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“Rudi” is Swahili for “come back.” It is the story behind how we were born as an organisation. We consider it a privilege to give back and be part of the change we want to see around us.
This is how new APC member Rudi International, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), welcomes visitors to their website. Access to education, literacy, health, trauma healing for survivors of gender-based violence, and improved and safe access to information and communications technologies (ICTs), among other aspects of the development of their communities, are their main areas of focus. We talked to Rudi International's co-founder and president Alain-Daniel R. Wa-Baguma about their work and the future ahead shortly after they became an APC member.
APCNews: You work with children victims of conflict. Can you tell us more about these groups and how you work with them?
Alain-Daniel: Most of the members of our original team grew up in the eastern provinces of DRC, where most of them experienced armed conflict and its consequences. We grew up and survived the perils of childhood and youth in a war-torn zone, so we understand first-hand the needs of a child in such a situation. When most of us graduated from university and became capable of helping others, we felt called to look back and give as much as we can in terms of resources, access to quality and uninterrupted education, and spiritual growth to those who are still young and going through the same traumatic experiences we survived. This was the genesis of Rudi International. Since then, our activities have expanded to a more holistic approach to caring for these children and their families as well as the community in which they live.
The first group we worked with was made up of children displaced by war from their villages and towns near Goma, DRC. All of them had started school in this internally displaced people's community but were not able to continue because their families were no longer able to pay for tuition, school supplies, or the required school uniform. Although many of these children showed potential for great scholarship through their high scores on report cards, they were robbed of their opportunity for development by the rampant poverty caused by all the consequences of war in the DRC. Many of these children had lost either one or both of their parents, some lived with relatives who had no means of keeping them in school, while others were in even more complex situations.
After the first year of working with the children, we discovered that a more sustainable solution to the problem we were attempting to solve was to broaden our reach to the families of the children we were serving. So, that second year, not only did our education programme double in size, but also we started an outreach programme for the mothers of the children who had suffered trauma during the war. This programme has been a great blessing to three or four dozen women directly so far and a whole community by extension.
APCNews: You also work on providing inputs on telecom and ICT bills in your country. Tell us more about this.
The existing Framework Law on Telecommunications in the DRC does not adequately address modern societal and technological realities, so we wanted to promote another law that would be concerned with aspects such as privacy. One thing we did to address this was getting together a group of civil society representatives for an ICT policy workshop in Lubumbashi in June 2018. We discussed the ICT policy landscape and introduced the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, whose key principles informed the discussions on the draft bill, and we used the opportunity to offer inputs to a newly proposed law that supports citizens’ digital rights, including the rights to privacy and data protection, freedom of expression, and access to information online. We produced a document with recommendations as a civil society representative and sent it to the parliament.
APCNews: What is the most challenging part of your work? What do you struggle or find obstacles with the most?
Alain-Daniel: The most challenging part of our work is funding for the administrative and overhead parts of our work. We do not take a salary but rather volunteer, but there are still costs to cover and needs to be met in our team. These include but are not limited to paying for our web presence, the rental of offices, computer equipment, and media coverage (photo and video). Any person interested in finding ways they can equip us and support our general fund is welcome to reach out to us through our website and social media pages. There are tools like accounting tools and project management tools that we wish we were able to purchase. We also have a hard time finding professional videographers who could produce a good video summary of who we are and the work we do.
APCNews: Tell us some stories of success. How has your work impacted your community?
Alain-Daniel: Every school year that we complete with more than 95% of our students is a success story. This success story has been sustained for the past seven years of our existence. Even more worthy of celebration is the speed at which we were able to grow the education programme from 16 children to 32, then to 72, and now to a 100 children as of last school year.
APCNews: Why did you join the APC network? What do you think you can contribute as a member and what do you expect from APC?
Alain-Daniel: The APC network has been a great resource to our team and for the work we do in the ICT sector. Through this network, we learn from the experiences of many and identify ways to improve our work as well as broaden our impact in more efficient ways. Because we also desire to positively influence more than just our community, we are thankful to be part of a network that gives us the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with the rest of the African continent and the world. We hope to gain friendships and partnerships that will allow Rudi International's growing experience to be repeated in as many areas as needed.