Two decades of conflict ravished the northern Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, leaving widespread poverty and despair. Fighting between the government and rebel groups destroyed trade routes and farmland, displaced millions from their homes, and left deep emotional scars from rape and killing.
Today, many armed groups continue to exist and fight in the region’s heavily forested mountains. And due to rampant unemployment and economic hardship in rural areas, many young men are easily recruited to join armed groups, while women are often left alone to take care of children and hold communities together.
This cycle of instability weighs heavily on the youth in Congo, as many cannot afford to attend school and are forced to begin whatever work they can find at young ages.
In one community—the village of Kirotshe—a small group of students has begun to confront the long-term challenges surrounding poverty and education in the region through participating in a running program called Project Kirotshe. The program helps pay for the students’ school fees through a network of donors in the United States, while the students train and run races throughout eastern Africa.
Project Kirotshe inspires young students to become leaders and role models in their community and seeks to build a future generation that can break the cycle of poverty and war. This year, one student on the team, Beatrice Kamuchanga, 19, has qualified for and will run the 5000 meter race in the 2016 Summer Olympics.