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Maman Marie Nzoli, A Congolese Unsung Hero


By Amy Ernst, Contributing Writer and Photographer/Congo

Amy’s Blog

I arrived in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo in April, 2010 from Chicago. I was introduced to Maman Marie Nzoli through a local Catholic priest who knew of my desire to help survivors of sexual violence. I work alongside COPERMA, the NGO that Maman founded in 1983, raising funds, doing identification of new survivors of rape, and helping arrange medical and psychosocial support for all victims of the war.

“I want so badly for the violence against women to stop.” Maman Marie

The work I do is miniscule compared to that of Maman Marie and the loyal COPERMA team. She has established 12 centers that have assisted thousands of men, women, and children over the years around Butembo.

Maman handing out food

Maman handing out food

Even though they often aren’t paid, Maman Marie and her team work tirelessly, never turning down anyone with need nor hesitating to go into a dangerous situation. They’ve subsisted mostly on selling potatoes cultivated by beneficiaries of COPERMA.

She’s an unsung hero and an endless inspiration to me. Here is what she told me recently in her small concrete office in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo… [Read more…]

Amy Ernst Blogs On The Brutal Rape And Raw Strength Of Congo Women

Amy ErnstAmy Ernst trained and volunteered as a rape crisis counselor in Chicago before deciding that she would move to the Democratic Republic of Congo to see how she could help victims of sexual violence.

She’s currently working in North Kivu with COPERMA, a local organization that has started ten centers for rape victims, demobilized child-soldiers, and displaced children and families.

I learned about Amy when I read her guest blog in Nicholas D. Kristof’s column in the New York Times. She described there the horrendous sexual violence against women and children in the Congo. Her raw determination to help the people affected by war was apparent.

I wanted to find out what persuaded her to relocate to this unsettling chaos. What did she hope to accomplish in a place that’s been called “the rape capital of the world?”

“I have never in my entire life understood the strength of humanity as much, and more specifically, the strength of women, as I do here…”

The photos on this post are the property of Amy Ernst. You can see many of her pictures on her blog.

This week I had the opportunity to ask Amy about her challenging work and tireless dedication to these people… [Read more…]