Amani Matabaro Tom is the Founder & Executive Director of Actions Pour le Bien être de la Femme et de l’Enfant au Kivu (ABFEK), which is Action Kivu’s Congolese partner organization.
When Amani’s cousins, Kahumba and Mirenge took refuge in his home after both were raped in 2006 by Rwandan rebels known as the Interahamwe. Amani and his wife Amini Bukanda wanted to find a way to provide a sense of purpose and self-worth for Kahumba and Mirenge as well as way for them to sustain themselves economically. Amini was an accomplished seamstress, and training them in sewing skills seemed the best solution. When word spread about what Amani and Amini were doing for their cousins, other victims of sexual violence asked for training, and the Kivu Sewing Workshop was born.
Amani was born in Eastern Congo and like millions of others, is also a victim of the nation’s violence. Both of his parents were killed in the late 1990s during the many waves of fighting there. Amani finished his education with help from his elder brother, Ephraim, and then earned a degree in Applied Pedagogy with a concentration in English Language Teaching Methodology and Translation. He has worked as an educator and interpreter for numerous international organizations including Johns Hopkins University, Boston University, United Nations Multi-National Force in the Congo (MONUC), the International Rescue Committee, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum and with Yahoo’s News’ war reporting project, Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone.
Action Kivu invests in the women, children and communities of Congo through vocational training and education, creating paths toward peace and prosperity. Our approach is spearheaded through two approaches:
Women’s Entrepreneurial Programs
Growing out of our original two sewing workshops we’ve expanded to various vocational programs, including sewing, basket making courses, agricultural training, animal husbandry, and literacy classes. Through these programs women acquire the skills and capacity to work on their own and provide for themselves and their families.
Education Assistance for Children
Action Kivu works in partnership with primary schools in Congo to fund the education of vulnerable children affected by the ongoing conflict. Some of the students sponsored are now at the top of their classes.
The social fabric that wove together Amani’s moral values and passion for peace is the target of rebel groups that destabilize and destroy communities. Amani grew up playing football and attending school and church in an area that has been chronically unstable for the past 16 years.
Despite the threat, Amani learned within his local structures the power of community in overcoming insecurity—the hub for gaining moral and intellectual values “to make every effort to come together and live as a community.”
Congo is still suffering from the overspill of the Rwandan genocide, the aftermath of which took the lives of both of Amani’s parents. Taking heart from the moral lessons he gained from playing football with his school and through his education, Amani decided to overcome the insecurity caused but he rebels by bringing people together by providing a peace market—a community nucleus for women, children, and men to gather in a safe, empowered, and peaceful environment to care for one another.