the deforestation also contributes to drought and unusual wildfires which, in 2015 alone, created more CO2 emissions than the entire United Kingdom combined.

The logging-induced fires that year destroyed over 8,000 square miles of rainforest and contributed to over 100,000 premature deaths caused by exposure to smog or fire. Palm oil is a common vegetable oil that is used in foods, cosmetics, cleaning products, and fuels; it is a biological alternative to petroleum in many instances, but its harvesting is often similarly destructive to fossil fuel production.

Palm oil is the cheapest and most efficient vegetable oil to produce, which is why it’s in a staggering half of all consumer products on the market today. But just because it offers good economic incentives for major corporations, its environmental costs may make it among the most costly commonly-used ingredients today.

In addition to being obscured behind the generic name “vegetable oil,” palm oil is also frequently masked in consumer goods using names like “sodium lauryl sulphate, stearic acid, and palmitate,” all of which do little to betray their origins or allow consumers to make informed decisions.

In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra, the equivalent of 3oo football fields per hour of rainforest are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. The impacts of deforestation are alarming and widespread, but many developing nations are slow to legislate or enforce environmental action as they prioritize economic growth, even when it comes at the expense of human rights or global ecological well-being. The island of Borneo has lost more than 16,000 square miles of ancient rainforest to palm oil plantations, which has threatened thousands of species of tropical flora and fauna.

To put this in the context of one species which is quite closely related to humans, almost 150,000 critically endangered Bornean orangutans were killed between 1999 and 2015, all lost to deforestation, which occurs in large part due to demand for palm oil.

Local Solutions to Global Problems

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The unfortunate reality is that concerned environmentalists have little to no direct impact or power over the local governments which would theoretically protect rainforests. However, consumers, corporations, and environmental organizations can have a large impact through education initiatives and incentivizing viable alternatives to environmentally harmful products like palm oil and single-use paper goods.

Whether it’s public information campaigns that share the destructive backstory of palm oil with consumers in an effort to pressure major manufacturers or it’s small tech companies and nonprofits offering tools to help local enforcement agencies monitor and protect the forests under their jurisdiction, there are ways we can protect the fragile ecosystems of the world even if we do not have direct voting power in the nations they are located in.

The Rainforest Connection is using machine-learning and second-hand smartphones to create a network of “eyes and ears” in the Amazon rainforest to listen for noises associated with (illegal) logging activity as well as animal chatter that indicates the presence of certain critically-endangered and internationally-protected species.

This project solves a series of problems in protecting rainforests–when forests are still standing, they are extremely dense and difficult to navigate and monitor, which is both a challenge and an excuse for many local agencies. It also gives international watchdog groups credible evidence that CITES-listed endangered species are being directly threatened by logging activity in specific areas, which is a far more directly actionable data point than even the most thorough and credible research hypotheses.

Final Thoughts

Deforestation in global rainforests effects every one of us, no matter where we live. The good news is that every one of us can directly protect the rainforest by reducing the demand for products that contribute to deforestation, all while providing major corporations economic incentive to be transparent and support ecological initiatives instead of turning a blind eye to ecological and environmental catastrophes.

The Ocean Cleanup Project: What It Is and What You Can Do

The Ocean Cleanup Project: What It Is and What You Can Do

You may have seen that the internet has been buzzing about The Ocean Cleanup Project. However, even if you’re familiar with the term, it can take a lot of research to truly understand what the Ocean Cleanup Project really is.

We’ve done that work for you and gathered all the information you need to get up to date on The Ocean Cleanup Project, discuss the garbage issues plaguing our oceans, and decide how you can help with this issue.

If you’re interested in learning about the Ocean Cleanup Project, its origins, what it does, how you can be a part of it, and in gaining a better understanding of the seriousness of the issue of trash in our oceans, read on!

What Is The Ocean Cleanup Project?

The Ocean Cleanup Project

In 2013, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation was established by an 18-year-old dutch inventor named Boyan Slat. According to the foundation’s site, it was begun with the goals of creating ways to clear the Pacific Ocean of Pollution and educating people on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The idea, Slat hypothesized, was to use the ocean’s currents to our advantage, allowing our passive drifting systems to clean up over half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in about 5 years’ time. Slat proposed that it would be nearly impossible to go after the garbage in the ocean with nets and vessels, and more than that, it would be costly and time-consuming.

With this in mind, he devised an Ocean Cleanup Passive System that would be comprised of a floater with a solid screen underneath that would concentrate debris and lead them to a collection system. Then, that system would be slowed to the point that it moved less quickly than the plastic, which would result in the plastic being trapped.

The technology behind the Ocean Cleanup Project is fairly simple, but compelling. With their solid screens underneath floating pipes, debris can be caught both on and under the surface. These systems will be drifting freely about the Pacific Ocean and will help to concentrate plastic towards a central point for collection by vessels, where it can be easily removed.

For a visual representation of how the system will work, watch this short video:

Again, according to the Ocean Cleanup Project’s site, the foundation believes that by deploying a fleet of systems, they can clean up an estimated 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years, and that the concentrated plastic can be retrieved for recycling purposes. Then, the money that’s made from recycling the plastic can be used to help fund the project’s expansion to the other four ocean systems.

The foundation has been working on testing and trials for this project for a great deal of time, launching expeditions over the ocean gyres in the last few years. The first cleanup system deployment is schedule to take place in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in May of 2018.

How Big is the Threat, Really?

To get a better understanding of the Ocean Cleanup Project, it’s important to get a firmer grasp on how big the problem of pollution in the ocean truly is. First, it’s vital to know what the term “garbage patch” refers to.

Seemingly self-explanatory, a garbage patch is a conglomeration of trash, plastic, and pollution that forms into a giant patch and litters our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the very spot the Ocean Cleanup Project intends to reduce and hopefully eliminate, is also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex.

It’s composed of trash and litter that spans an area from the West Coast of North America all the way to Japan. It’s so large, in fact, that it even has east and west sections.

This issue is an increasingly hazardous one, as most of the trash in the garbage patch is not biodegradable, causing a massive buildup that’s dangerous for not only ocean climate, creatures, and marine life, but for the human race as well. Much of this trash is visible, but a lot of it is made up of microplastics, non-biodegradable bits of plastic that can’t be seen without a microscope. In short, they’re tiny, but they’re terribly dangerous.

But trash isn’t just clogging up the Pacific Ocean, it’s plaguing our oceans and waterways everywhere. For example, Lagos, Nigeria produces about 600,000 metric tons of plastic trash annually, and approximately 100,000 tons of that ends up in the ocean. The result is landfills brimming with plastic garbage and coastlines strewn with trash.

About 5.25 trillion pieces of trash and litter are clogging up our oceans. To put that in perspective, that’s about 14 billion pounds of garbage dumped into our oceans annually, or about 1.5 million pounds of trash dumped in the ocean every hour. Even more disturbing is the about 269 tons of that trash are floating on our oceans’ surfaces. This trash ends up on islands like Henderson Island, a remote island that has millions of pieces of garbage wash ashore every year.

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Those facts alone should be troubling, but when you take into account the harmful effects that trash can have on the oceans’ climate, marinelife, and creatures, it’s more than just troubling. With the entry of trash into our oceans comes the entry of toxins and pollution that poison marine life. Additionally, plastic debris in the ocean is said to kill fish, seabirds, and other marine mammals, impacting at least 267 species worldwide.

More than that, it affects the lives of humans as well. With toxic chemicals entering our oceans via pollution, it’s unsafe for people to consume marine life that’s been impacted by the pollution. In fact, doing so can result in dangerous health problems.

What Can You Do To Help?

So, what’s the next step you can take to help the Ocean Cleanup Project, or just to help clean up our waterways, bodies of water, and expanses of fresh and saltwater? While it may seem unlikely, small efforts by individuals can make go a long way toward decreasing the garbage in our oceans.

When speaking specifically about the Ocean Cleanup Project, there are a few specific ways to help this foundation inch their way toward success.

  • First, you can simply help fund the cleanup. The foundation needs help bridging the gap between their first-system and the full-scale development of the plans they have to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch. The foundation states that any amount helps to further their mission, so donating is certainly a great way to get involved.
  • Second, you can volunteer your time, skills, and efforts to the cause. According to their site, there are plenty of career, as well as volunteer, opportunities to work with the foundation.

Speaking generally, though, you can help reduce the amount of garbage in the ocean and contribute to solving the trash problem by making small dedicated efforts.

  • Recycle
  • Support bans
  • Reduce your use of single-use plastics
  • Avoid microbeads in cosmetic products
  • Back organizations that work to fight pollution and encourage ocean cleanup

Conclusion

As you can see, the massive amount of garbage conglomerating in the oceans is harmful — not just for the creatures and environments under the water, but also for marine mammals, birds, fish, turtles, and even human beings.

Though there’s an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of trash in our world’s oceans, it’s nearly impossible to determine how much debris is making up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, because the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is too large for scientists to trawl. Even worse, it’s harder to tell because not all of the trash in the area is floating on the surface, and much of it made up of tiny, microplastics you can’t see with the naked eye.

Much of this trash comes from everyday pollution or land-based activities that take place in Asia and North America, but a percentage of it also comes from boaters, cargo ships, and offshore oil rigs.

The Ocean Cleanup Project, and other organizations like it, are doing their part to help rid the world and its oceans of the rubbish that plagues it, but you can help, too. By increasing your recycling habits, reducing your single-use plastic activities, and dedicating yourself to encouraging friends and family to do the same, you too can reduce the impact of garbage that’s clogging up our oceans.

Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting

Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting

Why are job creation and access to clean energy so important to us here at Business Connect?

 

Protable Solar Generator – 250whrA market transformation from inefficient and polluting fuel-based lighting to solar-LED systems is well underway across the developing world, but the extent of net job creation has not previously been defined. An article written by Evan Mills from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California/Berkeley, Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting, finds that current worldwide employment associated with fuel-based lighting represents approximately 150,000 jobs.

New jobs will accompany the replacement technologies. A survey of major solar-LED lighting companies finds that 38 such jobs are created for each 10,000 people living off-grid for whom stand-alone solar-LED lights are suitable. Applying this metric, the number of new jobs already created from the current uptake of solar-LED lighting has matched that of fuel-based lighting and foreshadows the potential creation of 2 million new jobs to fully serve the 112 million households globally that currently lack electricity access, are unlikely to be connected to the major grid, micro-grids, or are able to afford more extensive solar systems.

A likely greater number of additional jobs and employment income will be indirectly created or preserved via indirect employment, re-spending of energy savings, conservation of foreign exchange, enhanced literacy, and improved working conditions. In contrast, central grid expansion is unlikely to provide any net increase in jobs. The case of solar-LED lighting demonstrates that policymakers have tools to increase the pace of in-country job creation in the context of sustainable development, while minimizing job displacement, and improving the quality of employment. These tools include stimuli for domestic manufacturing or assembly of products; supporting peripheral businesses and services, such as training, recycling, financing, and impact assessment; and removing market barriers that slow the uptake of emerging technologies.

This might be more information than you need to know but it solidifies the reasons why we are focusing on creating employment opportunities in the developing world through our robust distribution network. It is a win-win situation in our eyes, more jobs and more clean resources that will help children that have to now study by a toxic kerosene lantern. Access to solar lighting will allow women to save needless hours spent gathering firewood — and spend those hours on opportunities for themselves and their families.

So what can you do about this? We’re glad you asked! Join our team, sponsor a student or entrepreneur, help us fundraise or make a tax-deductible donation through our partnership with Partners Worldwide. We need you as a Champion today and tomorrow for a better, cleaner world.

#CreatingHope

“You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”

“You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”On my recent trip to Africa, I asked iKhaya Lodge to have someone meet us as we arrived in Cape Town.  His name was Frank Mountanda.  We have used him to get around Cape Point, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Water Front, and other similar places in this area.  He has been incredibly helpful, reasonable, and knowledgeable.  He is married to a South African woman, has two young daughters, and his own tour guide business.  What is interesting is that he is from the Republic of Congo and is a refugee.  He has a history so similar to those people we are attempting to assist.

When the Republic of Congo was in the midst of civil war, he was a young man and being forcefully recruited to join the war.  As his name and language were a dead giveaway as to where he was from, he fled for his life. He came to South Africa as a refugee. Over a period of time he was able to obtain legal status and finally citizenship. He met a local girl and married and their two daughters now attend a private school.

Over the years he has built up his business. He speaks French, Italian, English, and two tribal languages. He said to me, “You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”  He has returned to the Congo more than once and has brought his mother to South Africa.  He has taken a bad experience and turned it into an asset where he can relate to many nationalities, languages, and circumstances.

His status as a refugee is not unusual nor uncommon.  What seems to be uncommon is how well he has been able to turn tragedy into something extraordinary.  What we have to determine as we think about our future engagement and partnership with the UNHCR Maratane Refugee Camp in Mozambique, is how can help empower refugees to push forward.  I am convinced that giving people hope in the refugee camp to move on with their lives within the country they find themselves is far more productive than waiting for a foreign visa that is highly unlikely to ever arrive.  Living in the false hope of someone assisting, embracing a victim attitude, blaming circumstances will never bring about the kind of productive life God wants each of us to have.

#CreatingHope

To learn more about Business Connect and read the rest of Lou’s reflections in our monthly newsletter, visit this link: http://eepurl.com/bA-KYH

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