Friendship Leads To Helping Women In Africa

By Mark Schwaninger Lincoln Journal Star, Neb.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Totonga Bomoi" is devoted to providing small business education and start-up capital to entrepreneurs across the Congo.  It started out with a woman simply wanting to help a friend. 

Lincoln Journal Star, Neb.

It all started with a friendship . . . albeit a rather unique friendship developed between two women from very different backgrounds, different continents, and yes, different races.

Nevertheless, this friendship has led to the development of Totonga Bomoi, a Lincoln-based nonprofit reaching out to help women in small villages in Africa.

"When I lived in Congo back in 2010, and was about to leave to return to Nebraska," explains Lincoln native Katie Hile, "My good friend Mama Aroyo asked me to help her buy a home for her family." And, from that request, Totonga Bomoi (which means "build our future" in Congolese) was created to not only enable Hile to assist Aroyo, but to reach hundreds with a life-changing program.

"I knew she had talent as a seamstress," added Hile. "So I suggested that she make 25 African handbags that I could bring back to the United States and sell to family and friends." The funds from those sales not only helped Aroyo build her home, but also gave her resources to help her children attend school and help the organization that is now reaching other women in nearby villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Totonga Bomoi is devoted to providing small business education and start-up capital to entrepreneurs across the Congo. And, as a result, the women (and a few men) develop skills to produce goods and services and gain the knowledge of how to manage their businesses.

Totonga Bomoi focuses on the people living in small villages in Northeastern DRC. Participants gather to hone their production skills and gain the knowledge of how to obtain a micro-loan, manage their finances, promote their business and sell their goods and services.

"It isn't easy," notes Hile. "Just imagine starting a business in a country without banks, transporting goods where there are no roads, promoting without newspapers, radio and television, and doing it all without much formal education."

But that's exactly what Hile's organization is doing. Totonga Bomoi makes use of the Alternativ curriculum, which is based on the belief that people have the ability to direct their destiny with the proper tools and that they deserve to thrive economically.

When Hile visits the DRC, she typically spends two weeks meeting with interested participants who work to improve their skills and learn the necessary business practices to develop and operate a small business.

In late June of this year, Hile celebrated five years of helping families in the Congo and began to expand her base of supporters through an event in Lincoln.

During the event, Hile featured stories about the people who have already benefited from Totonga Bomoi and shared the organization's mission.

Totonga Bomoi has grown from an individual helping a friend to becoming a nonprofit organization focused on reaching more families in the Congo. Friends and family gathered on June 30 at Turbine Flats to learn how they could help advance the organization.

Those attending the celebration not only heard the stories and learned how they could help, but also participated in a simulation of one of the lessons Hile teaches when she visits the Congo. That lesson, "Dreaming Big," gave those attending an idea of how the training helps the women who are participating visualize how they can overcome obstacles in their villages and, as a result, help their families.

Since Hile first visited the Congo, she has returned several times and offered workshops to people in five different villages. Each time she returns, she learns of how the organization is making a positive impact not just for the 75 people she's taught, but how their villages are benefiting as well.

You can learn more about Totonga Bomoi at totongabomoi.com. And, you can help when you purchase some of the beautiful and unique African products that the participants are making, or donate to the organization. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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