Nurses are the backbone of the Congo’s healthcare system. They are the primary source of medical care for most people, where doctors are sparse and located in centralized hospitals.
Nurses serve both at rural community clinics and regional hospitals. Unlike in the US, many Congolese nurses prescribe medicine, deliver babies, and perform surgeries, often in very challenging conditions, in addition to running public health programs in their communities.
Karawa is home to the area’s main hospital. It is also the administrative center for a health system that serves roughly 800,000 people in northwestern DR Congo. In Karawa, two collaborating nursing schools provide associate’s and bachelor’s level nursing degrees, with clinical experience both at the Karawa Hospital and at nearby rural clinics. The Karawa nursing schools provide critical training to both current and future nurses throughout this area where both improved medical care and preventive community health education are urgently needed.
- ITM Institut Technique Médical – Medical Technical Institute (high school level)
- ISTM Institut Supérieur des Techniques Médicales – Higher Institute of Medical Techniques (college level)
Nursing students are supported solely by their families who often work as subsistence farmers. Education costs often become burdensome, causing students to drop out. Those who persevere face the challenge of paying tuition and balancing the cost of books, supplies, food, and personal needs in order to meet their school bill. They are also challenged with the current dilapidated nursing dorm conditions, where they study without electricity, sleep under a leaking roof, and bathe using only a bucket which they must fill with rain water runoff from an outside tank.
After graduation, nurses go on to work in either a hospital or a clinic run by the CEUM, which is in a region overflowing with potential but lacks the basic infrastructure that allows for convenient access to medical care, clean water, and protected living quarters. Many nurses function as independent practitioners, running clinics with physician oversight only once per month.
By supporting nursing education, you will help keep these hardworking students in school, support school resources, and change communities for generations to come.
ITM - Institut Technique Médical
Helene is the director of ITM, the high-school level nursing school in Karawa. She is a mid-wife teaching all OB material at the school and is currently working on her degree so she can teach at ISTM.
Helene lives in Karawa, is a widow, and her children live with her sister in Gemena. She tries to get rides to Gemena on weekends to see her children, which is a 2-3 hour car ride. She enjoys her teaching but misses her kids if too many weekends go by and she is not able to get to Gemena.
ISTM - Institut Supérieur des Techniques Médicales
Augustin is the director of ISTM (university level nursing school). He is 32 years old, married, and has three children. His family lives in Bumba, which is 12-14 hours away by motorcycle.
Karawa is so remote that the community doesn’t have university trained professors to teach the students. Augustin teaches at the school for 3-4 week periods and recruits other professors to teach other periods. While teaching, Augustan lives at the school in one of the classroom closets. When the visiting professors are in Karawa, Augustin goes home to his family and his other job in Bumba.
Augustin is passionate about quality nursing education that will transform the lives of his students, and the health care system in this developing community. Professors like Augustin are equipping the next generation of nurses to be leaders and providers in their communities.
The Karawa Nursing Dorms where ITM and ISTM students stay during the school year are in desperate need of repair. Built in 1962, the dorms have withstood monsoons and wars, but are in such poor shape that they are now uninhabitable. Without a safe and healthy place for nursing students to live during the school year, many have to decide if they should stay in these conditions or return home, giving up their dreams to become a nurse.
Nadej is a 21 year old student in her third year of the ITM nursing school. She wants to be a nurse because she has always had a passion to help others. She lives in a dormitory with other students, which is not equipped with running water or electricity. Nadej wakes up at 5:30 every morning, walks to fetch water, and prepares her own food, if she has it. Some nights, she studies by candlelight and goes to bed hungry.
She is supported by her parents, who made the tough decision of which child to send to school. Nadej fears that her education will be too burdensome for her family, and that she may have to drop out of school. But she continues to work hard, and hopes that as a Nurse she will be able to support her family. Nadej is grateful for the opportunity to be in nursing school and work towards a brighter future.
What was your experience as you began to plan to live in your first dorm room at college?
Maybe you went shopping with your parents to find new bedding, storage bins, a shower caddy, and flip flops. The anticipation of going to college, living in a dorm, making new friends, and following your passion was very exciting!
Now imagine you live in the northwest region in Democratic Republic of Congo, in a village near Karawa. Your dream is to become a nurse so you can care for people in your village and have better opportunities. But you and your family live in extreme poverty. You weren’t sure if you would even go to college because your parents are farmers with an income of about $2 per day.
It takes you 2-5 days to walk to your nursing school in Karawa, worrying about whether or not your family’s farm will be able to sell enough crops to keep you in school.
When you arrive, the dorm that was built in 1962 is uninhabitable. It has withstood monsoons, wars, and it’s in complete disrepair. You find that the dorm has:
- no running water
- no electricity
- no working toilets or showers, so you have to bathe from rain runoff
- damaged roof that leaks
- an outhouse in the backyard
- walls that have deteriorated and have mold
Your choice is to stay in this dorm or return home, giving up your chance to go to college.
Rehabilitate the Karawa Nursing Dorms
Our goal is to raise $35,000 to rehabilitate the ISTM (college level) and ITM (high school level) dorms.
The project includes:
replacing the roofs
new ceilings in all rooms
repairing the windows and screens
new paint on interior and exterior walls