Cassandra Basnett has established two schools in the Democratic Republic of Congo, pioneered a school in Mombasa, Kenya, set up microenterprises to enable Congolese women to support their families, and shared the Gospel of Christ with sex trade workers in Mombasa and rebel soldiers in Congo’s Red Zone. And she’s only 24.
Basnett, who grew up in Saskatoon, knew by the age of eight that she wanted to be a missionary. At 10, she had dreams of working in Congo. “It was Zaire back then, and I had no idea where Zaire was,” she says. “I thought it must be up north. Eventually I learned it was in the centre of Africa. That’s where I was determined to go.”
During her high school years, Congo was in the midst of what has been called the bloodiest war since the Second World War, but that only increased Basnett’s empathy for “her people.”
Following Grade 12, she signed up with IRIS Ministries, an international organization that operates children’s homes around the world. IRIS Ministries took her to Mozambique and, eventually, in 2005 she was able to travel to Congo with a small exploratory team.
“It was still a dangerous place to be,” she says.
She discovered that only half the children in Congo go to school. Most are boys and only half of those reach the fifth grade. She decided the best way to help Congo was to educate the children.”
With that in mind, Basnett partnered with two pastors in the city of Goma to build a school in the poorest section. Today it has 300 students, employs 15 teachers and is expanding to accommodate at least 100 more.
Basnett also established a sewing program for mothers of the children. “To see lasting change, you have to work with the family and the whole community,” she says. “We’re teaching 25 very poor local women to sew so they can support their families. We own the sewing machines, but they can sell what they make.”
Basnett describes putting out a call on Facebook. “I said, ‘Is anyone out there interested in donating $100 to buy a sewing machine?’ We had donations from all over and within days we had the sewing machines purchased. That’s the beauty of modern technology. You can donate through Facebook on Monday and by Friday can see a photograph of a woman using the sewing machine!”
In September 2011, Basnett opened another school, this one at Kalembe, eight hours into the Congolese bush – in the Red Zone, the heart of rebel territory. Kalembe has experienced more than 17 consecutive years of war. Both children and adults were uneducated.
“We found and bought land, and hired local people to build a school. Then we hired and trained local teachers.”
The school has about 150 children aged three to 12, but Basnett says there are plans to expand the facility to accommodate 300 more in Levels 1 to 5.
“We provide early childhood education – something people in the West take for granted. But these little ones come to school not even knowing their colours or numbers.”
The school also has a feeding program and has started a farm on the property. By this spring, Basnett says, they will be able to provide once-a-day meals for the children. “We grow cabbage, corn, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes. We also raise rabbits for meat. Because this area has been ravaged by constant war, there are no fruit or vegetables being grown. People live off beans and rice. We plan to start a dairy so the students can have milk and cheese for the calcium they’re missing from their diet.”
Article source: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/life/Sask+woman+dreamed+work+Congo/6136987/story.html