July: An Update from Isaiah in the DRC

Editor’s Note: Each month, we mail an article with our contribution statements to the previous month’s donors. Click here to download a PDF version.

Written by Sarah Corson, SIFAT Co-founder

SIFAT’s graduate Isaiah Chot has worked for years rescuing children who were kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because they have been brainwashed to kill and experienced unimaginable trauma, it is hard to rehabilitate them. Their own families are afraid of them and often do not want them to return. Isaiah started a rehabilitation ministry for these former child soldiers and other abandoned, hopeless children. Dedicated volunteers joined his effort, showing the children God’s love as they taught job training and life skills.

Beginning in 2017, SIFAT helped Isaiah finish his vocational school buildings, so they could accept homeless youth who had no other hope of finding a better life. SIFAT Graduates’ Projects (GPC) also worked with Isaiah to buy a cement block making machine both as  a teaching tool for the students and as a business they could use to help make the school sustainable. Now, they are able to accept 50 students each session. These youth work together learning and practicing farming/gardening, so that there is food for all of them, as well as some to sell for their other needs. Isaiah says they are taught the principles of gardening that he learned from SIFAT’s expert gardener, John Carr. This knowledge is constantly being passed on to others and has brought hope and freedom from hunger to hundreds in Isaiah’s programs. The school is staffed with dedicated professional teachers, as well as community volunteers, who help the students one-on-one. They have added courses in business, construction/masonry, tailoring/sewing, welding, food preservation and other classes teaching skills that their communities need.

Young students visit the garden.

This ministry team established an exciting training curriculum, which included appropriate technology, environmental protection, reproductive health, gender protection, Bible and the teachings of Jesus. These classes have empowered the formerly homeless youth to be a positive community influence. These students also help the school staff to give community workshops, which teach the general population the importance of child development that does much more than just feed and house their children. The influence of these students has lifted the communities where they go to live to a higher moral, spiritual and physical level.

The dedicated staff teach the students to participate in their community’s development in a number of ways. During the pandemic, the sewing class has been making masks for the community to help protect their neighbors from COVID-19. The construction class has made 80 handwashing stations for rural schools and nearby communities.

Isaiah (second from left) and students withe their handwashing stations, which have been placed in areas without access to sinks with running water.

 

While learning trades, the students are helping their community fight the spread of COVID-19!

The graduates find jobs in both the formal and informal job market, and some even start their own businesses. This vocational school has helped reintegrate the former child soldiers and homeless youth into society, so that they have hope for a better future. They have an opportunity to work, and their attitudes about life are totally changed. They have self-confidence that they can take care of themselves and, at the same time, help others who have not had the opportunity to study.

A youth named Nampasa said, “We are learning so much, and we have learned to share the information we learn with other farmers. We discuss what we are doing and work together with the other students and the neighbors in a collaborative way.  We process the food we grow and add value to it by turning the peanuts into peanut butter, for example, or turning the extra tomatoes into ketchup.”

Regina, a teenager, said, ”The reason so many of us young girls drop out of school is because our parents take us out of school to get married early.  We don’t have time to learn how to live before we are forced into marriage.  But my dream is to be a good seamstress, so I can support myself. I won’t have to get married just to have food. I want to save my money and one day own my own shop.”

Students in Isaiah’s program learn valuable job skills for their future, such as the welding class above. Often, their classes make improvements on the campus, too.

At one time, Isaiah Chot served as assistant to the Bishop of the United Methodist Church in the DRC. He also was SIFAT’s representative while we worked in Zambia. Isaiah is truly a follower of Jesus and has led hundreds of his fellow countrymen to a deeper Christian life, while helping abused and abandoned children become productive, self-respecting members of their churches and society. Isaiah is a wonderful example of the kind of leaders who study at SIFAT and return to the hard places of our world, taking the message and the practice of Christian community development to their own people. He has blessed all of us who knew him when he was studying at SIFAT and continues to bring a shining light to the dark places of our world.

Please keep Isaiah and his ministry in your prayers. In a recent update, he shared that the cement block-making machine was purchased, but multiple delays because of COVID-19 restrictions have caused it to still be on a ship in a port in Tanzania. Isaiah is hoping it will arrive soon. However, the team that will be operating the machinery has been attending training with different experts, so they are ready when it finally arrives.

Sewing classes make reusable masks.

 

Isaiah (center) and others wear masks made at the vocational center.

Thank you for your support and prayers for SIFAT. Because of your generosity and faithfulness, we can train community leaders like Isaiah, who are making a lasting impact in their communities. If you would like to learn more about our international graduates’ projects, please click here.