GFF hospital - kisangani

Hôpital du Cinquantenaire de Kisangani

Through the years Kisangani and the rest of the DRC have suffered with a serious lack of basic healthcare. Close to a million locals inhabiting Kisangani and the villages around it have been enduring malnutrition, a high infant mortality rate and prevailing endemic tropical diseases – with very little medication and medical treatment options available.

Healthcare Hope

Hôpital du Cinquantenaire de Kisangani (Kisangani Hospital) opened its doors in January 2013, after receiving support from the Gertler Family Foundation. Located along the Congo River in one of the world’s biggest rainforests, the hospital is a herald of positive change in healthcare in the DRC. In less than a year it has dramatically contributed to reducing the infant mortality rate and has saved thousands of lives. With a complement of 120 medical staff members and a capacity of 102 beds, Kisangani Hospital is providing unprecedented healthcare to its local population.

Meeting Challenges

The hospital’s Medical Director, Dr Andrè Hattingh, says that meeting the healthcare needs of the region with the hospital is not without challenges. According to Dr Hattingh it is a combination of passion, training and the state-of-the-art equipment, sponsored by the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF), that makes it possible to address the healthcare needs of Kisangani’s population.

Built in 2010, the hospital remained closed due to lack of funds. If it wasn’t for the GFF’s US$2 million injection in 2012, and a further US$1 million soon after, the hospital’s doors may have remained closed indefinitely. Instead, it now provides world-class healthcare, and ensures that its medical professionals remain highly skilled by running an extensive employee training program. Kisangani Hospital brings specialists from all over the world to run courses for local doctors and nurses, and also sends its staff abroad to for learning and development in countries as far away as India.

Serving the Community

Without the Kisangani Hospital mobile inoculation unit, it is not possible for children in rural villages to be inoculated. The hospital has a Level IV ICU, an emergency room, a 24-hour laboratory, the only functional X-ray unit in Kisangani – and can provide advanced trauma life support. Critical patients from everywhere in the province and beyond are served at the hospital’s ICU – most are high risk patients that cannot receive treatment anywhere else.

Because poor patients are treated for free, Kisangani Hospital is providing a desperately needed services to those most in need. Speaking on behalf of the GFF, its co-founder Dan Gertler has said: “Our goal is to support vulnerable people living in the region who previously had limited access to even the most basic healthcare services.”

Kinshasa Landscape

High Fashion is Hitting the DRC

Sewing Seeds of Hope in Kinshasa

Juvenal Mbuyi Nsumbu is an aspiring young designer from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a recent graduate from the Institut Supérieur des Arts et Métiers (ISAM) in Kinshasa, Juvenal was excited to enter a competition organised by the Congo Fashion Institute during the festivities of Congo Fashion Week. The young designer was even more thrilled when she was announced as winner of the competition at the distinguished Pullman Hotel. Her prizes included a solar kit and a sewing machine.

Fashion on the Main Street

The new equipment was a springboard for Juvenal’s ambition and talent. She soon opened the doors to a boutique and workroom on a main street in Kinshasa’s Kintambo Velodrome neighbourhood. The business was very successful and production had to increase fast. The young entrepreneur saw an opportunity for great success and went into business with a partner who had modern equipment, taking the boutique to the next level. For a while Juvenal was producing clothing of a much higher standard with the equipment she was using. Unfortunately her new partner moved to the United States, and Juvenal was left without the equipment she needed to fulfill her orders.

Making Dreams a Reality

The only way Juvenal Mbuyi Nsumbu could continue producing her quality clothing was to take her sewing to ISAM, where she had studied. This is how the determined young designer managed to keep her business afloat until she received a generous offer from the Gertler Family Foundation, which extended financial backing to Juvenal so that she can purchase her own equipment. With the Foundation’s support, she can now boost her business and will be able to employ staff members once that becomes necessary, to help her in this exciting venture. Juvenal has high hopes and dreams for her business, and plans to present her future collections at international events for global exposure.

Women Celebrate Women's Day

International Women’s Day with Gertler Family Foundation

Celebrating Women Across the World in the DRC

On 8 March 2016 the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF) celebrated International Women’s Day with the women and girls of Mombele, in the district of N’Sele in Kinshasa – the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On this eventful Tuesday, the coordinator of the Foundation and several guests attended the celebrations. The GFF is known for providing continuous support to women in the DRC by offering educational projects that are not only geared to improve the participants’ living conditions, but also to advance the overall development of the local community as a whole.

Training Programs That Empower Women

Last year the GFF started offering an ongoing and successful training program focused on literacy. Over 100 women participated in the initiative, in which they were trained to speak, read, and write in French. The ladies achieved a remarkable level of understanding of the language after completing the program, and were able to use what the skills they learned in their daily lives, business, and development.

Much to Celebrate

This year’s International Women’s Day festivities coincided with the launch of the second phase of the GFF’s Training for Women program. It will involve approximately 60 women who have been selected to receive training in the fields of cutting out patterns and sewing, hairdressing, and culinary arts. The goal of this project is to provide the women with practical skills that can be used to enhance their lives. It is the hope of the GFF that this initiative will also help the women to find new work, or start their own businesses so that they may provide for their families.

The Foundation believes that the conditions in which the women of the DRC live in are far from ideal, and should be improved. The GFF plans to work towards this goal by commissioning and supporting various community and social development programs, and continuing to work with Congolese women to make a difference.

Changing the Lives of Sexual Violence Survivors

Changing the Lives of Sexual Violence Survivors

HOLD-DRC and GFF Work Together to Help Women and Girls

The Gertler Family Foundation (GFF) funded various programs by HOLD-DRC throughout 2014. Founded by a group of professionals in 2012, HOLD-DRC is an NGO that works with women and girls who are survivors of sexual assault, and those who are dealing with pregnancies and children conceived through rape. Through the organisation’s various initiatives, the women and girls are given the opportunity to be trained in areas like cooking, hairdressing and sewing, while their children are taken care of so they can focus on learning. They also receive psychological treatment to help them deal with the trauma they have experienced. Approximately 100 women participate in each training session.

Excellent Collaboration

With funding from the Gertler Family Foundation, HOLD-DRC was able to enroll more women for training. The GFF also sponsored the organisation to take part in the London Summit on Sexual Violence in 2014. HOLD-DRC’s Coordinator, Modestine Etoy, represented the organisation at the event. Esteemed photographer Patricia Willocq collaborated with the GFF to initiate ‘Look at me, I am beautiful’: a photographic project about female survivors of sexual violence, which created invaluable awareness of their situation. Time magazine’s African correspondent Aryn Baker heard about the project and contacted the GFF to learn more about HOLD-DRC. She was put in contact with Modestine, after which she travelled to the HOLD-DRC centre in Goma, where she worked with survivors for four days and reported on the work HOLD-DRC does on a video she published.

Angelina Jolie and Secretary William Hague at the London Summit on Sexual Violence in 2014
Angelina Jolie and Foreign Secretary William Hague at the London Summit on Sexual Violence in 2014

HOLD-DRC Needs Help to Help Others

Because HOLD-DRC is an independent organisation that survives without the assistance of government funding or regular sponsorship by international entities, it is in dire need of support. It relies solely on its fundraising efforts in order to continue to give female survivors the gift of learning and emotional support. Hopefully the new audiences exposed to HOLD-DRC’s worthy work through the feature in Time magazine will generate additional resources for organisation.

International Women’s day

The Gertler Family Foundation greets all the woman around the globe for the International women’s day.

We would like to update that  Mme Jeanine Mabunda, DRC Presidential Adviser on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment will be in London next week.

She is speaking at a Chatham House event on Thursday, 10 March, about her work to increase awareness of sexual violence and child recruitment by armed groups. She will discuss how to better protect women and children in armed conflict and efforts towards ending impunity.

We, at the GFF, will continue the women’s training program at Nganda Yala for another 4 months or so, and start day will be March 8, International Women’s Day

Patricia Willocq is the One Eyeland Photographer of the Year

White Ebony Photographer Gets the Gold

Award-winning photographer Patricia Willocq has yet again been given recognition for her exceptional efforts in portraiture. Willocq’s poignant portrayal of the plight of people with albinism in Africa was expertly collected in a photo book named White Ebony published by Lammerhuber edition. Both the photographer and her book won gold medals at the One Eyeland awards ceremony. Willocq achieved the 2015 Photographer of the Year award and White Ebony attained the 2015 Gold Book of the Year award.

Patricia Willocq

A photographic journey through albinism in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Albinos are a minority group on the African continent, and they suffer greatly because they look so different to their local populations. These individuals have unusually pale skin, hair and eyes, and their eyes often appear red, depending on which angle you are looking at them from. Because the majority of Africans have dark skin, hair and eyes, albinos are often ostracized by the local communities. They also suffer with health issues like poor vision and extremely sensitive skin. Albino skin is so sensitive to UV rays that they are significantly more prone to skin cancer. In her work, Patricia Willocq sees through the obvious differences in how people with albinism look, and takes time to explore the beauty of humans irrespective of colour. Willocq has produced a range of stunning photographs of people with albinism living in the DRC in everyday settings.

Art for a good cause

By taking expressive and optimist photos of albinos people, Patricia Willocq, with the support of the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF), is recognizing and raising awareness of the difficult situation people suffering from albinism are facing every day of their lives.


Although she has lived in several countries, Willocq was born in 1980 in Kinshasa in the DRC, where she was also raised. The first published photo of an albino that the photographer took was given an Honourable Mention in the UNICEF Photo of the Year Awards ceremony in 2013.



Literacy, Learning, Liberty – The GFF Recognizes Achievements in Education

On 18 December 2015, the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF) was honoured to be a part of the graduation ceremony of the literacy training program at the St. Raymond Health Center, in N’Sele. Aimed at increasing basic literacy, the program is supported by the GFF as part of the Foundation’s outreach and educational initiative work in this region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The GFF presented certificates to nearly 140 women and girls who completed the literacy program. The ceremony was attended by educators, representatives of the GFF, and families of the successful graduates. The program is fully funded by the Gertler Family Foundation and provides three levels of literacy training: basic, intermediate and advanced.


Education in the DRC

Traditionally, Congolese women have not had much access to education, and this program has been designed to teach them basic literacy: reading, writing and speaking French. The program in St. Raymond seeks to address the gender imbalance in access to education with effective, sustainable programs for women. The GFF is outspoken in its support for educational initiatives in the region and the development of women in the DRC.

The benefits of even basic literacy, mean that women are better equipped to care for their families, help their children with homework and instill in them pride, confidence and hope for the future. Women who are literate are able to move into the workforce more easily, and provide a better quality of life for their families. Being able to read and write opens doors previously shut to this disadvantaged section of the population.

The St. Raymond literacy program does not just stop at literacy. The next phase of the program will be to offer classes to women and girls in the disciplines of sewing, cooking and culinary arts as well as cosmetics and beauty. The literacy program hopes to reach hundreds more women in the region in the next few years.

Basic health and education are central causes for the Gertler Family Foundation in this impoverished region close to Kinshasa. The Foundation has supported the St. Raymond Health Center since 2012.