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Congo: New job, new office

It’s my first day in the office! And I’m straight into the thick of it. In the first two hours we arranged meetings with partner organisations, briefings with directors, timelines and work priorities. Unfortunately the infrastructure here isn’t so simple to arrange: it’s 1.50 pm and I still don’t have internet access, the electricity is off and the generator has gone down, which means no air-conditioning and no fans. It’s 35 degrees in here, the windows are screened to keep the mosquitoes out, and humidity is reaching 100%. My skin and brain are melting.

I’m starting to realise some of the enormous cultural challenges the team here face. One of our main areas of work is with children working in harmful environments. Often the children work because of extreme poverty: their families just can’t afford for them not to work if they want to survive.

In some places it’s more complicated. For example, in one area where diamond mining is common, young children are specifically employed because they are ‘pure’ – sexually inexperienced – and are generally believed to be better at finding diamonds. Learning that made my skin crawl. Challenging child labour in economic terms is hard enough – but how do you tackle beliefs?

Education can be an amazingly powerful tool, and children in the DRC are protected by international rules that their government has agreed to meet, but when there are no roads, planes or internet, how do you let people know? What’s truly amazing is that the team here have already helped around 12,000 children get out or stay out of illegal mining. Now  we need to make some money so they can help even more children.

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