A few weeks ago, works started on the foundations of a DREAM centre to be set up in M’bandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo. The centre was born out of the collaboration between the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, and Sr Suzanne, provincial of the Congolese Vincentians, is very keen on the project. It is the first sign of the presence of DREAM in this large African country, currently undergoing a prolonged transition to democracy and anticipating the celebration, at the end of July, of the first democratic elections of its long history.
M’bandaka, situated on the north-west borders of the country, is a city with more than 500,000 residents that stretches along the left bank of the immense Congo River (25km wide at that point). The city sits exactly on the Equator, around 600km from the capital Kinshasa. But these figures do not give a picture of the huge distances between a city as problematic and chaotic as Kinshasa, and the enormous territory sprawling behind it. Roads are engulfed by tropical forests and maintenance of river transport, on which depend connections with around half the Congolese territory, is rather precarious. The outcome is the near total absence of any links between the centre and the outskirts, so that real isolation characterizes the country within.
This is precisely the reason why the Daughters of Charity and DREAM wanted to set up a centre for antiretroviral treatment not in the capital, Kinshasa, but in the upcountry, specifically in M’bandaka, to start from those people who are most isolated and abandoned. The project aims to build a sign of hope in a land that has experienced the tragedy of a country potentially so rich yet plunged into a spiral of violent history, in a country that faces the temptation to resign itself and fall into despair.
On the banks of a river of disturbing beauty, the laying of the first stone of the DREAM centre expresses, as Sr Suzanne wrote to us, a great opening to the future and a concrete testimony that “we are moving from dreams to reality”.