Kiwis in the Congo

Partnering with CDLA

(The Centre for the Development of Indiginous Christian Leaders)

We are Geoff and CarolAnne Paynter— just ordinary people who have been deeply impacted by the needs of the Congolese people. Geoff trained as a TV and Radio technician, and has done computer consulting for a number of years, but is currently just newly retired. Carol-Anne has done extensive studies in neuro-psychology and clinical psychology, both here in New Zealand in in Boston, Massachusetts. Both of us have also been privileged to be able to study in Christian Colleges and Seminaries in the U.S. for around six years.

We were invited to go to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the middle of 2014, by Murray and Joy Stevenson, so we took up the offer and spent two months there. During that time we travelled around the Katanga Province (a region about twice the size of New Zealand), mainly observing what was being done by the Congolese Christians there in the fields of medical care and education.

We were staggered by the obstacles facing ordinary people in the DRC, especially those in rural areas (which make up 70% of the population). In most cases there were few options in regard to medical care, and little or no educational opportunities offered by the Congolese government. However, dedicated workers under the Mission Garenganze umbrella were helping those who desperately need it, both medially and educationally.

We were deeply moved by the selfless service of doctors, teachers and administrators who were saving and changing lives with the most meagre of resources! It was this observation that led us to partner with these folk to make a difference going forward.

Our main objective is to partner directly with strategic Congolese Christians on the "coal face" in DRC — people who are honest, hardworking, and seeking to serve others in the church, as well as in the areas of medical care and education.

Our partneship has been somewhat interrupted since 2019, with the arrival of COVID-19, but we are returning to the work "in person" from March-May 2023!

Some sobering facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo . . .

  • One of the highest infant/child mortality rates in the world—around 10% of children under the age of 5.

  • Up to 25% of children are malnourished.

  • Average lifespan is 47-51 years.

  • Median age of the population is 17.

  • Less than ½ the population has access to clean drinking water and less than a 1/3 have access to adequate sanitation facilities.

Lubumbashi Solar Power Success!​

Our third project was completed at Papillon Hospital and the CDLA Headquarters in Lubumbashi. The Papillon project cost around US$5,000, and provides power for lighting to the entire facility, as well as power for use in the maternity delivery and surgical rooms. The CDLA Headquarters project cost around the same, and provides stabilised power for the offices and on-site X-Ray machine.

Papillon Hospital already had mains power, but only on random days and at random times. The new system tops up reserve battery levels when mains power is available, and also charges these same batteries via Solar Panels when mains are absent. We installed 6 x 300W 24V panels on the roof of the main building, right above a spare room that was available to securely house the control equipment. We installed a 3kW controller/inverter system in this block, along with a 48V 150Ah battery bank to store reserve power. In addition to this, we upgraded the main entry point for power into the facility, installing a motorised switch to swap between mains power and generator in the event that both mains and solar went down at the same time.

The Control Room

The hospital was visited and photographed, then time was spent considering the best way of ensuring 100% power stability for the critical parts of the facility. After much searching and comparison of available product options, we chose Victron equipment for this install due to its reliability.

The Victron MultiPlus 3k 230V uses an integrated inverter to provide the necessary power to light the entire hospital, and still leave enough to power low power equipment in the laboratory and surgical rooms. The unit can also pass through mains power, when available, to both run the facility and charge the battery bank. With mains power normally on for an hour or two a day, we only needed to install 1800W of solar panel capacity on the roof for this system to cover extended mains outages.

The Impact

The system is designed primarily for heavy daylight use, since this is the reality of the hospital workload. We did install enough batteries to ensure the entire facility has reliable all-night lighting available.

In order to cut down on power consumption, we replaced all fluorescent lighting in the hospital with LED lighting. A major lighting upgrade in the maternity delivery room and surgical room means the days of operating by cellphone lights are gone! Dr Serge, who does a number of operations at this hospital, was delighted, knowing he would no longer have to endure the continual "lights out surprises" half way through operations that had previously plagued this facility.

The End Results at Papillon

CDLA Headquarters Project Detail

From this . . .

To this . . .

. . . so this incredible equipment can be used!

Stabilised Power with Battery Backup

The offices of CDLA (the NGO we work with on the ground in DR Congo) received a major upgrade this year as well. The situation at the main house where all administration is done was very basic, electrically speaking. The gift of a state-of-the-art X-Ray machine from a generous donor in Ireland, complete with its own lined container, prompted this upgrade.

With stabilised, reliable power, the unit can now provide affordable imaging to thousands of people in the city.

Like the Papillon project, we used Victron equipment as the hub of the new supply. The good thing about the CDLA site was that power was a little more reliable than Papillon, meaning we did not have to install solar panels. This will change in 2022, however, as power supply in this city of 3-5 million people is increasingly sporadic.

A 48v 300Ah battery bank was installed, along with auto-mains-switching technology to ensure split-second switching of power to the imaging equipment and office computers.