The Atma Foundation, a partner organization of the Enough Project, has launched a new initiative to build relationships and connections among American and Congolese women called Atma Letters. The program, which embraces the words of Mother Teresa: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”, is a tool for building cross-cultural understanding among women in both countries.
Inspiration for the program came from our nostalgia of receiving letters from loved ones, and the feelings of excitement and anticipation of awaiting responses to one’s letters. Additionally, we believe that the written word is a powerful tool that can link two people on a deeply intimate and personal level.
When talking about Congo, the statistics of violence are often overwhelming and disheartening. Atma Letters aims to put a face, a story, and a future to the stories we hear. The women involved seek to bring their personal stories, humor and strength to the forefront of the conversations. The relationships that have grown are irreplaceable and bridge the gap between communities despite language and geographical barriers.
Letters have also allowed people around the world to connect directly to the work the Atma Foundation is doing in Congo. Those involved know that the letters represent more than words.
Our partners in Bukavu deeply believe Atma Letters are also powerful tools for showing support and solidarity in the fight for peace in Congo. They write,
"The personal correspondence between the survivors here and the USA women, help the women here for their psycho-social rehabilitation. With the personal, frequent communication, the women feel loved and supported. This helps the women open, speak out about the issues, problems and reduce her worries. This helps with healing, so important."
Exchanging letters is a time old tradition. There is no right way or wrong way to write one’s thoughts. Letters to Congo encourage everyone to write about oneself, ask questions, and establish a relationship based upon trust and respect.
All letters, responses, and stories can be found on the Atma Letters facebook page. Atma Letters make it easy for supporters to participate by working directly with women on the ground, and facilitate correspondence. Once a letter to a sister in Congo is posted, the organizers send it forward and a response is posted within a month.
Take part in the Atma Letters program by liking them on Facebook and posting a letter.
Monica Johansson is from Connecticut and has been advocating for women's rights for the past 6 years. Currently she is partnering with the Atma Foundation as Director of Atma Letters. Previously, she served as Social Media Coordinator for A Thousand Sisters, where she was part of a delegation to lobby Congress in support of conflict minerals legislation.
Alysha Atma is from Oregon, and serves as the Executive Director of the Atma Foundation. She is also a published writer and reviewer of literature surrounding the continent of Africa and co-founder of the Oregon Coalition for Humanity.