Over a 3 year period between 2013 – 2016, Heather created a huge installation piece entitled Wall of Courage. This piece depicts 80 orphaned Congolese children, all living now in relative safety, attending school and being fed everyday. This was not always the case for these children. When Heather was introduced to Kizungu Hubert, by divine powers she believes, Hubert was caring for 16 orphaned children in Goma, DR Congo. Though they spent less than 1 hour in conversation, they promised to keep in touch with each other through email. As inspiring as this meeting was, Heather left feeling a little disappointed, as her scheduled meeting with a Rwandan woman – with whom she was going to meet and interview for an art project – did not happen. Heather felt as though it all was meant to be and the universe would show her why, in time.
It is noteworthy to mention that on the day previous to meeting Kizungu Hubert, Heather spent an afternoon at the main hospital in Goma, sitting with a young girl whose arm had been held in a fire by rebel soldiers. The arm was gangrene and flies swarmed around her. It turns out this 15 year old girl had been walking for days to get from her village, where she was tortured, to the city where she could get medical treatment. As horrific as her injuries were, the girl sat unattended to for several hours. Heather, who had bananas and cookies with her, fed the girl and comforted her until she was taken into triage. This was about all she could do for this girl, but it certainly showed the girl there is still love and compassion in this world. This was certainly a situation that was so foreign to a Canadian artist from rural Ontario. At some point during this encounter Heather became so flummoxed with the cruelty and unjust nature of her injuries – and all of the other travesties she saw around her – with tears streaming down her face, she looked up into the sky and said aloud to God, the Universe, whomever was listening up there, “Use me. Use my art, use me however I can help. I have to do something.” Low and behold, this plea was heard. And the universe provided.
For 4 months Heather and Kizungu shared emails. Kizungu continued to educate Heather on the events that were transpiring in DR Congo and the plight of the children that were victims left behind by the ongoing violence that was taking lives each and every day. It was on the day that the city of Goma was raided by rebel soldiers and Heather learned of the impending eviction of the children from their home, she decided she must do something. With the help of family and friends, Heather was able to gather together enough money to build a new home for the soon homeless children. In the end it took almost 8 months and required a bit more fundraising, but on January 10, 2013 the children moved into their new home. But, instead of 16 children there were now 80. The Wall of Courage art installation depicts these 80 children. This is where our story began!
Wall of Courage has toured to 7 different locations in North America from Kingston to Seaside, Florida and parts in between. In its wake it has left thousands of people who have been awakened to the plight of these children and their fellow countrymen and women. It has raised enough money and inspired enough people to make the following possible in the Goma area of DR Congo, in addition to the aforementioned home:
• 140 orphaned children are being provided for with shelter, food, education, and adult care.
• A sponsorship program to support the children was created.
• 400 children are being educated at the newly constructed Jonathan Holiday School, where they pay no school fees.
• A child from each of the numerous area foster families is being educated for free.
• A medical clinic was constructed in Goma.
• A medical clinic was constructed on nearby Idjwi Island.
• A 6 room school is being built on Idjwi Island.
• A temporary two room school was erected and is educating 214 children for free.
• An agriculture project was started with donated farmland on Idjwi Island, growing food for the children
• A permaculture project is on the horizon that can provide abundant food resources with new growing techniques to the area
• A women’s training centre was founded in Goma by Cathy Cleary, providing victimized women a network and education in the trades (sewing, basket weaving, tie-dying).
These are all examples of what can happen when people are inspired to act and look beyond themselves. These are all the results of great, inspired actions taken by people who witnessed Wall of Courage firsthand and heard Heather speak passionately about our fellow humans in dire need.