Written by Phyllis Richards
What does One Great Hour of Sharing® (OGHS) have to do with pigs? Pigs are a part of a project that was supported by the OGHS offering. In 2005, a grant was provided to the Ikengo Agriculture and Training Center located in Ikengo, Democratic Republic of the Congo. What began with the purchase of 20 pigs has resulted in 305 pigs in 2 years time.
An important aspect of this program, as shared with us by the Director, Mr. Celestine Engelemba, is that the community is directly impacted. As women and men take part in the training programs offered at Ikengo Agriculture Center, they are in-turn given animals to keep. They learn how to take care of the animal and how to keep them healthy. They are then given animals to raise and mate and eventually sell to others in their community. In this way many families begin to earn a living resulting in more people being able to take care of themselves and their children.
In addition to working with pigs, Ikengo Agriculture Center provides direction on growing vegetables, fruits, plants and chickens. Participants are selected to be in this project through the church, usually because they have very limited means. In the 3-month training program, participants learn how to care for, and grow various produce. For example, there is a growing project designed just for women. The women plant the seeds, care for the plants, and harvest the crops at the appropriate time, all the while learning new skills and techniques that will help them in their own gardens. Upon completion of the training program, the women are also given small hand tools for gardening, along with seeds and "cuttings" from the very plants that they cared for while at the Training Center.
In talking with Celestine, he said one of the unexpected blessings that has come out of all of this is that the Ikengo Training Center is helping people in the community to eat healthier. Ikengo, located on the Congo River, is part of a community that is used to eating fish. However, since the growing projects began, people in the community are coming to Ikengo to buy their vegetables and fruits. One man told Celestine that before he started getting fruit from Ikengo, all he would eat is fish. Now he eats better and feels better. What a blessing.
This One Great Hour of Sharing project was visited by Phyllis Richards, Program Associate for Global Sharing of Resources, and Angela Balfour, Program Associate for the Africa Office of Global Ministries on a recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.