Saint Louis University and the Opus Prize Foundation have announced the three finalists for the 16th annual Opus Prize, awarded annually to a leader in faith-based humanitarian work. The prize will be awarded Nov. 21 on the campus of Saint Louis University.
The Opus Prize, awarded each year in partnership with a Catholic university, is one of the world’s most prestigious recognitions for faith-based, nonprofit innovation and work. The $1 million award and $100,000 prizes for the other finalists make up one of the world’s largest faith-based awards for social entrepreneurship.
Brother Charles Nuwagaba
Provincial Vicar of the Bannakaroli Brothers of St. Charles Lwanga
Brother Charles oversees a primary school and vocational education program run by the Brothers of Charles Lwanga on the edge of the Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa. The primary school currently enrolls 280 students and 260 young people, including teenage mothers who are enrolled in vocational programs.
The vocational programs are an effective strategy in alleviating poverty and include programs in motor vehicle maintenance, hairdressing and beauty, hospitality, computer technology and more. The Bannakaroli brothers see themselves as defenders of human rights and as a voice for the vulnerable.
The mission of the Bannakaroli is, “Through a supernatural gift, Christ calls the brothers to follow Him devotedly in the education of the youth and collaboration with the local clergy as technicians/artisans.”
They define their charism as, “To follow and share in the humility of the Divine Heart of Jesus Christ.”
Brother Charles was born on June 3, the feast of St. Charles Lwanga. While in labor, his mother was comforted by hearing the nurses singing hymns dedicated to the saint. She chose to name her son Charles in his honor but could not have imagined that he would grow up to join the Brothers of Saint Charles Lwanga in 1994.
Because of his strong academic skills, the brothers gave him an opportunity to study in the United States. Br. Charles chose Loyola University Chicago, because several other brothers had studied there. He was at Loyola from 2005-2009, during which time he earned a BA in economics and an M.Ed. in educational administration.
Prior to coming to Chicago, Br. Charles served as head teacher in a secondary school in Uganda. Upon his return, he was named principal for an economically challenged secondary school, as well as the Vicar to the Superior General for the order. He is known within the order for his administrative skills, his willingness to speak directly about difficult topics within the brothers, and his outgoing nature which has helped to build relationships with donors.
When he was living at a Jesuit residence at Loyola, he met a visiting Jesuit who was in Chicago to make parish appeals. Br. Charles was not familiar with the practice, and no one in his order had ever done it. He took it upon himself to investigate how these are done, and he began doing them within the Chicago Archdiocese. He reached out to other dioceses in the Midwest, and he now comes to the U.S. annually to make these appeals.
In addition to the parish appeals, he has spoken to classes at Loyola about Uganda. Afterward, students made connections for him to parents who were interested in being donors. Br. Charles has been able to serve as a leader in growing the order’s work by identifying sources of funding. Coupled with the work he has done internally for the order, he bridges individuals, schools, churches, countries, continents and hemispheres.
“Bannakaroli” means “sons of Charles.”
The Brothers of Saint Charles Lwanga were founded in 1927 by Bishop Henri Streicher, M.Afr., a French missionary who became the bishop of what is now Uganda in 1897. The name was taken in honor of the leader of the Ugandan Martyrs. In the 1870s, Anglican, Catholic, and Muslim missionaries began to enter the Kingdom of Buganda and win converts, including in the royal court. This caused tensions, and King Mwanga began ordering the execution of some Christians. Charles (Karoli) Lwanga was a page to the king and became a catechist, instructing the other young pages in Christianity. The executions ran from 1885-87, taking the lives of 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics. The 22 Catholics were boys and young men under the leadership of St. Charles, who were burned alive on June 3, 1886. They were canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
The Bannakaroli are the first indigenous order of men in Africa. The headquarters are in Kiteredde, near Masaka, in the southwest region of Uganda. There are about a half dozen priests within the order who are restricted to sacramentally serving only other brothers, and the superior general of the order cannot be a priest. They have more than 300 brothers serving in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. An additional 200 young men are studying and discerning if they are called to be brothers.
The focus of the Bannakaroli is education and evangelization. They have 21 primary schools, seven secondary schools, 10 vocational schools and two orphanages. Several of the brothers, especially those who have studied abroad, are now teaching in universities and teacher preparation colleges in Africa. They are currently working with bishops to open an institute of preparation for religious life or seminary.
The brothers are also involved in health care, working in clinics, and especially for the health of the children enrolled in their schools. The area of their headquarters is in the region of Uganda most impacted by AIDS.
A unique aspect of their programs is self-sufficiency coupled with economic development.
Periodic drought is a problem in many areas they serve, and they have worked to create systems to capture and preserve rainwater and drill wells to provide water at their schools. This is not just for cleaning, but the schools produce most of their own food with farms worked by the brothers and students. These farms also provide employment opportunities for people in the communities. They have created a model farm to teach farming techniques that offer greater resistance to drought. They have provided trucks to create supply chains to allow local farming families to get produce to market. They have opened a mill to grind corn into flour. Their vocational schools create products and services that can be sold to support the schools.
The brothers rely on income from farming, from vocational schools’ activities, from tuition, from grants, from private donors and from parish appeals. Each project is expected to have a plan for self-sustainability. Consequently, there is not a central annual budget for the order. Most donations and grants are for specific projects. When unrestricted funds are donated, the leadership of the order chooses how to distribute them.
At Loyola University Chicago, a group of faculty and locals have formed the “Bannakaroli Foundation” with the purpose of raising funds for the order, and they supply $10K-$30K per year for special projects. They have an annual fundraising event hosted at a Jesuit residence in Chicago.
- Social Entrepreneurship - The brothers focus on changing systems, not simply providing aid. Their primary mission of education to the poor through both classroom experience and vocational training fit this Opus Prize Foundation value very well. They also are invested in economic development for those beyond their schools. What is unique here is that they are an indigenous order. They are Africans helping themselves to overcome poverty.
- Transformational Leadership - This occurs at many levels with the brothers, but possibly the most important is in educating themselves to take on leadership roles in their communities. The opportunities to study abroad are rare for Africans who are not wealthy. Their willingness to share that through continued teaching in higher education settings in Africa multiplies the gift they have received. While not all of the young men who are in training may become brothers, all of them finish with greater knowledge and leadership skills.
- Teaching One to Fish - This principle is not only taught by the brothers, it is modeled. By creating a culture of self-sustainability in their schools and projects, they raise the expectation for their students to seek to solve problems for themselves.
- Faith that is Lived Each Day - The Bannakaroli draw their name and their inspiration from an act of faith that is hard for most of us to imagine. This identity with faith, as something one is willing to give up one’s life for, is sewn into the fabric of the culture of Uganda. The martyrs are celebrated everywhere in Uganda—and not just as angelic figures holding palms. Depictions of the martyrs almost always have the presence of fire. Ugandan Christians are reminded of the price of faith.
- Service to Others - The Bannakaroli are fully devoted to the service of others. That is their whole purpose of being. They live simple lives alongside the poor, living within the slums they serve. The luxuries they experience when studying abroad are at the service of the poor when they return home, and all of them do return home to work, showing no desire to live elsewhere.
- Unsung Heroes - One area in which they need to grow is in their online presence. There is very little about them online. If not for the Bannakaroli Foundation in Chicago, it would have been impossible.
- Dignity of the Human Person - Br. Charles connected with the Pro-Life Action League in the United States, which supplied him with educational materials that have been incorporated in the schools in Africa. Abortion is illegal in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Beyond looking at restrictions, by giving teen mothers opportunities to improve their lives and their children’s lives through education, the brothers are giving desperate young women a true alternative to abortion.
- An Entrepreneurial Approach - The Bannakaroli Brothers have a good business sense. All their projects are self-sustaining through hard work and dedication, not only from the brothers, but also from those who the brothers serve.
- A Commitment to Integrity - Br. Charles is always inviting donors to come and see the fruits of their investments. Several donors regularly visit the schools and see the projects they have funded. Along with internet presence, this is probably an area where the brothers could grow in terms of communication, especially to attract new donors.
- A Focus on Excellence and Results - The brothers’ schools engage in the same national tests as all schools in their countries. The brothers have a reputation for excellence. The fact that many of their own order are equipped to study at the graduate level in the United States speaks to the excellence they have achieved in education.
Founder and Director of Caras con Causa (Faces with a Cause)
Caras con Causa is a non-governmental organization (NGO) serving economically poor families in communities bordering the Bay of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Caras con Causa, under the leadership of Michael Fernandez-Frey, is committed to children’s education, restoring the wetlands after the hurricane, and organizing communities to protect themselves against the destruction of their homes by the government.
Fr. Mario Alberto Torres, S.J., Fernandez-Frey’s friend and former teacher called him “a visionary who knows how to make visions practical.”
Together with community members, planners, architects, and students, Fernandez-Frey and Caras con Causa are working to implement a visionary Community Development Plan to rebuild the community’s economic base, cultural identity, and environmental strength.
Michael Fernandez-Frey’s resume starts with a personal statement, “I aspire to contribute in concrete ways to the realization of justice and the promotion of human and collective sustainable development.”
Fernandez-Frey’s vocation and aspirations are grounded in his faith, which was nurtured by his close-knit, traditional Catholic family and his long affiliation with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Puerto Rico, his birthplace. He is the youngest of three children born to Ivan Fernandez and Susan Frey, and was raised as an active parishioner of San Ignacio de Loyola, the Jesuit Parish in San Juan. He attended Colegio San Ignacio middle and high school, where he was involved in service both inside the school and outside in the community.
That commitment to service and social justice that began at the Colegio continued when Fernandez-Frey went on to study international relations with a focus on community development at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where he obtained his BA and where he founded Caras con Causa. After graduating in 2005, he returned to Puerto Rico and in 2007 to Colegio San Ignacio to teach and to serve as the associate coordinator of the school’s Community Service Office.
In that position, he developed the Magis Program, a service learning capstone program for 12th graders grounded in the Jesuit value of “the faith that does justice.” Under Fernandez-Frey’s leadership the program guided students in conducting social analysis in San Juan and creating and implementing over 20 new service projects that ranged from building homes to planting mangroves to studying contamination and doing community clean-ups to teaching art and music in poor and violent neighborhoods.
One of those neighborhoods that he accompanied students to was Vietnam, where Fernandez-Frey helped to establish Caras con Causa’s first after-school tutoring program, Vietnam Estudia. It was in the Vietnam neighborhood that Fernandez-Frey first learned about the community’s struggle with expropriation of land and homes from poor neighborhood residents.
Fernandez-Frey bonded himself to the people of Vietnam, realizing that one of the best ways that he could assist in their fight was by helping their legal battle. He enrolled in law school at the University of Puerto Rico and obtained his Juris Doctor in 2013, attending classes at night while teaching, running the Colegio’s Community Service Program and starting up Caras con Causa.
In 2012, he left Colegio San Ignacio to become the full-time director of Caras con Causa, but he serves on their board, where he continues to be a voice for the importance of the school’s commitment to the “faith that does justice.”
As the executive director of Caras con Causa, Fernandez-Frey directs all operations of the organization, including strategic planning, fundraising, and extensive collaboration with public and private universities and schools, community-based nonprofits and private entities.
Recognizing the need to develop his managerial skills, Fernandez-Frey went on to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration from Rutgers University in 2017.
In addition to his work with Caras con Causa and his membership on the Colegio San Ignacio board, Fernandez-Frey has shared his skills, knowledge and passion for justice with other organizations.
Since 2014 he has served as board chair and legal counsel for El Corredor del Yaguazo, a non-profit community organization that promotes the conservation of the region’s natural resources through education and research projects.
He is the Puerto Rico site director for Amizade, an international program that offers service-learning courses, group and individual volunteer opportunities. Fernandez-Frey served as a co-founder and member of the Cristo Rey Network School Feasibility Study Team from 2010 to 2013.
Fernandez-Frey is married with two young sons.
Caras con Causa was founded in 2004 by Michael Fernandez-Frey and a group of fellow students, most from George Washington University, to facilitate service trips to Latin American to help poor communities, especially those impacted by natural disasters. The groups traveled on weekends and during vacations to conduct their missions.
In the early years Fernandez-Frey and his colleagues recruited volunteers and raised funds for service learning programs that took them to Guatemala, Haiti, Peru, Costa Rica and Honduras. They were thoughtful about how they designed their services. They developed training manuals for project volunteers. They also worked closely with leaders from several communities in Guatemala and Haiti to assess needs and resources and develop community-driven plans for sustainability and development.
Beginning in 2007 Fernandez-Frey led the organization in a transformation through a strategic planning process and rebranding, focusing in on development work in his home of Puerto Rico. That was the year Cara con Causa obtained 501c3 status under the name Caras of the Americas. The initial mission of the organization concentrated on the education of poor children through Vietnam Estudia, the afterschool tutorial program in the Vietnam community of San Juan. The mission has expanded to “promote community development to eradicate poverty through education, the environment and economic development together with the communities of Cataño and Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Since its inception, its work has been characterized by the integration of multiple development approaches to promote community self-management.”
Caras con Causa began operating full time in 2012 and currently has 11 professional staff members. These staff members recruit and train more than 150 volunteers each year, who have offered more than 4,500 hours of community service. The organization’s current initiatives are in four areas:
- Education: Caras con Causa provides supplemental education for elementary school students with limited resources through extended day programs in three communities: Vietnam in Guaynabo and Juana Matos and Puente Blanco in Cataño. The programs are primarily staffed by community volunteers and students from area schools. and provide tutoring, snacks, mental health services, sports, workshops and crafts. The Heroes del Humedal program in Juana Matos has a special STEM emphasis, offering activities and environmental tours in the Las Cucharillas Ciénaga Natural Reserve. Caras also runs Club Atletico Batu, a sports program with the primary goal of helping to prevent young people from dropping out of school and encouraging them to pursue college studies. Staff and volunteers advise these students about college admissions processes and take them to visit universities in Puerto Rico. All the programs strongly encourage leadership development among young people.
- Ecology: Caras con Causa considers ecology to be vital for the economy, public health and quality of life of Puerto Rico and is developing a new generation of leaders who share and act on this belief. Through the Raices Urbanas program, they are working to “reforest” the Las Cucharillas Marsh in alliance with the Juana Matos community and Corredor del Yaguazo, a community-based organization. The reforestation of mangroves and other coastal species is an important step in helping to stem off damage and flooding from future hurricanes. With the help of students and community members from Puerto Rico and volunteers from around the world, the organization has planted over 500 trees – and they are currently germinating over 2,000 red, white, black and button mangroves in their Vivero Antillano nursery. The Semillas Urbanas Program takes the educational component of reforestation to area schools so that students can learn about the ecologic history and significant environmental challenges of Puerto Rico. Caras con Causa hosts student and volunteer groups from around the world to help them understand the islands’ “complex crossroads between development and environmental health.” Participants in these ecotourism programs learn about the environmental hazards effecting Puerto Rico’s beaches and mangroves and help in the reforestation projects. They also have opportunities to meet and advocate next to local workers and activists for environmental improvements.
- Economic Development and Connect Relief: Caras con Causa is working to create jobs and economic development in the communities where they operate, particularly in the environmental sector. During the summer of 2018, teenagers from the communities of Cataño and north of Guaynabo were employed to collect information on the needs of the residents through the organization’s virtual platform Conecta Recursos (Connect Relief). Connect Relief is one of the most significant ways that Caras con Causa has helped to spur development in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Fernandez-Frey and a work group from the entrepreneurial project Propel B1 had been working to develop a virtual platform designed to raise the inventory of a community’s needs after a disaster. Shortly before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck, Fernandez-Frey convinced the Banco Popular Foundation to invest $15,000 in a seed fund to test the platform’s application. In fact, while Hurricane Irma was passing over Puerto Rico in late August 2017, Connect Relief was trying to reach the US and British Virgin Islands to launch the application. Knowing that Hurricane Maria was forming and heading toward Puerto Rico, Fernandez-Frey and the team worked frantically to finish developing a mobile application and train community leadership in how to use it. It was finished three days before Hurricane Maria hit. Between September 2017 and January 2018, Connect Relief trained 600-plus volunteers to use mobile application to identify the needs of communities, shelters, schools, non-profit organizations and individuals. They were able to impact 70 municipalities, 277 communities, 93 non-profit organizations, 471 health brigades and 278 humanitarian missions. Connect Relief makes use of social networks so that information on needs is kept up to date and they are able to connect donors, aid organizations and volunteers with the greatest needs on the island.
- Community Organizing: Through the Impulso Comunitario program, Caras con Causa offers training workshop and support for the formation of community leaders to promote empowerment and community self-management. The most significant issue that Caras con Causa has helped organize around is the expropriation of lands in the Vietnam community. Beginning in 2012, the community was threatened with a takeover by San Juan mayor Hector O’Neil of waterfront land and housing where they had lived for many years, a place where they could grow food and raise animals. Hoping to develop a multi-million-dollar complex that would include a luxury hotel, housing and recreational areas, the city began buying up housing and relocating residents, and then moved on to demolishing residents’ homes and businesses. One of the beloved sites that was torn down was a community center run by an order of Catholic nuns. Led by Fernandez-Frey and community leaders organized through Caras con Causa, the residents fought back and ended the demolitions. Community leaders demanded an investigation into what turned out to be illegal expropriations that led to a years-long legal battle – assisted by Fernandez-Frey, who was then a law student - over protecting this “Special Community,” which should have been exempt from such expropriation maneuvers. A court decision eventually sided with the Vietnam community. The community now has their own Community Development Plan which includes education, renewable energy, infrastructure and tourism that is a better match with the Vietnam community. The plan was developed by the residents assisted by experts and was presented and approved in “street assemblies” and then in a general assembly.
- Social Entrepreneurship - With Fernandez-Frey’s leadership and vision, Caras con Causa addressed the deeper economic, social and environmental needs not only of the Vietnam neighborhood but of other impoverished but strong communities in Puerto Rico through community assessments using participatory action research, leadership development, organizing and social action. Their ecotourism and mangrove restoration programs have not only educated students, community members and volunteers about environmental threats and solutions, but have raised non-restricted funds to support the work of the organization.
- Transformational Leadership - In a recent interview, Fr. Mario Torres, S.J., who has known Fernandez-Frey for 25 years, described his leadership style: “Michael is a visionary. He has a bold vision, is able to articulate it, and sell it to people from rich banks and poor communities. He knows how to make visions practical and how to empower people to carry out their visions. When he was in Colegio San Ignacio’s Community Service Office, he drew out visions – and steps to achieve those visions – from people. He has a great capacity to listen to people and use what is best in people, as well as a great capacity to be empathic and compassionate.” Caras con Causa is now an organization made up of transformed, trained and empowered leaders who can identify and act on community needs.
- Teaching One to Fish - From elementary school aged children learning how to be better students, to teens developing the knowledge and skills to save their wetlands, to community members learning how to research and advocate for their vital needs, Caras con Causa is teaching people how to become engaged and active citizens. As Fr. Torres said “Caras has had a major impact in poor communities who, even after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, are saying ‘yes, we can face our problems, we can do things.’ These communities have moved from a sense of defeat to a sense of community together. Caras and Michael are helping communities stay together.”
- Faith That Is Lived Each Day - Fernandez-Frey and his family are practicing Catholics. The tenet that underlies his faith is “the faith that does justice,” which motivates everything that he does and informs his vocation to serve as a lay person. Fr. Torres calls Michael “the most Jesuit non-Jesuit” he knows.
- Service to Others - Caras con Causa was founded to provide service to people in Latin America, and to work with them to recover from natural disasters. Although now focused in Puerto Rico, that essential commitment to service continues to be the key component that ties the organization to the people in the communities that Caras con Causa has bound itself to. “Michael doesn’t have any qualms about suffering with the people or getting his hands dirty,” said Fr. Torres. “He can keep the vision, but still roll up his sleeves to do the work.”
- Unsung Heroes - Caras con Causa, with a staff of 11 and small but growing budget, is quietly but effectively doing the work of rebuilding communities and coastlines in post-Maria Puerto Rico. While their efforts have not gone unnoticed by funders and donors, they continue to remain closer to the oft-forgotten communities that they work with than to the larger entities – banks, government agencies, universities – that they collaborate with.
- Dignity of the Human Person - Caras is a “bottom up” rather than a “top down” organization that focuses on individual development and empowerment. Fr. Torres said that Fernandez-Frey and Caras con Causa have “helped people regain a sense of dignity and self-worth. The organization has saved people not only physically, as in the case of Vietnam, but has saved their dignity.”
- Entrepreneurial Approach - Caras con Causa has taken innovative approaches to fulfilling its mission. This is evidenced by the move from disaster relief to disaster-prevention by reforesting mangroves to protect endangered coastlines and communities from future flooding and hurricanes and engaging “paid volunteers” as well as local students in this effort. The alternative “Earth Trust” development plan developed by the Vietnam community is another example of creative ways that the organization is envisioning community-controlled social entrepreneurship for that once beleaguered neighborhood.
- Commitment to Integrity - Fernandez-Frey’s friend Fr. Torres aptly described how Fernandez-Frey embodies this principle: “He is very honest, very truthful. What you see is what you get. He will never try to manipulate, connive or do things behind your back. He prefers to come up with the truth than to win a person out of a lie. At the same time, he prepares very well when he has to convince people of something. And he manages setbacks well – he just moves forward.”
- A Focus on Excellence and Results - Although it is hard to know the extent of the impact of the work of Caras con Causa, this much is clear: hundreds of students have been inspired to learn and value education; the Vietnam community was saved and is looking with excitement toward future growth; hundreds of volunteers have been trained to identify community needs after Hurricane Maria and organizations around the globe have been able to connect their resources with the greatest needs; 2,000 seedlings are ready to be added to the 500 that have already been planted in the mangroves by students and volunteers; and Caras con Causa stands ready to move into the future with new donors, new programs and new hope.
- Administrative Capacity - During his time as faculty and staff at Colegio San Ignacio, Fernandez-Frey showed himself to be “very attentive to budgets, deadlines, policies and procedures.” He has carried these principles into his work as Executive Director of Caras con Causa, and added legal expertise to his cadre of skills. Caras con Causa has grown from an organization of college students to a nonprofit with staff, a board of directors, community councils, annual audits – and a Platinum rating on GuideStar for their commitment to transparency.
Sr. Catherine Mutindi
Founder of Bon Pasteur
Sr. Catherine and her team at Bon Pasteur are working at the very heart of a complex and difficult issue - eliminating child labor - and in a location where the world has historically and will likely continue to ignore. She started Bon Pasteur in 2012 in the Democratic Republic of Congo after being invited by the local bishop to come to the city of Kolwezi to work with widows and orphans.
Since 2013, Bon Pasteur has been tackling the child labor problems with a holistic child protection approach that integrates alternative livelihoods, social protection, education and advocacy. In just over five years, BP has accomplished the following:
- 1,600 children are no longer working in mines after being provided with education, health care, nutrition and counseling services.
- Bon Pasteur’s child protection model is being replicated by the Congolese government.
- Research evaluating Bon Pasteur’s child protection model has been done by Columbia University and the Catholic University of Bukavu in DR Congo.
- The program has been represented in regional, national and international forums, with a focus on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the cobalt supply chain, including the annual OECD meeting in Paris on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains and the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance, which is committed to eliminating human rights violations in the cobalt supply chain.
Among the many successes in the seven years since her arrival is the enrollment of 2,899 children in school today.
Sr. Catherine Mutindi was born in Kenya and is a member of the Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (Good Shepherd Sisters), an international congregation of women religious, present in 73 countries, and known for their ministries for protection and empowerment of girls, women and children at risk and victims of human rights violations, including trafficking and sexual exploitation. She is one of a very small number of sisters ever trained in the top law school in the country (University of Nairobi).
In January 2012, Sr. Catherine and other Good Shepherd Sisters moved from Kenya to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and settled in the outskirts of Kolwezi town, located in the south-eastern region of the country. Their arrival was in response to a call by Bishop Nestor Ngoy Katahwa for ministries that support women, children and youth living in extremely difficult conditions in the artisanal mining communities near Kolwezi.
Located in the Lualaba Province, Kolwezi has one of the richest deposits of copper, cobalt, zinc and uranium in the world. Conservative estimates indicate that at least 80 percent of the population in Kolwezi is directly dependent on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) of cobalt and other minerals, which are in high demand by big mobile phone manufacturers, and increasingly, by car manufacturers that are reverting their production to hybrid and full electrical cars.
Unregulated and steeped in corruption and violence, local artisanal mining is an arduous, hazardous and precarious activity. It is estimated that 70 percent of children aged 8-12 years and 65 percent of adolescent girls aged 12-16 are involved in the artisanal mines in the Kolwezi region. Most children under the age of 12 have never attended school and only 45 percent can read or write.
The Congolese government and much of the international community have not taken steps to protect people working in cobalt mines. In the face of this situation, Sr. Catherine has chosen to prioritize the protection and empowerment of the two most vulnerable groups likely to suffer human rights violations and deprivations in these conditions - women and children.
Malnutrition is a significant health problem in the region, while many women and children (over 70 percent) regularly experience violence in the form of corporal punishment, sexual abuse and defilement.
The work of Bon Pasteur has been recognized by the DR Congo government and numerous leading NGOs including Amnesty International as the only NGO working effectively to address the widespread human rights abuses against children, adolescent girls and women in the Kolwezi ASM communities. Moreover, the approach adopted by Bon Pasteur to mitigate child labor has been identified by the several Congolese national and local government offices as well as the UN, UNICEF, the World Bank, World Vision, and representatives of numerous international mining companies as a best practice initiative.
Bon Pasteur’s vision is an inclusive and democratic Congolese society where the rights of girls, women and children are protected and promoted. To realize this vision, Bon Pasteur has developed an extensive child protection program, which aims to strengthen child protection systems, policies, mechanisms and approaches for children in mining communities. The project includes remedial holistic education, psychosocial support, a referral system for abused persons and human rights education, all of which seek to mitigate the phenomenon of Worst Forms of Child Labor for orphans and vulnerable children.
The program includes intensive training and awareness raising on children’s rights. To date:
- 6,000 children sensitized on children’s rights, peace building, conflict resolution and civic rights and responsibilities
- Nearly 1,000 parents trained on positive parenting skills and non-violent communication
- 5,500 community members educated on their rights and responsibilities related to the mining code
- Over 500 police, social workers, lawyers and health care providers trained on child protection
- 400 women and girls trained in economic empowerment skills
- 1,000 children and 4,500 adults trained on health and hygiene; and
- Over 100 households are financially stable due to improved farming practices.
Bon Pasteur has 44 paid staff in Congo, including six Good Shepherd Sisters; in Rome, there is a project manager and one financial manager working part-time on the program.
The services of Bon Pasteur are available to children of all faiths, but most residents in the region and the program are Christian. The program’s affiliation with the Catholic Church and network has provided it with high levels of respect in Kolwezi where the Church has deep roots and credibility in society. Sr. Catherine and her team have been built upon this respect and leverage it to connect to higher-level leaders.
Bon Pasteur collaborates closely with the Good Shepherd International Foundation (GSIF), a not-for-profit organization based in Rome, which fundraises and supports Good Shepherd Sisters’ programs around the world, providing technical assistance, communication and resource mobilization. GSIF is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the congregational leadership team.
A critical element of the program is Sr. Catherine’s advocacy for the mining industry’s adherence to local and international laws that protect children. Examples of these interventions include:
- On-going engagement and dialogue with state offices such as the Ministries of Planning; Gender, Family and Child; Education; Youth; and Social Affairs, as well as with the City Mayor and Divisional Bourg Mestre. There is a collaboration, sharing of practices and participation in joint events, which aim to strengthen the child protection systems and build the capacity of stakeholders in the sector.
- Participation in local and regional platforms such as IDAK (Investment Durable au Katanga), Human Rescue, CAJJ, IBGDH, ADDH, LINAPEDHO, the local Civil Society Network, as well as the network of human rights defenders linked to MONUSCO. These forums have investigated the role of the civil society in championing human rights for local communities, monitoring the activities of mining companies, their social duty; and the government’s obligation of Improving economic and social vulnerability; improving governance and professionalization of the artisanal mining sector.
- Bon Pasteur also takes part in local/regional networks of different non-state actors including the Civil Society Platform (on human rights) and the regional Child Protection Network, which is chaired by Sr. Catherine.
- At the international level, the program partners with other NGOs and international organizations (Amnesty International, International Justice Mission, PACT, ILO, UNICEF, GIZ, etc.).
In addition, Sr. Catherine has access additional international networks because of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ global structure. These organizations include the European Network for Central Africa, CIDSE, and FOCSIV which has lobbied the EU to pass stricter regulation on the extraction trade. Sr. Catherine has also utilized her congregation’s consultative status with the UN-ECOSOC in Geneva to submit periodic country reports about the child to the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child.
By treating women’s empowerment and child protection as interwoven with community development (including livelihoods, health, education, nutrition), the strategy has been more effective than other programs that typically work on women’s and children’s issues in isolation.
The Bon Pasteur approach is based on five key pillars.
- ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOODS THAT ARE SUSTAINABLE AND SECURE - The program helps over 180 families (most of which are women headed households) increase their income and food security through sustainable farming and other income generating activities. These include training on modern agricultural practices as well as the formation of farming associations that oversee trainings on leadership and management, literacy and numeracy, micro-finance and business. Each association is capacitated to form its rules and regulation to govern its operations. Annually, the associations produce over 60 tons of maize, soya and beans and 114 tons of vegetables for consumption and markets. The result is that over 1,000 children are supported to go to school and receive food and medical care.
- SAFE SPACES CREATED FOR CHILDREN, GIRLS AND WOMEN - Under the second pillar of the program, Bon Pasteur focuses on empowering girls and women at all levels – economically, socially and politically - so they will be safe from the worst forms of child labor and gender-based violence. Activities include the provision of economic empowerment skills including catering, finance and basics such as hairdressing and sewing. There are also lessons on community participation, poverty-eradication, health, hygiene and cultural issues affecting women. Home visits are provided to allow for greater sharing on specific issues important to participants.
- EMPOWERED CHILDREN THRIVE OUTSIDE THE MINES - Fundamental to the program are the interventions to strengthen child protection systems and policies and the improvement of services for children. This is achieved through a variety of activities that include enrollment of out-of-school children into the informal school of Bon Pasteur to prepare them to pass national exams, so they can advance to the formal school system. In addition, a committee of 40 parents has formed to identify and report child abuse in the community. To date, nearly 2,000 adults have been sensitizing on violence and abuse against children and over 80 cases reported and referred to professionals (lawyers, social workers and counselors) for follow up. The program also provides health check-ups for the children as well as summer camps designed to help identify talents among children through arts, sports, drama, dance and music. By supporting children in this manner, social workers, teachers, psychologists, nurses and parents work together to help children quit work in the mines and develop their full potential, through age-appropriate, physical, psychological, and intellectual programs in schools and other secure community settings.
- STRENGTHENED ARTISANAL MINERS IMPROVE THEIR WELL-BEING AND WELFARE - The program has facilitated the creation of 10 informal Peace Committees in the community. The participants, which number over 3,000, are regularly trained to resolve community conflicts and are sensitized on topical issues such as peace building, social cohesion, conflict resolution and management, citizen involvement in development matters and more general civic education and human rights. Peace Committees handle an average of 200 local conflicts annually. Through improved community cohesion and effective mobilization, the artisanal miners have begun to improve their working and living conditions and to lobby the government for an equitable distribution of resources and the full compliance of the mining companies to national and international laws and conventions.
- EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT ENSURES PROGRAM SCALABILITY - The program provides continuous capacity building of staff to ensure long-term sustainability, which includes training on planning, budgeting, advocacy and child protection.
- Social Entrepreneurship - One of the most unique and important aspects of this child protection program is that it is not exclusively focused on children or on traditional child protection approaches. Sr. Catherine and her team have designed a program that finds its roots in good community development practice, a human rights value framework, and the prioritization of child protection and women’s empowerment. Importantly, the child protection and women’s empowerment components of the work are not stand-alone, but central and embedded in the broader approach.
- Transformational Leadership - The Good Shepherd Sisters have designed a human-centered approach that is personal and prioritizes building relationships. What Sr. Catherine and her team do is almost secondary to how they do it; their focus on ensuring that people feel dignified means that the process of doing the work becomes as important as the work itself. Sr. Catherine started Bon Pasteur with people at the center of their work and built the program and its structures and networks around them. This is a qualitatively different approach than many humanitarian or development workers take - a slow, relationship-building approach - rather than a quick, project-like one focused on outputs. Healthy relationships with people, making them feel dignified and worthwhile is as much a hoped-for outcome of the program as any of the school attendance sheets or crops of corn harvested.
- Teaching One to Fish - As a missionary who will one day be called to another mission, Sr. Catherine is someone who has a clear vision for how the program will become sustainable; namely, through the deep participation, involvement and ownership by the local community. While this is, a mantra heard frequently in the development sectors, Sr. Catherine has embedded a real ownership in the community. As an example, the core cohort of actors already taking forward the work of Bon Pasteur are the women and children who have come to realize their rights. The program has already organized sessions in churches, schools and community gatherings during which these women and children are sharing their learning, displaying their awakening to human rights as well as their newfound confidence. Not only are the beneficiaries the core promoters of the program, they have been deeply involved in designing the next five years of work. Even some of the youngest children have already demonstrated a solidary attitude of paying it forward. When asked what, they have learned at the Good Shepherd informal school, one student answered, “If another student doesn’t have a pen, you help him. If you have a lot of pens, you give him one and give one to another friend as well. If he has more pens than he needs, and you don’t have one, he will also give you one.”
- Daily Lived Faith - Sr. Catherine is a Catholic missionary sister whose entire presence radiates her sense of peace in her vocation to serve the poorest of the poor, particularly women and girls. Not infrequently, Sr. Catherine faces opposition from mine owners and community members who feel she is threatening an important livelihood in the region. But she does not falter in her purpose or mission; nor does she inflame emotions or conflicts but instead works quietly and consistently to build the community from the bottom up in a radically inclusive way that seeks to bring all the players to the table. Her faith is her bedrock and source of strength as she slowly but surely is building a new model of community in Kolwezi, one that puts children first and does so in a way that does not condemn or judge but rather builds bridges and finds common cause.
- Service to Others - Sr. Catherine and the other Good Shepherd Sisters began their work in Kolwezi through a process of community meetings held in people’s homes. In addition, the Sisters began visiting the mines. The importance of the Sisters’ taking time to get to know the community—becoming the “walking Sisters” who, without a car or a truck, would walk to and from the mines each day allowed them to get to know community members and structures. One child explained, “If we don’t come to school for two weeks, they [the Good Shepherd Sisters and staff] come find us at home.” By physically rooting herself in the community, she has become well-known and trusted by a wide scope of actors including not only the families of Kolwezi, but also mining executive and government officials.
- Unsung Heroes - Sr. Catherine approaches her work out of love for the people of Kolwezi and dedication to her missionary vocation. She seeks no personal attribution. Further, she chooses not to work alone but with others, exemplifying the African proverb: ‘If you want to go quickly, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk with others.’ Her humility is well known both within her congregation and the larger community. She has built a team of sisters who are as committed as she is in serving the Kolwezi community. Sr. Catherine has also built local networks with the strong belief that it is through partnerships that the community can best be served. For example, she has brought in World Vision Congo to help with the delivery of vocational skills training for the girls. She has also strengthened relationships with the Greek Orthodox Church and the Salvadorian Fathers who work on food security and farming. She has invited the School Sisters of Notre Dame who run the Kolwezi Centre for Legal Aid to support the rights education component of the program. And she works closely with the Salvatorian Sisters who provide victims of abuse with health and referral support. This kind of inter-congregational collaboration is not common and reflects Sr. Catherine’s commitment to prioritizing inclusion and building partnerships.
- Dignity of Human Persons - Sr. Catherine and her team work with people who reside physically and emotionally in the furthest margins of society; her goal is to restore their dignity and create meaningful relationships with them. There is no open door or closed door for Sr. Catherine and the Good Shepherd Sisters; there is simply no door at all. As one of the children who studies with the Good Shepherd Sisters explained, “We have neighbors, and perhaps our neighbor’s child is mistreated. You come to the Good Shepherd Sisters and tell them about this mistreatment. You tell them in the office, and they go to go help the family. Sometimes there are difficult cases. They help people outside of the program; it’s not only those of us who study that they help but they help others also.” Not only is everyone invited to participate in the program, the sisters and their staff want to make the program work for the most vulnerable children and families. At all stages of the program, their focus on promoting human dignity - meeting people where they are, both geographically and emotionally—serves as the program’s touchstone. In a setting that is driven by a focus on the material, their prioritization of the spiritual in a meaningful, deep, and slowly built way has tremendous worth for the people. Moreover, Sr. Catherine, can balance her ability to engage at the most human level with the children in the mines and their families and, at the same time, engage with the decision makers and power brokers in the mines and the government.
- An Entrepreneurial Approach - The Good Shepherd Child Protection Project provides and models an integrated approach to child protection, considering the various aspects and actors related to the child’s holistic development. In this model, a child is at the center of the family, community, institutions and national and international government. To solidify and spread her model, Sr. Catherine has built partnerships with the Provincial and town government offices which have potential for growth, particularly with the ministries of Gender, Family and Child; Education and Health, Planning, Social Affairs, SAESSCAM, District and Zonal Health and the newly installed CPP Police Unit. In 2016, UNICEF and the national Ministry of Family, Woman and Child and the Minister of Social Affairs at the provincial level along with seven other civil society organizations formed a committee for child protection in the Lualaba province; Sr. Catherine was appointed the president of this network and works closely with the mayor of Kolwezi to strengthen child protection programs across the province. In addition, several mining companies have offered support to the program - something thought to be impossible at the start of the program.
- A Commitment to Integrity - Sr. Catherine and her team are well known locally and beyond for their personal commitment to contribute to a culture shift around corruption, especially within the NGO culture of DR Congo where small-scale, petty corruption is ubiquitous. The sisters live modestly and are vocally opposed to corruption. They bring snacks to meetings rather than providing the per diem. They do not play into a corrupt governance system and they openly refuse to engage with NGOs or other organizations who engage in corrupt practices. The Sisters have focused on recruiting staff who share their values and on mentoring staff over the years.
- A focus on Excellence and Results - Bon Pasteur has been recognized as a key organization in child labor eradication and has been involved in the plans to implement a national strategy to reduce the worst forms of child labor in the supply chain of minerals (cobalt). The Zonal Health Unit has also recognized Bon Pasteur as a strategic partner in promoting community-based health and as a periodic beneficiary of basic medication provisions. In the past five years, the project has focused on increasing the capacity for the children and families/local communities to promote child protection. The program has, during this period constantly championed the rights of the child locally with the different related government organs (ministries of Social Affairs, Planning, Gender Family and child (FFE), Education and Mining focusing particularly on the implementation of the provisions of the 2009 National policy on child protection.
- Administrative Capacity - The program is coordinated by Sr. Catherine, with distance support from the GSIF program manager in Rome. On the ground, the congregation has a team of staff who have expertise in the different areas such as project planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; the Human Rights based approach to development, community mobilization, administration, health and nutrition, community development, farming and agriculture, early childhood education, labor law, psycho-social counseling, spiritual counseling and guidance, legal counseling for victims of violence, vocational training and safeguarding policies for vulnerable children and adults. GSIF staff has expertise in project planning; results-based management; needs assessment; grant writing; M&E; fundraising; communication and social media; human rights-based approach to development; livelihoods, management of non-profit organizations; and international guidelines on protection of human and children rights in the extractive industry.