Nicholas Hanlon (’12) has launched the Motoskate Foundation to support business development, education, and health resources in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He commented: “After a decade of skill-sharing trips to Uvira, D.R.C. each summer, our local partners invested in their own motorcycle taxi. They have built the muscles to run a sustainable business in an unpredictable region, and we want to invest in that.”
In response to regional conflict, a small local Congolese church built the Congo for Christ Center orphanage and The Mango Tree School. They now care for 60 orphans and employ a child care staff while operating a school with over 200 students and a top-tier teaching and administrative staff. Mango Tree School creates educational access for kids in one of Uvira’s toughest neighborhoods.
Motoskate Foundation supports the Mango Tree School community through skill sharing, investment, college tuition for children who have lost parents, and emergency medical funds. Nicholas said, “We want to buy them a fleet of motorcycle taxis because they know how to run a business, and that means sustainable income for the orphanage and the drivers who can then afford their child’s tuition.”
Motoskate Foundation is a new expression of work built on old relationships and a decade of listening. The trust built with its local partners began by connecting communities. National Community Church, in Washington D.C., began sending teams of learners and skill sharers in 2011 after meeting Renee Reed from Global Outreach LLC, the NGO that began the work with Congo for Christ leader Pastor Jeremiah. His request for skill sharers led to workshops in finance, project management, HR, and teacher conferences with National Community Church volunteers. These members of the D.C. community – including Nicholas – went to learn as well as to share. Now they can make smart investments in a complex environment with reliable partners.
Internet searches can paint a grim picture of the Kivu region in Eastern Congo, where the city of Uvira is located. This is the region where the conflict drivers from Rwanda spilled over. With over fifty armed factions in the broader Kivu region, Congolese mineral wealth makes its way from forced labor mines to Chinese interests that profit from the status quo of lawlessness. The societal trauma from the conscription of child soldiers and the use of rape as a warfare tactic leave an impact on the people and the economy. This is the region where Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Denis Mukwege, and others like him have fostered access to fistula repair surgery and havens for psychological trauma recovery to try to piece the social fabric back together. Uvira, along with Goma, and Bukavu, is home to the longest-running U.N. peacekeeping operation and lies close to Rwanda and Burundi. There is a high risk for young women to be trafficked or exploited generally – in some cases by the peacekeepers themselves. In this context, a safe place like the Congo for Christ Center can have a significant positive impact.
Dr. Mukwege is known as a famous surgeon, but he is also a pastor. When a child orphaned by war sees men like Dr. Mukwege and Pastor Jeremiah along with the women of their communities who lead with strength, they see the counterforce in their society to destabilizing factors. The children go on to replicate this counterforce. One of the first children at Congo for Christ will graduate with a medical degree and return to support the orphanage next year. Motoskate Foundation wants to make sure each child from the Congo for Christ Family Home has the same opportunity.
The Motoskate Foundation also operates an emergency medical fund to provide another stabilizing factor for the community in Uvira. Natural disasters in the form of landslides have hit this community twice since 2019. Congo for Christ was able to be a resource to those in Uvira during each crisis. Both medical emergencies and typical health challenges are more costly to locals in a region where hundreds of outside NGOs place abnormal economic effects on supply and demand. Investing in a medical resource fund has several practical impacts. It creates consistency in budgeting and builds past performance and best practices. It keeps teacher salaries stable. It can create space in the budget to pay the mothers from the church who volunteer as child care workers. These are the people who fill everyday life in Uvira with smiles and joy. Everyday life for a child in Eastern Congo can actually be very happy despite the bad press and regional instability. That is the type of headline that Motoskate Foundation supports.
“The quality of people I learned from, both students and teachers, at IWP has left me with a strong sense of prudence,” said Nicholas. “This becomes indispensable for operating in a complex environment.”