Here is a little bit about our leaders and why we do what we do:
I fled the Congo on Sept. 23, 1997, followed by my husband and six children (ages 3 and 11 at the time) 20 months later. My work as an attorney standing up for women’s rights put us in danger in the DRC, so we had no choice but to leave. We raised our family near Dallas, but our hearts stayed in the Congo. Ten years after we fled, a friend back in the Congo asked me why I had turned my back on my country. Why was I not helping Congo’s women and children.
So I went back.
I met with women who had been raped. My career had been fighting for women’s rights in a place where women have no rights. I visited women who were living in the very city where I was raised. And they asked about their children. So I went to the villages where their children were, Kanyole and Walungu (south of Kivu). And I found hundreds of children. Hundreds of orphans. I, too, was orphaned at a young age. I could not turn away so I took 30. Out of hundreds, I could take only 30. And I gave them a house, and I created a life for them.
These are my children, just as the six I gave birth to are my children. Because these are Congo’s children, they are my children. And Congo’s women are my women. I teach them to sew. I teach them skills so they will be more than the raped women of Congo.
My six children are now grown, the youngest a sophomore at SMU. They are living the so-called American dream. I am so happy for them. But that is not my dream. My dream is back with the women and children of Congo.
In 2013, my husband and I moved back to Bukavu, DRC. We are home, working every day — woman by woman, child by child — to restore Congo to the country it has every potential to be.
I am a freelance writer and mother to two teenaged boys. Working to give people in the developing world a chance to change their circumstances — whether through safe housing or education — is an important value my husband and I are trying to pass onto our sons. I first went to Africa in 2008 and, as I knew it would, the trip changed my world view. Since then, I have been involved in various ways in the DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda. I have seen the potential in this troubled continent and in its people. I believe that by empowering Africans — especially the women of Africa — Africans can turn their circumstances and their countries around. The people I have met in Africa, including Gorethy, are not defined by their circumstances. Though these circumstances are unimaginable to most Americans — war, rape, disease, a lack of education and basic structure — the women and children of the DRC are strong. They need power, not pity. I believe Congo Restoration’s focus on empowerment is the path to restoring this country, so rich in potential.
Clare Stein, treasurer/board of directors
I am a mother of two boys in college, a teacher of children with learning differences, and a person who still believes that world peace is possible. I know that peace won’t happen on its own, however, so my service to Congo Restoration is one of the steps I’m taking to help us get there.
Kristin Mallory, secretary/board of directors
I was born and raised in San Diego, California, and came to Dallas to attend SMU, where I received my BA in psychology and MS in family studies. I worked in youth ministry after college for four years, gaining lots of experience working with children, teenagers, and families. I then worked with children in the foster care system for five years. I am now the youth and children’s minister at Greenland Hills United Methodist Church, where I have been a member for many years with my wife and our three young children. Connie and I share a passion for Africa, where we both traveled before we met. Congo Restoration allows us to continue that passion.
Debrianna Obama, member/board of directors
As president of Wet Cement (a marketing consulting and coaching company, I’ve got 20 years experience leading teams, business development, and strategy, which allows me to help organizations “make their mark” in today’s landscape. My wealth of experience developing innovative marketing programs, crafting powerful pitches, and designing creative media plans has helped my clients distinguish their brands in exciting ways. Congo Restoration is such an important non-profit to me on several levels. First, the work we do is so critical. A little bit of money goes a long way to drastically improve someone’s life, and the impact is immeasurable. Additionally, Congo Restoration puts every dollar we raise back into the community we serve. This accountability is also crucial. I love the diversity of our board and our members, and I truly enjoy the people I have had the privilege to meet and work with. Congo Restoration has been a great experience, and I’m honored to be a board member. I have lived all over the United States, but am lucky enough to call Southern California my home.
Anthony Torres, creative director
I am a creative director with a background in art direction during my 25-year career. I have worked for advertising agencies, design and PR firms, and, for the last 16 years, have successful run my own business. I have done work for national and local clients, helping launch and rebrand more than a few. I am a graduate of The Art Institute of Houston Design School and live in Richardson, Texas, with my wife and 14-year-old son.
Kelly Vernon-Hart, member/board of directors
I have always felt a connection to Africa. It was a dream of mine to join the Peace Corps and be stationed in Africa. A car accident put a few of my dreams on hold. I graduated from UT in Austin and went to Huston Tillotson University to be a special education teacher. A new dream had bloomed. Getting the summers off as a teacher is great, so I decided to research volunteering in Africa with Cross Cultural Solutions. I spent a month in Arusha, Tanzania. I went with the naive hope of making an impact on the lives of the people I was to meet. The reverse happened. My life was forever changed and I am indebted to those sensational people I had the honor to meet and work with. This was 12 years ago and the Rwandan genocide was still in trials in Arusha. A few years ago, I went to a Congo Restoration information program at our church. I fell in love with the gorgeous and amazing bravery of Gorethy. The passions of Dawn and Connie and all hard workers on this committee have inspired me and made me feel at home. There is so much horrifying distress in this world and women have had to endure the unimaginable. I love these women in the schools, the teachers, the benefactors in Congo Restoration. I am blessed to be a small grain in this group.
Dominique Diomi, member/board of directors
My name is Dominique Diomi, native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and board member of Congo Restoration. I have called Texas my home for 15 years, of which 10 has been serving with Congo Restoration at some level. I serve as the current president of the Congolese Community of Dallas Fort Worth in addition to running a small logistic operation in West Texas. I am an alumni of University of North Texas with a BA in Political Sciences and still take a few classes online, when time allows, toward a B.S in industrial Technology at the University of Texas in the Permian Basin. Even Though life in America for this immigrant hasn’t always been easy, I have known my ups and downs — yet nothing compares to situation of the people in some communities in DRCongo. America has been great to me. Here, I have gotten the opportunity to be educated some of the best schools, get solid professional experiences, and blossom into the intrepid entrepreneur I am today. I have witnessed Congo Restoration transform many lives in my home country and being part of this wonderful endeavor has been for many years and still is to this day, one the most fulfilling part of my life. I am thankful for this opportunity — thankful to our Founder Gorethy Nabushosi, our wonderful leadership team led by Dawn McMullan, and all the donors and volunteers who have made all this possible.
Diana Dubois, member/board of directors
Kimberly Knight, member/board of directors
Alphonsine Phopho, member/board of directors
Angela Cleveland, member/board of directors
Craig Wilbanks, member/board of directors