Naama Haviv with Congolese children (DRC 2009)
Naama Haviv is the Assistant Director of Jewish World Watch (JWW), a leading organization in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities worldwide. JWW's work is currently focused on the crises in Sudan and Congo. Naama and five other delegates traveled to Congo's eastern provinces to work with survivors of the country’s decades-long conflict, which has claimed nearly six millions lives. They will meet with JWW's partners on the ground, with whom JWW works to create innovative programs and projects that change lives and transform communities. To learn more, please visit: jewishworldwatch.org
Last October, Dr. Mukwege, one of JWW’s partners and the founder of the world-renowned Panzi Hospital in South Kivu, came for a visit in LA. My daughter had the chance to meet him (for which I will be forever grateful). She asked me who Dr. Mukwege was, and why I was spending so much time with him while he was here. I told her that Dr. Mukwege was a man that helped girls and women when no one else could or would help them, that he fixed their bodies when they got hurt. I told her that over the years he had saved the lives of more than 40,000 girls and women.
Lena’s eyes widened. Quietly, and with a reverence I’d never seen from her before, she whispered “he’s a superhero.”
She is right. There’s no other word for it, really. And Dr. Mukwege isn’t the only super-hero in Congo – not even close.
In the five years since JWW has been working in Congo, we’ve built incredible partnerships, invested in building the capacity of some of the most remarkable leaders I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and had a profound impact on the lives of tens of thousands of Congo’s most vulnerable. They really are heroes, working every day to rebuild their communities and restore their country.
I have the distinct privilege of working directly with our partners on the ground to manage our projects (I know, dream job alert). Every week we trade emails and phone calls, working through the challenges of our current projects, thinking about next steps, dreaming up how we can capitalize on the successes we’ve already had.
But unless our partners have visited the US, I haven’t had the chance to meet with them face-to-face since our first trip to Congo in 2009. While JWW teams made several trips to Congo since then, I haven’t been on them (there was that small issue of having a daughter to raise past toddler-hood). And there’s something that is just irreplaceable about face-to-face meetings and discussions.
So while my family and friends are brimming with the same questions they had the last time (will you be safe? Will you call/email/text/tweet? Won’t you miss your kid? Will your travel insurance evacuate you if that volcano outside of Goma erupts?), and while of course I will miss every minute away from my brilliant daughter’s ever-fleeting childhood, I need to admit: I can’t wait.
This cohort of leaders we have so deeply invested in, they are a part of the same Jewish World Watch family here at home and across the US that I cherish so much. This feels like a much needed, much anticipated trip to see members of my family, our JWW family, and I am so excited to see everyone and so privileged to be a part of it.
And in case you’re wondering how my daughter is taking it, don’t worry. She says “of course you have to go, Mommy. You’re a super hero-helper. I’m a super-hero helper too.”