Novella Coursaris: A Model for the Congo
By Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
Africa is known for its beauty, majesty and vast mineral and lucrative natural resources of gold, diamonds, oil, copper, cobalt, uranium, platinum and titanium. But Africa is also known as the continent that has been the target of centuries of inhuman oppression, brutal colonization and exploitation. Yet today, the greatest natural resources in Africa are the people of the continent. African people are resilient, gifted, creative, intelligent and very productive. Once again, many African countries are on the rise with strong regional and global emerging economies.
Too much of the establishment media, however, appears to have a counterproductive fixation about only focusing on the devastating hardships of generations cosigned to abject poverty, historical neocolonial leadership contradictions, or on the misguided perception that Africans are just somehow incapable of their own sustainable economic development and social progress without the caring benevolence of the “developed world.”
The truth is, the wealthy developed nations of the world should care about Africa and be more supportive of sustainable development in the very continent that has contributed so much to how the global economy and international wealth have evolved during the past 200 years.
This is the reason I take every opportunity to lift up a positive true story of innovative courage, persistent ingenuity and real socioeconomic transformation in Africa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is located in the heart of central Africa. Noella Coursaris, a native of the DRC, is an internationally respected supermodel, admired business leader, social visionary and philanthropist. But the most stunning attribute of this remarkably beautiful woman is her proven commitment, devotion and passion to help young girls, women and families through the Georges Malaika Foundation (GMF) that Noella Couraris founded in the DRC in 2005. The mission of the GMF as a nonprofit organization is dedicated to unlocking the potential of young African girls in the DRC through education.
On a recent trip to the Congo on behalf of Russell Simmons and the Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF), I had the good fortune to witness firsthand Noella’s tender care yet firm compassion and commitment to help improve the quality of life of the people in the Congo, especially for hundreds of young African girls at the GMF School for Girls in Lubumbashi, the capital city of the Katanga Province. It is the leading mining and economic development province in the DRC. As we traveled by car on the outskirts of this city that has a young population in the city of more than 2 million, we came upon an astonishing sight.
About a mile down an unpaved dirt clay road off of the main highway, I was surprised to see a new modern brick building complex of multiple classrooms and other units that houses the School for Girls. Architects from Columbia University in New York City had helped to design the sustainable building development that utilizes local building materials and elements. But what was more astonishing was to observe the male and female staff of the GMF operating a small machine that was being used to actually make the bricks on site for the skillful construction of the complex of brick buildings.
Then standing there outside their air-conditioned classrooms were more than 100 little girls in their blue school uniforms standing in the hot Congo sun singing joyously “This little light of mine….I am going to let it shine.” They were pre-school, first and second grade girls with some of the brightest smiles that I have ever seen. While French is the spoken language in the DRC, these young students were singing in perfect English to welcome back to the school the woman that they all admired and loved: “Madame Noella.”
The DRC has a bright future and the prospects for economic success are encouraging. What Noella continues to do is the show that a committed person can make a real difference in improving the quality of life of others in Africa and throughout the world. Brick by brick, donation by donation, child by child, let’s support the GMF. Let’s help raise up a generation of innovators, educators, and entrepreneurs to help lead Africa forward. Transformation happens when people care and take action to change and to empower. Noella is a living role “model” and we all should work harder to uplift all of God’s children everywhere.
Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is president of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and Education Online Services Corporation. He also serves as senior adviser for the Diamond Empowerment Fund and National Director of Occupy the Dream and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.