Two months until I leave for the Republic of Congo, and I’ve already learned a few things. The first is that I’ll need to write a book. There certainly seems to be a large gap in the market when it comes to books about the Republic of Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville. I’m a reader. I’ve been in love with the world of rustling pages and ink since I was a young girl, and I have my family to thank for that. The only problem is, when you grow up in a world of books all the time (at breakfast, at school, until falling asleep), you expect there to be books on just about everything. Generally speaking, there are – the Republic of Congo seems to be an exception to the rule.

Map of Africa- can you find the Republic of Congo?
Map of Africa-Click to find the Congo!

A small country by most standards, Congo-Brazzaville has been eclipsed by its large brother and neighbor- the Democratic Republic of Congo, better known as the DRC. The two countries were once the Kingdom of Kongo, but during European colonization of Africa separate powers took over. Belgium grabbed the DRC, and France had the Republic of Congo. When people hear that I’m going to be living in Congo for a year, they instantly think of the DRC and the incredible violence and civil war that country has seen. As you might imagine, due to the horror and violence the DRC has withstood, a great deal of media attention, research and history books have been written on the subject.

That, however, is not where I’ll be going. I will be across the Congo River in the smaller, quieter, capital city of Brazzaville. A  land, it seems, whose stories remain primarily untold by the writers of the world. Perhaps that is why I can find no more than a scattered handful of books about the Republic of Congo, most of which were written back in the 90s. I’m trying to soak up all the information I can before leaving the USA in March, and for now that process is consisting of talking to as many people as I can who have lived and worked there. There is also a fair amount of internet research and reading and the occasional book. Who knows, maybe someone I’ll meet there will already be in the process of writing a new one? Maybe I can help?

Aside from the lack of books to help me prepare, I’ve also been learning about a great deal of fun medical information. Like how I need to get a yellow fever vaccine to be let in the country (and that researching local Travel Clinics is your best option for getting one). Malaria meds to choose, other shots to pick from (do I get a Cholera or Rabies vaccine just in case?), and all of it to be documented on a ‘Carte Jaune’ or proof of immunizations card. That must be shown just so I can get in the country. Vaccinations, researching Health Insurance supplements for going overseas…yet all of this is dwarfed by the building excitement.

I can’t wait to take up my role with HOPE International. As a Field Communications Fellow, my role with be threefold:

  • Story telling: I’ll be interviewing the people HOPE works with and recording their stories, writing up articles, photographing them and even doing some video work.
  • Branding: using my graphic design background to help implement HOPE’s branding standards in the Congo office
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: helping to evaluate the effectiveness of HOPE’s programs (example surveying)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with HOPE, they are a nonprofit organization that works in 17 countries around the world to alleviate physical and spiritual poverty through microenterprise development. I’ve seen the power of micro-loans before in Cambodia, where entire families were transformed by being able to create a steady means of income. The chance to help tell the stories of HOPE’s clients is an equally amazing opportunity to help people learn about this great tool to end poverty.

One of the main parts of getting ready to go on this journey however, is something that I cannot do alone. In order to go overseas and join in HOPE’s mission to the poor for a year I’ll need to raise approximately $8,000 to cover all my living expenses. This money will go towards my visa, immunizations, food, and communication and transportation expenses. If you are interested in helping me support HOPE in giving people the tools to transform their own lives, please visit my fundraising page :

Your donation will be tax deductible and will both be helping me to fulfill my passion of helping those trapped in poverty, and HOPE International’s work alleviating physical and spiritual poverty. Out of all the parts involved in getting ready to go, fundraising is one of the most challenging.

Thanks for all your support!


1 comment on “Getting Ready”

  1. Mara,
    I just wanted to say that I think what you are doing is awesome. Your mom mentioned to me some time ago about your writing and now I see how skilled you are. Your voice just shines through your writing and that’s a blessing, a gift you have. I look forward to reading more of your blogs as you continue on this adventure. All the best of blessings to you!!

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