If I were to summarize my experiences in Bukavu, I would say that the Democratic Republic of Congo is a breathtaking and captivating country with beautiful, hospitable, resilient people. They stand in stark contrast with the striking amount of poverty and loss.











The first morning in Bukavu, I awoke to beautiful singing coming from a church next door to our hotel. My team and I stood on the balcony, entranced by the music while gaining our first overlook of the city. I was taken aback by the difference between the nice buildings and the dilapidated shacks. There were kids in many areas playing soccer (football to the rest of the world).

IMG_9357 IMG_9363








Driving around the city I was impressed with the fashion. For being considered the poorest country in the world these residents were dressed beautifully. But I came to realize that this stateliness was only in the city. Driving into the outlying towns, the poverty was much greater.










As we heard the stories of the women of Panzi, we felt heavy hearts for the extreme conditions and traumas these women endured. Yet, the majority of them were very resilient, and quick to find blessings in everyday life. The women lived moment to moment and were so very thankful for each meal and each night that passed without further violence.









While we were treating the women in the Panzi church, many of the women would tell me, “Mungu akubariki”, which is Swahili for “God bless you.” They also took the time to patiently help me learn their language.












The children of the town of Panzi were happy simply to gain our attention. They would sit near us and smile, trying to catch our eye. These were the children of traumatized women and some of them were the byproduct of rape. These women took care of their children as best as they could but you could see the children longed for more love and nurturing. I won’t ever forget my last afternoon helping instruct the Pastors at the church. I was signing along with the songs on my iPad and a group of children congregated next to me. They began trying to mimic me, so I decided to teach them a song by having them parrot back. They mirrored by words with such innocent delight and I was filled with such joy at the blessing in this exchange. After we finished singing together they kept following me around saying a statement over and over. I finally was able to have someone translate what these children were saying. They were saying, “We love you, can you take us back to America?” It broke my heart leaving those children that day but I am filled with hope that our efforts in treating their mothers will ensure better futures for them.


lil girlHillary and friend










One of the most memorable events on the trip was our hike in the jungle. It was just as beautiful as I would have imagined. I felt like I was in heaven. We only walked for about 20 minutes before finding the gorillas we were looking for, but I could have walked on for hours. We stood about 8 feet away from a family of gorillas and it was a quiet, magical moment that made me feel like a little kid. I was surprised at how gentle and calm they were even though we stood so close. It was such a wonderful way to end our trip to Bukavu.








I left Bukavu with an abundance of hope. There is a lot of healing to be done in many different facets of society but there are so many selfless leaders multiplying and doing the work that needs to be done. This trip has opened my eyes and educated me on the struggles of Africa and has inspired me to make future trips to contribute to this healing process.

team copy

~Hillary Boone, LPC