DRC: Sister Oléa realizes her dream of helping the poor by studying medicine
Student life: a mission field of compassion to hope for the future
I belong to the Congregation of Bene Mariya Sisters in Burundi. I am a student at the Faculty of Medicine of the Catholic University of Bukavu (UCB), in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), thanks to the financial support of Spazio Spadoni, an Italian organization committed to generating Mission and Mercy actions in the world.
It all started when I was very young. It started with a great desire to help people, especially vulnerable people, whom I had met since childhood in my village: sick, elderly, children and adults who are suffering in body and soul and need to meet someone who can ease their pain. In my congregation of Bene Mariya Sisters we have hospitals and health centers. There is never enough qualified nursing staff. When the Superiors suggested that I study medicine so that I could assist the sick in our hospitals, I felt fulfilled because it was the answer to my lifelong expectations. Because a number of factors made it impossible for me to enroll in a medical school at a university in my country, the congregation approached the UCB of the DRC. Spazio Spadoni agreed to financially support my studies through the “Invest in a Sister” project. This is a real investment for a future mission of mercy to serve the sick and suffering in my country and wherever the Congregation can always send me to serve the poorest, as Jesus says in the Gospel (Mt 25).
I first arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC on November 2, 2022, in the city of Bukavu. The community of the Sisters of St. Gemma welcomed me fraternally.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country in central Africa, with an area of 2,345,000 km2. It is the fourth most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt. Its population reached 95,894,118 in 2021. Since 2006, the country has been decentralized into 26 provinces. It is a country rich in natural resources and one of the richest regions in biodiversity.
Bukavu, the capital of southeastern Kivu, has a population of one million, according to estimates for 2023. Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Kivu, it is an exceptionally beautiful city with a very welcoming, generous, young and dynamic population. The city of Bukavu enjoys a beautiful view of Lake Kivu.
Bukavu is a very welcoming city with a mild tropical climate. It is particularly hospitable, which explains the presence of many people from other provinces of the country and a strong foreign community. The people of Bukavu have a great ability to get to know everyone. This has made it very easy for me to integrate into the new geographical and social reality, which is very encouraging and promising for my integration.
Once I arrived at UCB, thanks to the students I met, it was very easy to prepare for the entrance exam: I was able to go over the entrance exam subjects with a group of young Congolese people. I got very good results and was immediately admitted to the first year of the 2022-2023 academic year.
Bukavu has several educational institutions and offers many opportunities for a large number of children to go to school. I really appreciate the enthusiasm with which the children go to school. They have a great desire to learn. That is why there are so many intellectuals. People are open to creativity. The people of Congo are inclined to work in groups; they have a great sense of helping each other for community development.
The presence of religious denominations, in this case the Catholic Church, in health facilities is very important. They welcome the sick and provide them with adequate and very high quality medical care at prices affordable to all. The existence of mutual funds that function as health insurance is a great advantage for low-income people.
Actually, the Lord still needs many people inspired by the spirit of Mercy to serve the needy. For me, it is a pressing invitation to always respond to the needs of my brothers and sisters who are with me every day in my life as a student and in my community. It is also a responsibility and a commitment to work to alleviate the suffering of the poorest and to work in the harvest of the Lord to restore the joy of life to our suffering brothers and sisters.
Student life and the adaptation to study
Le premier jour de la rentrée universitaire j’étais comme perdue, mais grâce à l’accueil chaleureux des étudiants je me suis vite sentie à ma place, missionnaire au milieu de ces jeunes avec lesquels je partage le quotidien de la vie estudiantine. C’est aussi pour moi une mission d’aider ces jeunes, les filles surtout, pour qu’elles donnent sens à leur vie.
Studying in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a great opportunity for me to meet many brothers and sisters whom God has chosen to put in my path. The Catholic University of Bukavu is an internationally renowned university with high quality education. It is an experience that opens me to the world in a unique university system.
The first-year curriculum of UCB’s medical degree program is medical in nature, which encourages students to engage with modern medicine from the very beginning. The courses allow students to familiarize themselves with medicine to a much greater extent.
Personally, I love medicine; it is a passion for me. For a long time I have felt the need to sacrifice myself in the service of the poorest, most vulnerable and abandoned people, to come to their aid, to show them the love and goodness of the Lord and to rekindle in them the joy and hope of being loved by the Lord, despite suffering. I am very grateful to Spazio Spadoni for supporting me in my studies.
I am so happy to be in Congo that I now feel more Congolese than Burundian, even though I have only been here for a year.
Sister Oléa Iranyumvira