From Queen’s to the Congo: students look to make a difference

The funds raised by the Nyantende Foundation go towards building an Educational Technology Center for children in Congo.
The funds raised by the Nyantende Foundation go towards building an Educational Technology Center for children in Congo.
Credit: 
Supplied by Nyantende Foundation

Halfway through a month-long Indiegogo campaign to provide computers for schools in the Western Congo, the Queen’s Nyantende Foundation has raised $5,420, or 27 per cent, of its goal of $20,000.

Nyantende Foundation 2015-16 Co-Presidents, Chelsea Breckels and Taylor Henriksen, both ArtSci ’16, are trying to make a final push to meet their goal with their team of 30 volunteers — the foundation’s largest team since it was established in 2010.

The funds raised go towards the foundation’s goal to open an Educational Technology Center in the Congo with a computer-based curriculum.

“[The technology center] will give the children there, who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity, access to computers and gain those computer skills that will help them get jobs later on,” Henriksen said.

The charity was founded in 2010 by Queen’s alumni Jon Skarsen, Comm ’13, and Spencer Goodwin, ArtSci ’13, along with a Congolese man named Aristide Burume whom they met through their shared interest in the Congo crisis.

The idea for the foundation began when the two founders met Burume — a St. Lawrence student at the time — who was sending money to a local perish in his home town of Nyantende. The priest receiving the money put it toward sending children to school.

The founders, appreciative of the education they received at Queen’s, wanted to give the opportunity they had to children in the Congo. They then partnered with Burume and founded the organization.

The non-profit foundation currently enrolls 229 boys and girls throughout Nyantende and the surrounding area in 15 primary, secondary and post-secondary schools.

“Last year, we brought over three laptops and this year we are hoping to expand on the technology component by expanding the center,” Breckels said.

As for the future of the charity, Henriksen said the foundation may look into repairing the schools, as they’re in very poor condition.

“Personally, I would love to see us take on repairs of the schools so that they can hold more students,” she said.

The co-presidents say they’re hoping to raise more awareness about the charity through social media.

“The Congo is in such a huge state of conflict. You can send food over and medical supplies and that will be a temporary fix, but I think giving a kid an education is what’s going to make a difference long-term, because it is going to give them the tools they need in their own life,” Breckels said.

The foundation typically holds one large event each year to raise money. Last year, the founders went on a tour of five cities with singer Jesse Gold and Birds of Bellwoods. Roughly $5,000 was raised on the tour.

The Nyantende Foundation is hoping to hold a similar concert this year to raise money.

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