Brick by Brick In the Congo

February 24th, 2011

Jean de Dieu Tshileu '07 (center) with fellow workers in the Congo

Doug Kulungu, a guest columnist in the Dec. 6, 2010, issue of the Mennonite Weekly Review, cited these heartbreaking statistics for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his home country: “More than 6 million have died, 300,000 women have been raped, and Congolese still live in horrifying conditions.”

Jean de Dieu Tshileu, a 2007 economics graduate of EMU born and raised in the Congo, is determined to change this situation. With energy and determination similar to that of Greg Mortenson (author of Three Cups of Tea) in Afghanistan, Jean is going individual by individual, church by church, group by group in an effort to raise money for “better education and income-generating agriculture activities” in the eastern part of the Congo, one of the most decimated regions in Africa. He calls it the “Tusome-Congo Project.”

In his non-profit business plan, Jean writes: “Tusome-Congo will start by building one school in one village and then provide seed funds to cooperatives. This process will continue by using the same frame of ‘One Village at a Time.’ This model will be replicated from one successful village to another, starting with the closest to the city of Goma.”

Jean reasons that such development will discourage villagers from joining the armed groups now roaming through the region by providing them with alternative ways to survive.

Similar to Mortenson’s description of building schools in Afghanistan, Jean says the cost of building and equipping a seven-room school in the eastern Congo is low by US standards – about $29,000.

Jean’s first project – a combined church-school building – is underway, thanks to $5,000 in seed money provided by a group at Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Materials have been purchased for erecting a building for a group (translated as) the Christian Assembly of Spiritual Revival in Goma. The group has already filed its first quarterly report on expenditures, detailing the cost of nails, cement and metal for the roof.

The report included a sobering paragraph, however. One of the members of this church, a wife and a mother of 10 named “Sophie,” died after being assaulted and raped by gunmen. She was trapped while trying to buy merchandise in another city to bring to the market in Goma.

Persons wishing more information on the Tusome-Congo Project can reach Jean de Dieu Tshileu at