Lessons

Running for the Future of Congo

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At races students put their training to the test.

The runners in Project Kirotshe take off through forested mountains. For participating in the club, they each get a stipend to pay school fees. Image by Fiston Sadiki. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Beatrice Kamuchanga runs down the main road in Kirotshe, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Beatrice Kamuchanga runs down the main road in Kirotshe. Each morning she trains in the mountains surrounding Lake Kivu as she prepares to run the 5000 meter race in the 2016 Olympic games. Image by Makorobondo Dee Salukombo. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2015.

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Beatrice Kamuchanga, 19, will be running in Rio for the Democratic Republic of Congo team.

Beatrice Kamuchanga, 19, will be running in Rio for the Democratic Republic of Congo team. Image courtesy of Makorobondo "Dee" Salukombo, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Runners gather for a group photo after reaching the top of a hill on their morning run.

Runners gather for a group photo after reaching the top of a hill on their morning run. The steep hills and mountains just outside of their village, Kirotshe, provide a great environment for training. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Makorobondo "Dee" Salukombo, who'll compete in the marathon in Rio for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Makorobondo "Dee" Salukombo, who'll compete in the marathon in Rio for the Democratic Republic of Congo, started a running team to help the youth of his homeland. "If it's hard, it's worth doing," he tells them. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Dee stands on the shore of Lake Kivu as the sun comes up after early morning practice.

Dee stands on the shore of Lake Kivu as the sun comes up after early morning practice. Although many Olympians train at special running facilities, Dee, who will compete in the maration in Rio for the DRC, believes that it is important to train alongside the youth from Kirotshe to show them that anyone is capable of becoming a champion. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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After a long day of hiking, runners head down to Kirotshe from the mountain village.

After a long day of hiking, runners head down to Kirotshe from the mountain village, Kiluku. Although Project Kirotshe is based in the village of Kirotshe, young runners from surrounding communities have joined the project. These runners are helping to bridge gaps and build community between various villages and tribes in the region. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Beatrice [left] and Faraha [right] run down the main road in Kirotshe for morning practice

Beatrice [left] and Faraha [right] run down the main road in Kirotshe for morning practice. At 5 a.m. each morning, the runners of Kirotshe meet for practice before they head to school. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Faustin Mirimba Lukeno, Dee’s uncle and secretary for Project Kirotshe, organizes students as they sign up for race slots

Faustin Mirimba Lukeno, Dee’s uncle and secretary for Project Kirotshe, organizes students as they sign up for race slots. Community races give students the opportunity to put their training to the test while bonding as a team. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Fiston Sadiki stands in front of his home in Kirotshe

Fiston Sadiki stands in front of his home in Kirotshe. Sadiki is the team captain for Project Kirotshe and helps to make sure that the runners stay focused on their studies and athletics. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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When students finish racing they are treated to sugar canes and milk.

When students finish racing they are treated to sugar canes and milk. A great deal of commotion can be heard as runners cheer on their friends and celebrate one another. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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A group of runners heads to a field on the shore of Lake Kivu for stretching after early-morning practice.

A group of runners heads to a field on the shore of Lake Kivu for stretching after early-morning practice. Every day members of the team meet here to stretch and pray together. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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Dee records times as students compete in the community race on Sunday morning in Kirotshe.

Dee records times as students compete in the community race on Sunday morning in Kirotshe. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

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A team photo of the Project Kirotshe runners.

A team photo of the Project Kirotshe runners. Image by Daniel Socha. Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016.

Introducing the Lesson

1. Locate the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on a map of Africa. What countries surround the DRC? Kirotshe is located to the northwest of Lake Kivu. Can you find Lake Kivu on the map? Where is Goma, one of the largest cities in Eastern Congo?

2. The land in Eastern Congo is fertile and rich in minerals and natural resources. Do your own research on Eastern Congo. What are its main agricultural products? Minerals? Natural resources? Export products?

3. Eastern Congo has been the scene of conflict since 1996. More than 5 million people have died as a result of war in the last 20 years. What are the root causes of the conflict? Why do you think the conflict continues to this day?

For more information see:

"History of the Eastern Congo" on the Eastern Congo Initiative website

"The Eastern Congo InfoGuide Presentation" on the Council on Foreign Relations website

Introducing the Resources: "What Makes the Kids of Congo Run" and "Qualifying for the Olympics: Defying the Odds"

Read the Resource articles "What Makes the Kids of Congo Run" and "Qualifying for the Olympics: Defying the Odds" by Daniel Socha.

Answer the questions that accompany the articles.

Extension Activities:

1. Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) is an organization focused on working with and for the people of Eastern Congo. View the animation "About ECI" to learn why actor Ben Affleck was inspired to start ECI.

Discuss the importance of community-based approaches and grassroots movements. Give an example of a grassroots organization in your own community. What is its mission? What purpose does it serve? Has it been successful? How do you define success?

2. Congo's Children is an e-book that shows how the the country's youth have seen their lives threatened, their families torn apart, and their schools destroyed. Many are homeless, some are born of rape, and others are orphaned by war. Several chapters feature grassroots organization that are making a difference in children's lives.  You can download the book here.

What are some of the challenges children face? Show how different grassroots organizations are making a difference in their lives. Students can take turns presenting. What is the mission of each organization? What purpose does it serve? Has it been successful? How do you define success?

Educator Notes: 

This lesson serves to introduce students to the situation in Eastern Congo, the challenges youth face, and ways to effect change. "What Makes the Kids of Congo Run" by Daniel Socha will encourage students to learn more about the country and its history.

Students are asked to analyze the text and to learn more about the geography and history of the Democratic Republic of Congo by pursuing additional activities.

Before starting the lesson teachers may want to familiarize themselves with background material on the conflict in Eastern Congo that can be traced back to 1996. See the Council on Foreign Relations website and the Eastern Congo Initiative website.

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