2011 Opus Prize Winner
After compassionately serving the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for nearly 40 years, HEAL Africa co-founder, Lyn Lusi, passed away on March 17, 2012 after a courageous battle with cancer. The Opus Prize Foundation and those associated with the 2011 Opus Prize were honored to have had the opportunity to meet Lyn and witness her incredible work.
Lyn Lusi is the co-founder and Program Director of HEAL Africa, an NGO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that works to transform individuals and communities shattered by the atrocities and gender violence associated with the war that has been raging for more than 15 years. She came to the Congo (formerly Zaire) from England in 1971 as a teacher with the Baptist Missionary Society. In 1974, she fell in love and married a Congolese physician, Dr. Kasereka M. “Jo” Lusi, and worked in school and hospital administration in Congo for the next 19 years. After earning her master’s degree in Human Resource Development and Training, Lyn and Dr. Jo founded HEAL Africa, bringing her formidable administrative, program and people skills to the survivors of violence and rape in the DRC. In 2002, when a volcano destroyed the original hospital, the couple rebuilt HEAL Africa’s medical facility one wing at a time.
The long and brutal war in the mineral rich Democratic Republic of the Congo has claimed more lives than any conflict since World War II. It is a fight over Congo’s natural resources including gold, diamonds and coltan, a raw material used in cell phones and laptop computers. There is also a shadow “War within a War” of mass rape linked to HIV transmission targeting women and children. Last year alone in one DRC province, some 42,000 women and children were estimated to have survived rape, according to Global Rights. The United Nations declared the DRC to be “…the worst place on earth to be a woman or girl.”
While the story of sexual violence is horrific, it is only one chapter in the lives of Congolese women and children. The story many focus on today is recovery – an effort to heal from the brutal attacks that damage bodies and scar reproductive organs and minds; and that make it almost impossible to work or to resume one’s former life. In Goma, where many refugees have fled the war, women and children stream into the HEAL Africa hospital seeking not only surgical operations for their wounds of rape, but spiritual and emotional healing as well.
HEAL Africa medical staff provide maternal care, treat individuals with HIV/AIDS, specialize in orthopedic surgery for children with club feet, but are probably best known for fistula repair for women. The hospital also trains doctors and nurses in various specialties. The hospital is one of only three referral hospitals in all of Congo, and comprises 20 percent of the work of HEAL Africa; 80 percent of the organization’s efforts are focused in communities throughout the North Kivu and Maniema provinces. Lyn and her staff oversee 140 Nehemiah committees – representatives from various groups in a village, religious and tribal leaders – that work together as the primary vehicle to educate and support the most vulnerable in their communities. Other programs support foster mothers of HIV orphans, widows, survivors of rape and expectant mothers through training and micro credit and savings solidarity groups which help develop income generating activities. Psychologists train rape counselors. Young lawyers work with community leaders to settle land disputes, educate women and communities about their rights and responsibilities and work to change behavior regarding sexual violence.While Dr. Jo is the public face of HEAL Africa, Lyn Lusi provides quiet service as a faith-filled woman who exudes every characteristic of a servant leader, and who credits the brave women of the Congo with building a better future for themselves, their families, and their country.
© 2006 The Opus Prize Foundation. All Rights Reserved.