06/19/2014 07:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Back Home From Congo, The Journey Continues

Janice Kamenir-Reznik is co-founder and president of Jewish World Watch (JWW), a leading organization in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities worldwide. JWW's work is currently focused on the crises in Sudan and Congo.  Janice and five other delegates traveled to Congo's eastern provinces to work with survivors of the country’s decades-long conflict, which has claimed nearly six millions lives. They met with JWW's partners on the ground, with whom JWW works to create innovative programs and projects that change lives and transform communities. To learn more, please visit:


All six JWW travelers are back home, safe and sound. While the jet lag dissipates, our experience in Congo lingers. In the months and years to come, we will each try to make sense of what we witnessed.

We will grapple with the stories of unimaginable brutality, hatred and violence, with appreciation for the brave people building a brighter future despite the burden of a deeply troubled past. We will confront the grave challenges facing the country – and recommit ourselves to seizing opportunities to make a difference.

The task of transforming Congo in the ways that it needs to be transformed can be wholly overwhelming at first glance. It is a long-term challenge. We know that our projects and our visits are enormously impactful. Yet, they cannot lift the entire population of Congo out of the poverty and violence that now prevails. Our advocacy at home in the US plays a key role in this long game; we are actively and persistently pushing for the kinds of reforms needed to turn the page on this horrific chapter in Congo’s history.

Yet, to serve our mission, we must work simultaneously on these two parallel fronts. We strive every day to build political will and drive the sorely needed long-term change. Our trips have a different goal. We travel to bear witness to mass atrocities and genocide, and to share the support of the community of conscience we have developed to bring solace and assistance to the survivors of those tragedies. No one – not one person – should ever have to face these horrors alone.

Both of these objectives are on our minds as we return to Los Angeles. The trip’s impact is amplified each and every time that we repeat Esther's recounting of her life as a sexual captive of militias – every time that we talk about Antoine, who was robbed of his childhood and conscripted into a militia, until he was finally liberated by an organization that we support. This is what it means to bear witness. We travel to Congo and listen to these stories so that they can be retold. We do it so that you will join us in bringing solace and assistance to the survivors, and in speaking out to prevent future crimes like these from plaguing our world.

By reading about our experience in our blog, we hope that you too will struggle to make sense of our collective duty as people of conscience in the face of the great cruelty that afflicts our world. Below you can read some observations from the travelers on our journey:

Jewish World Watch has showed me what it really means to create peace amongst humanity: true fellowship and humanitarianism. With the partnership and aid of JWW, the future of Congo is brighter. I am truly grateful that I had the opportunity to visit my home country with the best group of travelers that I could have asked for, a group that eventually became my extended family.” - Irvin Kintaudi


My initial reasons for going [to Congo] do not do justice to this journey.  Ten days with JWW has enhanced and deepened my view of genocide, its victims, its perpetrators and its aftermath in ways I have never gleaned from books, newscasts or The New York Times...  I can only say that I was most impressed with the courage, dedication, tenacity and energy of the people we met who work long hours every day to make their people and the country they love succeed and prosper. “I learned a lot about devotion, persistence and sacrifice.  Can I ever measure up?  The bar is raised for me in so many ways for the rest of my life.” - Ada Horwich


The trip exceeded my expectations in every dimension…  On the ground observations combined with discussions with our group leaders, local leaders and experts helped me to better understand the complexities and challenges facing these populations [in Congo and Rwanda]… “The trip was interesting, challenging, emotional and educational.  The group was compatible, educated, informed and opinionated.  We shared ideas and learned from each other.” -   Ben Breslauer


I travelled to Congo to bear witness.  Everyone said I was so brave to go, but I discovered that I was not the brave one.  The people of Congo who have survived and prevailed under dire circumstances are some of the most courageous people I have ever had the privilege to meet… “One looks around and sees disaster, but that is not all that I bring back in my memory and my heart.   Every day we climbed into our jeeps with NGO markings and a white flag to go see where hope can exist in this morass of hopelessness.  Jewish World Watch, in its focused funding of programs with outstanding partners, is the instrument of change in Congo.  It is impressive to recognize how good partners have been found so that lives can be changed.” -  Terri Smooke


Esther and Antoine are pictured above. They are both beneficiaries of BVES, a program funded by JWW.