Hi there – my name is April and I’m a video producer/director living in St. Louis, Missouri. I was raised by two wonderful parents who ingrained in me a strong sense of compassion, fairness, and concern for right and wrong. When I was in college, I heard about the genocide in Darfur and my world was shaken. To learn that a government, in our day and age, is able to exterminate hundreds of thousands of people over a number a years with barely any comment from the rest of civilization was utterly shocking to me.
Shortly after graduating from college, I moved to St. Louis and met a handful of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and became captivated by their warmth and authenticity. Then I heard their stories. Some saw their family and neighbors slaughtered with machetes right in front of them. Some were forced out of their homes by armed men and sent running through the African wilderness for days and weeks, totally on their own. Many didn’t know what became of their family members or if they were even alive. Yet somehow they had made it to the USA and met my acquaintance, changing my life forever.
It’s easy as Americans to ignore what’s going on in Africa, either because we think it’s irrelevant or because it can be uncomfortable and ugly and complicated. But my Congolese friends cannot ignore or forget.
Four women are raped every five minutes in the DRC. Sexual violence is used as a weapon, effectively tearing apart the entire family unit with a single act. But at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Eastern DRC, there are people attempting to help repair these wounds, physical and emotional. I now work with a foundation that helps to fund the hospital, started by a friend of mine, Dr. Lee Ann De Reus, known as Panzi Foundation USA. This summer, along with Lee Ann, I will be traveling to the Congo to shoot a documentary project highlighting the work of Panzi Hospital and the resilience of the women of Eastern DRC. We want to tell POSITIVE stories, because we think everyone is sick of reading about the horrors. I’m taking off of work to go and will be donating my time and using my equipment, but Panzi Foundation USA needs donations to pay for travel expenses. If you’d like to be a part of making this project a reality, please visit the indiegogo page, donate if you can, and share this campaign with your friends, family, and social networks.