When you enter City of Joy, the first thing that captures your attention is the beauty of the garden, the green lawn, and flowers of all colors which look like all colors which illuminate the Garden of Eden (rose, bougainvillea, hibiscus, etc.). Sometimes it is difficult for me to imagine how the garden was a swamp full of mud. When I look at the transformation which is being operated in the former swamp, I have hope. When we believe in our dreams, they come true.
I have always compared our girls to flowers which lightly fade away during the dry season but are still alive. It is a metaphor which always comes to my mind when I see women, residents of City of Joy from their arrival to their graduation.
With our therapy, though based on art, music and dance, love is our conductive wire as well as the ten tenets to Transform Pain into Power. Love is the most precious and contagious thing we see in the life of every person who lives and works at City of Joy. It is that thing and secret which triggers change at City of Joy.
On November 20, 2014, the graduation day of 90 girls and women of the sixth session, I have had enough time to look at our graduates with emotion. The physical and psychological transformations are spectacular. The shift in their lives was seen in how they were celebrating themselves. The inner joy, fierce, and confidence was overabundant and could ooze from the body of every graduate. Celebrating themselves ( their vaginas, femininity, and power) was the only way they could let the world know they have come back to their bodies after a shady past and a hell of a life they lived before they were taken to the engine of transformation -City of Joy- with a heavy burden of trauma in their bodies.
All looked elegant in their colored pagnes which transformed them into the most beautiful flowers of the Congo. The ceremony was sober with testimonies of graduates, scenes of their lives before and after their stay at City of Joy. “We had a cover on our eyes and VDAY has given us our sight back“, declared one of the graduates. “I never knew that I could talk to people one day; an audience like this one“, exclaimed the other.
Once more we had residents who came from all the territories which cover the East of the DRC; a multicultural group of women who have found that they had the same quest and ambitions.
Furaha Mapendo, one of the residents (her name means joy and love), came from Panzi Hospital and from a psychiatric center. We hesitated to shelter her at the very beginning of her healing process because the form of violence she survived was extremely heartbreaking. I decided to follow her at a given time during her healing process at City of Joy. Her radical change during the time we could share gave me hope and strength to keep helping her. When she came to say bye to me the day of her graduation, we both sobbed. She steadily whispered to me and said “Mama Christine, I promise REVOLUTION“.
When they tried to burry alive these Congolese children, girls, and women, they ignored that they were seeds and that the ground of the Congo is fertile.
Now, 492 girls and women have graduated from City of Joy and make 492 seeds of revolution which are spread in the Congo.
I would first of all thank our Congo V- team who work in extreme conditions and who accept to make sacrifice to attain our objectives.
A big thank you to Eve Ensler who believes in us and in our mad dreams since we began the project which is leading to revolution.
Our heartfelt gratitude to every person who supports and encourages us in our works.
All our gratitude goes straight to our big V-DAY family in the USA without who we can’t exist.