Blog

Seven women wearinng white aprons model beautiful fabric facemasks.

How the women of Un Jour Nouveau turned $500 in fabric into $50,000 in sales — and saved countless lives

Posted on May 19, 2020

Months ago, Un Jour Nouveau (UJN), a local community organization in the Congo, was planning to use $500 in capital from ECI to strengthen their dressmaking program, a social enterprise that helps women in North Kivu uplift their communities with training in business, leadership and in-demand skills. UJN planned to use half the money to set up a display of students’ handmade clothing at the 2020 Women Of Congo exhibition, and to use the other $250 to buy fabric and supplies. As the pandemic overtook their plans, the women’s entrepreneurial agility transformed that $500 grant into infinitely more.

Boston Herald: Lessons from Eastern Congo

Posted on May 11, 2020

Living in conditions of fragility and scarcity is a profound misfortune, to be sure. But misfortune survived turns into enduring wisdom. At this moment of global crisis, I want to share some simple ideas I have learned from a lifetime of partnership with people who have been through the unimaginable and survived.

Responding to the pandemic the Asili way

Posted on May 01, 2020

Traditional humanitarian aid is built for emergencies, not for people. We know we can do better — because we do better every day. Even during the pandemic.

How to Survive a Disaster, Part 7: You can still have joy

Posted on Apr 29, 2020

In DRC and other difficult places, where suffering is unavoidable, people find reasons to live with their suffering. I have seen people find the most sustaining reasons for living when living is hardest to bear.

How to Survive a Disaster, Part 6: Humanity matters more than anything

Posted on Apr 28, 2020

A disaster, even a very long-lasting one, has a beginning and an end. It is important to remember that we were human before the disaster, and we will be human after the disaster too. During times of crisis, our most important duty is to meet people’s most immediate needs — safety, shelter, medical care, food and water. But everyone’s humanity transcends those urgent needs. . 

How to Survive a Disaster, Part 5: Be powerful when you can, and help others be powerful too

Posted on Apr 27, 2020

It isn’t just health care professionals who have the opportunity to be powerful in this moment of crisis. Around the world, essential workers are building their own power every time they make a delivery, clean a toilet, or cook a meal. And in doing their work, these essential workers — like Georges, Pierre, and Dr. Johny — are giving the rest of us the power we need to get through the pandemic.

News from ECI, April 2020

Posted on Apr 27, 2020

As executive director of ECI, it gives me great pride to see that our teams in Congo are as committed as ever to serve their own people. Our programs are resilient, our staff is the best in the world, and our mission to serve the Congolese people is stronger than ever.

How to Survive a Disaster, Part 4: In a crisis, you learn what business you’re in

Posted on Apr 26, 2020

In a crisis that requires handwashing, clean water is indispensable. In a crisis that demands quarantine and medical treatment, clinics and clinicians are indispensable. If our businesses were to survive to serve our communities after the pandemic, we had to serve our communities during it — cost what it might. If you are in the position to make choices about whom to help during this disaster, be aware of what you are doing. How you use the power you have right now will clarify what business you are in. 

How to Survive a Disaster, Part 3: Survival builds expertise

Posted on Apr 25, 2020

Misfortune survived turns into expertise. When ECI began ten years ago, our founders, Ben Affleck and Whitney Williams, decided to invest in exactly that kind of expertise. Rather than parachuting into eastern Congo to set up well-meaning “programs,” the way most international humanitarian organizations do, Ben and Whitney realized that Congolese people were already solving the challenges they faced — with greater skill, wisdom and ingenuity than foreigners ever could.