Monday, 27 October 2014

Mamma Noella’s orphans go to school!

Hi all,

I'm sorry for the lack of updates over the last month but taking on a new full time job has meant that I have very little spare time to update the blog. That doesn't mean that we haven’t been busy helping orphans in the Congo though, in fact, we have been incredibly busy buying school supplies for Mamma Noella's orphans, paying their school fees and enrolling them in primary and secondary school.

Thanks to my friend Kakule on the ground and our wonderful driver Roger, all of the children at Mamma Noella’s orphanage who are old enough to go to school are now enrolled and attending school thanks to all the generous donations through the sponsorship program.

Here are some photos of the children receiving their school supplies…

Photo of school fees being paid...

And here are some photos of the children in school…

Meanwhile, back at Mamma Noella’s orphanage Roda is looking healthier than ever and although she cannot walk unaided yet, she is getting stronger every day thanks to her continued treatment and regular visits to the clinic in Butembo.

Of course, none of this would be possible without your generous donations and continued support so thank you all so much!

Hannah x

Monday, 15 September 2014

Mamma Noella gets a sewing machine!

Thanks to all the support and generous donations to Congo Orphans Trust we have managed to be able to buy Mamma Noella a sewing machine so she can make clothes to sell and generate money to buy food for the orphans that she looks after.

Here is a photo of Mamma Noella checking out her new sewing machine!

Her first task is to make school uniforms for all the children from the blue and white material that we also bought her. She doesn't have long as the children go back to school soon!

If you would like to make a donation to Congo Orphans Trust so we can continue to help orphanages in the Congo to support themselves by starting projects like this then visit our website at


Thursday, 4 September 2014

A new organisation and a new website!

Following my trip to Congo earlier this year, I have spent the last few months creating a non-profit organisation called 'Congo Orphans Trust'. This organisation will continue to raise awareness of the situation for orphans in the Congo as well as provide more information about the projects we are working on and how people can get involved and help us.

Today I am very pleased to announce that the website for the organisation has finally been launched!

Please visit our new website to find out more about the organisation, the situation in the Congo, where and how we are helping orphans and how you can donate supplies or sponsor an orphan online.

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting more information about upcoming fundraising events that you can get involved in or donate money to and as always, will be posting regular updates of how we are changing lives for orphans in DRC.

Thanks for all the support!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Mission Congo - The movie!

I can't believe it has been almost 3 months since I returned from the Congo. Where has the time gone?!

I've been busy watching through all the footage I filmed on my video camera during my trip and have finally finished editing a short movie that shows some of the highlights of the trip and also shows the main orphanages, schools and clinics I visited. You'll see the big differences between those that are relatively well funded and those that are desperately in need of financial support.

I hope you enjoy watching it and if you have any questions or comments then please message me!



Friday, 25 July 2014

Pineapples, bananas and milk for the orphans of Beni...

This week we have organised another food drop for the orphans of Beni. As usual we have provided them with basic items such as rice, beans, maize, cassava and oil but none of these foods are particularly high in vitamins which the orphans need to stay healthy so we also bought bananas and pineapples which are full of vitamins A, B and C and milk powder for the little ones so they can grow strong bones.

Roda in particular needs to get as much calcium and vitamins in her diet as possible to help her as she continues to receive medical treatment to get her to walk. You can see in the next 2 photos how much stronger her legs look and she is finally able to sit up straight on a stool instead of sitting on the floor with her legs all twisted out to the side of her.

She is making great progress with her treatment and is due to go back to the clinic in Butembo for a follow up consultation in early August so we will keep you updated of her progress.

In the mean time we are working with local NGO 'REACH Italia' to create and financially support a project that will enable Mamma Noella to earn enough money to be able to provide food for the orphans each week instead of having to rely on donations. More info to follow soon...

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A wonderful update on Roda...

Who remembers Roda, the little 2 year old girl at the orphanage in Beni who couldn't walk or even stand when I first met her back in April? Here is a photo of her the first day I ever saw her with 2 other orphans, Joseph and Exalice. I remember she was sat on the ground with her legs twisted to the side in an unnatural position. When I picked her up her little legs were wobbly like jelly and as I tried to stand her up her legs just crumpled beneath her and flopped to the side...

I was so concerned about her and what her life would be like if she was never able to walk that I insisted we took her to a special clinic for people with disabilities in Butembo. This clinic has doctors that are experienced in treating children with disabilities and helping them learn to walk, as best they can, sometimes with aids such as walkers and crutches.

Because the clinic was a few hours drive away and Roda would need to stay there to be treated every day, the mother of the orphanage, Mamma Noella, had to leave the rest of the children behind and go and stay with Roda in Butembo for 2 months. It has been a tough time for everyone but we continued to support both Mamma Noella & Roda and also the rest of the children in the orphanage by making regular food drops both in Beni and in Butembo.

During the 2 months at the clinic, Roda received daily massage therapy and also spent a lot of time tied to a standing board which, though rudimentary in its design, is a great way to strengthen her legs to enable her to stand and support her own weight.

Here is a photo of her tied to the standing board:

And here is a photo of her during her physiotherapy sessions with her 'mamma', Mamma Noella:

I'm very pleased to announce that after 2 months in Butembo Mamma Noella and little Roda have now returned to Beni and everyone has been reunited at the orphanage. The best news is that the 2 months of a high calorie diet and daily treatment of massage therapy and standing board have worked well and Roda can now stand and her legs are strong enough to support her own weight.

Here is a photo of Roda at the clinic in Butembo standing up and holding on to the side of a wheelchair:

Kakule told me yesterday that if you hold Roda's hands she is now starting to throw her leg forward which is the beginning stage of starting to walk so the doctor in Butembo is very hopefully that in time and with continued treatment, which she will now receive in Beni, Roda will one day be able to walk.

Hearing that news and seeing the photo of Roda standing up is absolutely wonderful and I am so thankful to all the doctors who have worked so hard to help her and to all of you who made donations that meant we could pay for her care and treatment. 

Roda will continue to visit the clinic in Butembo, starting off with monthly visits, so they can monitor her progress. They say that she won't need a wheelchair although she will need a walker to aid her as she continues to get stronger and learn to walk and this is something that we are now trying to find, raise funds to buy and send to her. 

If anyone would like to help or make a donation to support our work then please contact me through our facebook page:


Monday, 30 June 2014

School, school, school...

Nothing is more important for orphans in the Congo than getting the opportunity to go to school and get an education, which is why we are focusing a lot of our time and money on paying school fees and also delivering much needed school supplies to orphans that simply could not afford these things without our help.

Over the last couple of weeks we've been sent some wonderful photos and updates from the Congo. First from Walikale which is one place that I was unable to visit due to both a change in my flight schedule and also the security situation on the ground. The team that I was working with in Goma (UGADEC) finally managed to get my box of school supplies to the orphans there and here are some photos of them all with their new books, pencils and crayons...

Another box of supplies also made it to Uvira which I didn't make it to as I was so ill with Typhoid fever. Here are some wonderful photos that Stany took with the children he is helping there including one beautiful and very touching personal message of thanks...

Finally we made a donation to Mamma Josephine's orphanage in Butembo to pay for the school fees of these 4 children who are in their final year of primary school so that they can take their examinations which they need to pass before they can go to secondary school.

Without our help (and the generous donations from all of you) we couldn't afford to help them and they would have to stop going to school so on behalf of Tavunirima, Mbokani, Kataliko and Manegabe I would like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has made a donation to help orphans in the Congo... we really are making a difference!

Monday, 16 June 2014

More food for orphans in Beni...

Today we delivered more food to the orphans in Beni. For the last 6 weeks, while Mamma Noella has been living at the clinic in Butembo with little Roda, the remaining 19 orphans at this small orphanage in Beni have had to look after themselves. We have been helping by bringing them food so the older children could still go to school everyday and also look after the little ones.

Basic food items such as rice, beans, cassava and bananas made up most of the delivery along with oil and firewood to use on the new stove we had built a couple of weeks ago. A few onions and tomatoes completed the food drop.

Here are a few photos of the children with the food and also one of our driver Roger who made the food drop. Check out the photo of the little boy wearing the Oxford United T-shirt!

Thanks to everyone for your donations and support!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

A new cooking area for the orphanage in Beni...

Last week we were told that the area where the children cook at the orphanage in Beni was in very poor condition making it almost impossible to use to cook food.

Here is a photo showing how bad it was:

So we used $30 of the Mission Congo project money to buy bricks, sand and cement for the cooking area to be repaired:

And here is the final result all ready to be cooked on:

Such a small thing that makes such a bug difference to these orphans. 

Thanks again for all the support!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Double food drops for Mamma Noella & the orphans in Beni...

Another two weeks has past since our last food drop at Mamma Noella's orphanage. This time it was a double drop with food being delivered to the children at the orphanage in Beni to keep them going for another 2 weeks and a separate food drop to Mamma Noella and Roda at the clinic in Butembo to keep them going for the next month while Roda receives more treatment.

Here are the children in Beni with their supplies of rice, beans, cassava, bananas, onions, tomatoes, oil and firewood. Total spend = $100:

Here is Mamma Noella and Roda with their food delivery of rice, beans, soja, cassava, milk, oil, sugar firewood and washing powder. Total spend = $100:

There was also enough money left to buy Roda some new sandals which is great as fingers crossed as her treatment continues she will be able to start walking so will need some shoes:

She is doing well and is gaining weight and continues to receive physiotherapy 3 times a week to try to help her to walk.

Meanwhile, we are busy arranging and paying for the cooking area at the orphanage in Beni to be rebuilt as it is damaged meaning that they are unable to cook on it. We are also making arrangements to support some orphans in Butembo who are in their final year of primary school but cannot afford to pay for the cost of their final examinations. 

More details and photos of these projects will follow...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Update on Roda and the other children at Mamma Noella's orphanage...

After a week of rest and recovery from the dreaded typhoid that left me feeling so ill when I returned from the Congo, I'm finally better and picking up where I left off with Mission Congo.

First off was to check on the situation with Roda at the clinic in Butembo. The update from the nurse there is great. Roda is doing well and is gaining weight and strength from the special high-calorie porridge that she is fed every morning. They have begun treatments on her legs, which is essentially physiotherapy to stimulate the muscles and get them working and strong enough for her to be able to stand and hopefully one day to walk. We should have some photos to post soon.

As for the remaining children at Mamma Noella's orphanage, they are all doing well thanks to another food delivery of rice, beans, cassava, oil, bananas, vegetables and firewood. Thanks again to those generous people that made a donation to Mission Congo to enable us to support these children while Mamma Noella is at the clinic in Butembo with Roda.

Here is a photo of the children receiving the food delivery last week...

They currently have a problem at the orphanage in that the place where they usually cook has been damaged so they have nowhere to prepare food so we are spending $30 of the project budget to build them a new small cooking hut.

I'm still waiting for updates on the orphans in the other towns & villages and as soon as I have more information I will share it with you all.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Surprise... I'm home! :-)

Yesterday I gave my family the best surprise ever by arriving home 3 days earlier than expected! In doing so I completely ruined their plans to surprise me at the airport on Monday but it was totally worth it to see the expressions on their faces :-)

I started off by paying a little visit to my sister at work who burst in to tears as soon as she saw me, then I went to visit my nan who hugged me for a full 10 minutes without letting go and then I went to see my mum, who I think was the most shocked to see me, and my little niece Eva who went all shy! Later on I went to pick my older niece Olivia up from school who saw me, looked confused and then realised who it was and ran to me with a big grin on her face and then we all went home for a big family dinner.... it is so good to be home!

So to back track a little I should probably explain...

After I arrived in Goma a couple of days ago we were discussing my epic 3 day trip to Entebbe when Kakule pointed out that it was possible to fly from Kigali to Entebbe in 45 minutes instead of taking the bus for 10 hours and that if we left Goma in the morning, we could reach Kigali in the afternoon and I could fly to Entebbe that evening. I did a quick calculation of times in my head and realised that as my BA flight to London left at 1am in the morning, if I also changed that I could leave Goma in the morning and be back in the UK almost 24 hours later which is what I did.

So after a LONG day of travelling from the Congo through Rwanda to Uganda and on to the UK I arrived back in London yesterday. I am completely exhausted, still recovering from typhoid and don't want to ever leave home again (although I know that will change in a few weeks once I have recovered!). I am thoroughly enjoying having the luxuries of electricity and running water and last night I had the one thing that I had missed more than anything else in the 5 weeks I was away... a hot bath! :-)

It was a very successful trip, one that I am very glad that I did and one that I am very thankful I have returned from safely. I was very lucky to meet some wonderful people and some amazing children while I was there. I owe a huge debt of thanks to a lot of people in DRC including Kakule, Joesph, Roger, Elvis, Jeff, Alexis, Steve, Bernard and so many other people who helped me on my trip and also to my new friend Kathryn in the states, without the help of whom I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to go and do this trip and I'm sure it certainly wouldn't have been such a successful one.

Finally, a huge THANK YOU to all my family and friends who have supported me from that first day when I finally uttered the words "I'm going to go and help orphans in the Congo" and for all the donations that made it possible for me to help as many orphans as I did while I was there. I have only just scratched the surface though and there is still lots more that needs to be done so this is definitely not the end of my time in the Congo. I'm sure there will be many more missions in the future...

Bye for now...

Hannah x

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Time to begin the long journey home and I'm ill with Typhoid fever…

With only a few days left in the Congo before I fly back to the UK it's time to start my long journey home. Because there are no international flights to and from eastern Congo I need to make my way back to Uganda, via Rwanda, so I can fly back to London.

Today we took the boat from Bukavu to Goma which was not as much fun on the return journey. Because we had to travel back in the afternoon when strong winds blow across the lake causing big waves, the small boat rocked from side to side the entire 3 hour journey. At one point we pitched so far to the side that the captain insisted that everyone put their lifejackets on as a similar boat had capsized yesterday and a few people drowned. Normally quite a confident traveller with the attitude that whilst the worst can always happen, in all likelihood it probably won't, I did start to feel a mild panic creep over my body at which point I put all my money and passport in my special travel wallet which I strapped to my chest and began calculating which of the 2 shores of the lake were closest if I needed to attempt a long distance swim in an emergency! Luckily an hour or so later we arrived safely in Goma although my legs still feel like they are on a very wobbly boat in the middle of Lake Kivu!

The next stage of my long journey home is to drive from Goma in DRC across the border into Rwanda and through the hills for a few hours until I reach the capital Kigali. I will stay here overnight before taking a bus for about 10 hours from Kigali to Kampala in Uganda. Once I finally make it to Kampala I need to take a taxi to Entebbe where I will stay for a day or two depending on when I arrive before I fly back to London. I'm allowing myself plenty of time because it is Africa after all and you never know when something is going to go wrong!

The worst part about this impending 3 day trip is that after feeling pretty ropey for the last week which I thought was jut a stomach bug, this morning I woke up with a fever and was really sick so I went to the SOS clinic in Bukavu where they took some blood and told me I have Typhoid fever. No wonder I'd been feeling so ill! I've been prescribed some strong medication which I'm hoping will knock it on the head in the next day or two before the long bus journey to Kampala and the flight home.

It's a sad end to the trip as I was hoping to re-visit some of the orphanages in Goma before I left but I feel too ill to do that so I'm giving the last few supplies I have to the team here and they can deliver them for me while I get some rest and try to feel better before leaving on Friday.

I just hope the rest of the return journey is less eventful than today's boat journey! :-)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Wild Gorillas in Congo… best day ever!

Today I took a rare day off and headed west out of Bukavu deep into the forests of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. This huge park is home to the largest gorilla subspecies in the world - the Eastern Lowland gorilla - and unlike the mountain gorillas that are regularly seen by tourists in Virunga and Bwini National Parks across the border in Uganda and Rwanda, these Eastern Lowland gorillas are only found in the Congo and due to the war which has ravaged this part of the country for the last 15 years, very few tourists get to see them.

Thanks to my new friend Kathryn in the states who knows the director of the park, I was given a private VIP tour to see these amazing gorillas up close and was even joined by a French biologist who works for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and has been studying gorillas for 11 years so was able to answer all my questions. The tour should have cost around $400-$500 but thanks to Kathryn and her friend the director my trip was free! (Although I did make a generous donation to the park and gave all my guides hefty tips).

We started off by driving up into the hills on the main tracks through the park and then turned off onto a much smaller, almost non-existent trail for a while before it was time to get out of the vehicle and begin the hike that would take us to the gorillas. Because the rangers try to find them every day, they always have a general idea of the area that they were last in. One of our rangers was a pygmy who knew these forests well and with the help of his machete tried his best to clear a way through the dense forest. After an hour of literally wading through a sea of vegetation, dripping with sweat, a million flies around my face and a million ants trying to crawl up my legs I heard the rustle of leaves in a nearby tree and the low grunts that are so characteristic of gorillas. I was so excited that we had found them I could barely contain myself!

As we continued to slowly make our way towards the sounds I looked up and spotted a young female gorilla up in the trees eating leaves. Then a saw a baby hanging down from the tree and as I inched closer I realised that at the bottom of the tree almost completely obscured by the plants that he was eating was the biggest gorilla I have ever seen - the silverback. The rangers continued to use their machetes to clear the area in front of him so we could get a better view and when I finally saw him I was literally speechless. After dreaming of seeing gorillas in the wild since I was a little girl, here I was standing a mere 5 metres from a huge male silverback gorilla. 

I was amazed at how happy he was to have us so nearby. He showed no signs of feeling threatened and just continued to sit and eat his lunch! Unlike the Western lowland gorillas that lived in the rehabilitation centre in Cameroon who wouldn't make eye contact with you, this gorilla would regularly look over at us and stare before looking away and grabbing another handful of leaves.

As we slowly moved away from the male I realised that there were many more gorillas around him but that they were just really hard to see in the thick forest. I saw at least 3 or 4 females, a few juveniles and even some little babies. The biologist studying them told me that this group has around 25 gorillas although there is only 1 male. The rest are his harem of females and all of his children. 

One tiny baby, the youngest in the group, was sat very close to the large male which is unusual in gorilla society as they don't normally tolerate that. The biologist told me that the baby's mother died last year when he was less than a year old and they thought he might die without his mother's milk. He now spends all of his time close to the silverback who seems to be looking after him and he is doing well on his new diet of plants and fruits. (Unfortunately you can't see the baby very well in this photo as he is so small but he is the patch of black obscured by vegetation on the left of the photo!).

After an hour or so of sitting and watching these amazing animals it was time to leave them and make our way back out of the forest. I was grinning like a cheshire cat the entire way as I still couldn't believe that after years of wanting to see gorillas in the wild my dream had finally come true. Best day ever! :-)