INSPIRATIONS: Education Equals Empowerment

 

With her organization, Dreams of My Homeland, Kaite Beatrice Mbayo is providing educational opportunities to children both at home and abroad.

The name Beatrice means ”bringer of joy,” so Kaite Beatrice Mbayo felt destined to enrich the lives of others. She says, “I can’t take what I have with me, so I should give back by helping others. I strongly believe that everyone has the potential to make a difference in another’s life.”

Mbayo’s global nonprofit organization, Dreams of My Homeland (DOMH) provides education to children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with a focus on learning, the environment, health, and young women’s rights. The ultimate goal is “making the world more sustainable.” DOMH is also dedicated to addressing the needs of immigrants and resettled refugees in Lexington to ease the transition into our complex culture and educational system (a service often overlooked by other social agencies). Mbayo states, “I believe an educated nation is an empowered nation. Without education, people are unable to sustain themselves and provide for their families.”

The school, in Kinsevere, Lubumbashi, opened its doors in September of 2018 with 180 students; it now has 21 staff and

teachers and provides education to 500 students. Along with learning, DOMH ensures clean water is available to the children and the community. However, the journey was a challenging one. According to Mbayo, “It took five years to build the six classrooms we have now, because it was built from my paycheck. But in 2018, our school opened.“

Mbayo grew up as one of 17 siblings in the DRC in a time when girls were often married extremely young and received minimal, if any, education. However, thanks to her mother and Mbayo’s impressive entrance exam scores, she was able to attend one of the best schools in her region. Mbayo says, “My mother never quit when she wanted to accomplish something. She insisted I obtain my education. Otherwise, I could have been married at 12 years old, but she persisted and said ‘Go to school.’ I walked six miles to attend primary school, with one book for all subjects and a pencil or pen that I could not lose.”

After the war broke out in 1997, Mbayo, who was then married with a family, was forced to flee to a refugee camp in the desert area of  Zimbabwe with over 200 families sharing one well as their water source. “I would get up at three a.m. to get ten gallons of water for our family each day,” Mbayo recalled.

After her husband passed away, Mbayo reached out to officials to help get her family to a safer place. Instead of assistance, her requests were met with “unspeakable abuse.” However, in July of 2006, Mbayo and her family finally arrived in Lexington, Kentucky to start a new life. But Mbayo was still haunted by her experiences. She says, “After coming to the U.S., I suffered PTSD for many years. In 2011, I decided to return to the Congo to face my fears and seek healing. It was exceedingly difficult to return to my homeland and visit.”

This visit changed the trajectory of Mbayo’s life, and in turn the lives of so many others. “During my visit, all I could see were the children who did not have educational opportunities. One night, during my visit, I lay awake thinking of all the children who were not attending school. I decided right there to stop focusing on myself, past pain, and abuse, and to move forward to helping others.

“DOMH was born that night. In 2013, I was able to save enough money from my nine dollar an hour caregiver paycheck to return to the Congo and start building the school.” From this time forward, Mbayo has not suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Annually, Mbayo takes trips back to the Congo to help build and improve the school. Next on the agenda is to provide supplies, such as clothing, food, and textbooks, to students as well as clean water to other areas in need and farming trees that will produce fruits. DOMH also plans to improve the school itself.

According to DOMH Director Sara Kauffman, “We have over 500 students enrolled in our school in the DR of Congo. These children walk over an hour each way to school and sit on the floor to be educated. Our 2021 goal and vision is to provide these students with a generator, benches to sit on, and a wall around their school for security. These needs will cost around $68,000 to implement. We’ve raised $25,000 so far through local businesses and churches.”

In closing, Mbayo offers this inspiration to others: “Don’t let your fear get in the way of doing great things. Don’t let anyone’s words change who you were created to be. When I started DOMH, I was a single mom raising three kids and working full-time with a mortgage. I knew my calling was to help people in need. Providing education and resources to the U.S. and children in the Congo is one of the things I am called to do. I know I am gifted to bring light to others.”

“I believe an educated nation is an empowered nation. Without education, people are unable to sustain themselves and provide for their families.”