I first met Dr. Prince Imani when he worked as a student doctor at Panzi Hospital in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, and I worked with an NGO. In 2012, I had the honor of going with him and some others, to the community of Kilungutwe, Mwenga in South Kivu - not too far from the provincial capital: Bukavu, but still racked by poverty and struggling to overcome the long lasting effects of a bloody conflict and massacre that had struck their community in the late 1990’s.
In that dusty but beautiful village, I was overwhelmed with witnessing enormous levels of suffering that I felt powerless to do anything about…but Dr Imani, in quiet strength, was quite the opposite. Before we left that community at the end of a short one-day visit, he was seeing patients in the mud home of the village chief, elderly men; survivors of sexual violence; mothers and children. On the ride back to town, he talked to me, about how it touched him so deeply to see the suffering of his own people. Over time, he shared with me his own experiences of being a street vendor and selling worship-music CDs to put himself through medical school. And about his vision for Afya Bora ni Haki Kwa Wote: Good health is a right for all.
In 2013, when we launched Channel Initiative’s work on the ground in Eastern Congo, Dr. Imani was naturally among our first partners. He joined me when I returned to Mwenga - the community that sparked it all, and led educational sessions on maternal and reproductive health. I sat with the women and laughed at him as he demonstrated how to put on sanitary pads, and theatrically acted out scenes from daily life for Congolese women - dispelling fears, putting aside pretense and awkwardness, building relationships - making every woman and girl there feel at ease with topics that are typically extremely taboo in rural Congo - sex, menstruation, contraception and more.
I felt amazed and humbled that we could work with this awe-inspiring, funny and passionate man. I have shed many a bitter tear in front of him, sitting with survivors of brutal acts of sexual violence, mothers still mostly children themselves, elderly women bearing physical and emotional scars of conflict and trauma. I've gotten to know a bit more about him, his story, his quirks, his faults and more - and I continue to be honored to work with him, and hopeful for what impact he will create in the community of Kavumu and in the lives of people there.
Over the course of just a few years, we have supported his organization: Medecins au Service des Demunis: Doctors in Service of the Vulnerable, in multiple activities: mobile clinics, medication and more. When he asked Channel Initiative a couple of years ago, to support moving the Afya Bora health center from the outskirts of Bukavu town to Kavumu, in order to better serve the community there - it was OUR honor to respond.
This #givingtuesday, we're asking our community to pick up a bag of coffee from our Shop, and 100% of the proceeds we raise will go towards supporting the work of Dr. Imani with the Afya Bora clinic in Kavumu, South Kivu.
They have a number of priorities we want to work with them on, including solar energy for the center, surgical beds and general infrastructure for C-sections, additional ward space and more. We want them to continue doing incredible work in preventing unnecessary maternal and child deaths in their community.
We don't want giving to seem distant or distancing. We seek to be an organization and community of bridge-builders and we want to build a bridge between you and this amazing local change maker, his organization, his vision, and this community. Learn more about Afya Bora on our Work page.