DR Congo: By Jeremy Pochman
It is not some obscure doctor named for a mythic African country. It is the country:
the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I spent the better part of a week in early February as part of a humanitarian aid
delegation, purportedly the largest American delegation in the history of the
country: 24 persons. Only.
I swam in Lake Tanganyika, a name harkening childhood dreams and book-inspired
adventure. I stayed at the foot of Lake Kivu; the world’s second deepest lake, so rich
in methane that it could power the entire country. We met with a series of NGOs,
including the American Bar Association (I know, what are they doing in Africa???
– very good things,) met the women of the City of Joy – a rehabilitation center for
victims of extreme sexual violence, a verdant bastion in the center of the city of
Bukavu’s largest slum, and had dinner at the Governor’s house (an old Mobutu
The DRC is the poorest nation in the world. The richest country in the world, in
natural resources: earth metals, diamonds, copper, etc. Incredibly fertile, fed and
watered by the Congo River; yet, only 2% of the land is cultivated for agriculture. I
swear, if I were to drop a poppy seed on the ground, the next week there would be a
field full of flowers.
My experience was full. The entire spectrum of life was vibrant, in full Technicolor.
Nothing was as it seemed, but exactly (so precisely, it was overwhelming) as
expected. Through layer upon layer of color and corruption, hunger and humanity,
hope was as raw and beautiful as despair.
In the face of so many questions, we frequently asked: “how can we make a
difference.” The answer we received was, “show up.” I did. I will continue to.