Two British development workers are establishing a project to support the growing number of street children in war-torn Congo, cooperating with the Anglican Church there. It will be based in Lubumbashi, the country's second city.
The Kimbilio project is being backed from the UK by the Church Mission Society (CMS) and others, a meeting in Exeter heard this week.
Attempts to resolve the hugely destructive conflict continue. Congolese President Joseph Kabila flew to eastern Congo on Tuesday to throw his support behind a peace conference, but ruled out inviting the leader of a group of Tutsi rebel fighters for direct talks.
There are now some 250,000 children living on the streets in the Democratic Republic of Congo (known as Zaire under former dictator Mobutu) social worker Ian Harvey told a packed Anglican congregation in southwest England on Sunday.
He and his co-worker Mark Gant were speaking at St Stephen's Church, Exeter. They said that the Kimbilio project aims to get going at the end of 2008, after a period of vocational and language training, and is now seeking support through the Congo Children Trust (www.congochildrentrust.org).
'Kimbilio' is a Swahili word for a place of sanctuary. Harvey will be backed by the Church Mission Society (CMS), one of the oldest Anglican agencies, which works in partnership with churches across the globe.
The plight of street children in Congo has grown as a result of parental deaths from HIV-AIDS, children and families displaced by war, child soldiers who have been ejected from their homes and who cannot return, children of previous partners who are not welcome because one parent has remarried, and children accused of witchcraft - often as a pretext to get rid of them for other reasons.
Congo is the size of western Europe, but has a population of some 53 million, a life expectancy of just 49 years, 219 languages, and am average daily income of just 50p equivalent.
The second city of Lubumbashi, where the project will be based, is close to the border of Zambia in the heart of the copper belt. It has a population of 1.3 million.
Working alongside the Anglican Church in Congo, Kimbilio - Sactuaire des Enfants will establish a day centre where street children can receive food, education, skills and support; provide accommodation for a small number of kids in acute need; seek to re-establish relationships with families, and commence a community education programme.
"It is about benefitting the whole community as well as helping individuals, raising awareness of the wider problems as well as contributing to solutions," said Mark Gant.
Worker Ian Harvey is a qualified social worker and has worked in Children's Services in the UK, safeguarding children and supporting young people leaving care. He has worked in a hospital in Congo, then Zaire, before and was an election observer in 2006. He has also studied social anthropology at the world-renowned School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Donations can be made via the www.congochildrentrust.org website.