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Hello Friends bridges the gap between PLNU and the Congo

PLNU won second place in a national competition for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to further plans on raising awareness of clean water importance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Last week students raised $1,630 toward the building of a well at European Parliament Mutombo Primary School and Mutowa Institute in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The goal is to raise $6,000 by April 3.

Robert Gailey, director of the Center for International Development, said that there is a donor who will match any of the donations that are made during this fundraiser, so he encourages students to get involved.

“We’ve had more than 50 people contribute funds to the campaign on-line or by giving cash in various locations,” said Gailey via email.

PLNU held a student-run water challenge Feb. 9 through Feb. 13 to raise awareness about access to fresh water, hygiene and sanitation. Courtney Mayer, a graphic design professor at PLNU, was one of the leaders of this project that started last semester.

“This started out as a project for my portfolio class. I wanted them to have an integrated social cause branding project. I went to Robert Gailey,” said Mayer.

After Mayer approached him, she asked if he had any projects for her class. He told her that Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ national competition focused on water justice in which they award a Nazarene university for their implementation of a plan for a national water campaign.

Gailey’s class and Mayer’s class, along with accounting professor Susan Brownlee’s class, came up with a plan on how to spread awareness on water justice issues and how to use the classes’ skills to benefit a community in need. This project started in mid-October and they had until Dec. 1 to come up with an idea, a proposal and a budget.

“We wanted to ask someone from the community who had a real problem with water,” said Mayer. “So we sought out Pastor Celestin Chishibanji. Pastor Celestin is the LoveWorks connection to PLNU,” said Mayer. “We said to him, ‘What are the water justice issues in your area in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?’”

Chishibanji said they were building new schools in his area that don’t have fresh water and they needed a well. He also expressed a need for toothbrushes.

“He also said that if you give a community a well, you must teach them how to use it so that it doesn’t get contaminated,” said Mayer.

To help in this effort, nursing students made videos in hand washing and how to use a toothbrush properly. Mayer said her team used a web program called Sparkwise to coordinate social media on a single webpage.

From there, Mayer gave Chishibanji an iPad as a means of constant contact and connection with PLNU. Next an installment on Caf Lane was created to provide students with updates on what is happening in the Congo. This installment includes two iPads under cardboard trees that contain live updating information from the Congo, informing students who are interested. The installment was only up for the fundraising week; however, the website will still be up until the end of March so people still have the chance to give.

Mayer’s graphic design class voted on an idea and finally selected a concept created by Rachel Harrell. Both the installation on Caf Lane and the website were designed by Harrell.

The team got second place in the national competition and $8,500 to implement the plan. The students decided $7,500 of that amount would go toward student scholarships for Beauty for Ashes.

This past week, daily events rose awareness of the issues of accessibility to clean water, hygiene and sanitation in the Congo. Tuesday had a focus on hygiene. Fifty-nine PLNU students made soap in the ARC. Thursday, 15 students participated in a toothbrush collection and Friday about 15 students helped with the cliff cleanup and BBQ.

“It’s really cool that they are trying to provide clean water for the DRC. Cleaning the cliffs is definitely a way to keep our water clean,” said senior Kirsten Hibbard, sustainability student volunteer. Hibbard is also on staff with the Hello Friends project.

Mayer said that even though the week is over, there’s still more to be done.

“We’re trying to document these events, load them up onto social media and tell this unfolding story to build empathy towards this issue,” said Mayer. “We’ve raised over $1,000 this week and the end goal is to have $6,000 by the beginning of April. The next step is to go out into the community and get business and churches to help donate.”

Donations can be made at

Videos courtesy of

“I think it’s the greatest thing that’s happened to Point Loma,” said senior business major, Bradley Zimmer, who has been involved in the process from the beginning.

Mayer is excited to see where this past week of events will lead. A team headed by Mary Paul will head over to the Congo this summer and will most likely visit the site to see the new well.

“It’s just been a great experience for all of us, the faculty and the students involved,” said Mayer.

Photos courtesy of Gabriela Garcia.


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