Once known affectionately as Kin “la belle” due to its beautiful gardens, wide roads, villas, the view over the Congo river, and above all, during the sixties, for it’s joyous nightlife, animated by the notes of the Congolese rumba. This school of melody spread quickly throughout the central and southern parts of Africa and continues to influence music today, (everybody in this part of the continent has learnt to say Bolingo nalingi yo, in lingala, meaning "My love, I love you").
It isn’t easy to find traces of this beauty in Kinshasa today. Over the last decades both immigrants from the immense provinces and refugees have flowed into the capital in the hope of finding work, decent services and a less insecure and isolated life.
The population of Kinshasa is approximately 10 million.
But what is life really like in this city?
The roads are full of holes, constantly congested, and unable to accommodate the thousands of cars, vans and trucks which circulate in a cloud of dust and smog. Only part of the thick thread of houses have running water and drains.
Electrical energy barely reaches the various areas of the city and is always slow in comparison to the growth rate of the metropolis.
Parents can’t always guarantee an elementary education for their children or access to health care.
Everything is supposed to be free, but in reality nothing is. Professors and doctors speak of salaries of several months still not paid by the state. In these circumstances they turn to fellow citizens, the people who utilize these services.
"Life is hard and difficult". This is the Leitmotiv of the people you speak to. Those who can se debrouille, they get by; those who can’t, find themselves in a perverse cycle which drags them down even further. For children, life is even more difficult: the number of children who live on the streets of Kinshasa is incalculable. All of these children are constantly exposed to violence and danger with no shelter or people to turn to.
In this kind of context, good news has an even greater value. They are the answer to silent requests, unexpressed cries. An answer to a deep desire of the Congolese people to confute the wide spread feeling of decadence.
There is in fact a sense of pride which can be perceived amongst the people which becomes dignity, higher and nobler thoughts, the refusal of any kind of surrender, the awareness of their own potential. This pride is expressed in the liveliness of their daily lives, in their music, and their joie de vivre, despite everything.
A sense of pride that can be seen in the way they deal with hardship and above all in their desire to start hoping again. The purchase of a vast piece of land will permit the building of a DREAM center which will include a center for prevention and treatment and a molecular biology laboratory in Kinshasa (the chosen area is Bibwa, a suburban area not too far out and easy to reach from the inner city areas). For these reasons this project has attracted the enthusiasm of many, offers and proposals of collaboration.
The signing of the agreement last November between the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and DREAM was truly a moment of great joy and faith in the resurrection of Congo. The congregation had already decided during the last chapter general to approach the AIDS problem in the capital, facing tremendous difficulties.
The meeting with DREAM, who have been active in finding original and efficient means to respond to the demands of the sick, meant that the projects could finally be carried out.
The determination of the sisters and the newly found hope aroused by DREAM are moving forward together in making life beautiful again for those who live in Kinshasa and to paint a better future, better than all the nostalgia for the past, for the Congolese capital and the entire country.