Separated By War, Put Back In Touch By Mobile: Nine-Year-Old Speaks To Her Mother For First Time In 15 Months
Humanitarian Jean-Marie Minani reunites displaced families in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), helping them call loved ones for the first time
Minani helps Nirere, 9, make her first mobile phone call, speaking to her mother for first time in 15 months
Brother and sister reunited on the phone after losing both parents in the war
Nirere lives at the Mugunga refugee camp near Goma, DRC, and has been separated from her mother for 15 months. Thanks to humanitarian calling worker Jean-Marie Minani, the nine-year-old has been able to speak to her mother for the first time since they were separated.
This emotional moment is captured in a film released today as part of Vodafone Firsts, a global programme telling stories about people doing inspirational and life-changing things for the first time with the help of mobile technology.
Minani, who manages four free humanitarian calling booths at the Mugunga Camp as part of the Instant Network programme run by the Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone's philanthropic arm, has provided around 17,000 displaced people in the camp with access to free mobile calls. This has enabled them to reconnect with their loved ones often or, as in the case of Nirere, for the first time in more than a year.
Another woman who was able to speak to her family for the first time since arriving in the Mugunga camp in 2012, thanks to Minani, is Mama Furaha. Both of her parents were killed during the war and she was displaced from her siblings. She was able to call her brothers for the first time in two years. The moments showing Nirere and Mama Furaha reunited with their relatives are part of the film launched today on Firsts.com.
The diverse Firsts programme has also seen mobile technology used to help British surfer Tom Lowe fulfil his dream of riding the mighty Todos Santos wave in Mexico and Olympic boxer Mary Kom set out to help women in India learn to defend themselves with the creation of India’s first female fight club.
People living at the Mugunga camp are able to make five minutes of free calls a week and, since the project started in the camp in October 2013, 2,000 calls a week have been made. The Vodafone Foundation initiative is conducted in partnership with Vodacom, the pan-African telecoms company majority owned by Vodafone.
Jean-Marie Minani, Vodafone Foundation Instant Network Camp Operations Manager, Goma, said: “Many of the families in the camp have been unable to contact family members left behind in their home villages. It is amazing to be able to put a smile on the faces of some of these people and provide them with an emotional lifeline. For me, this is not just a job, it is a vocation.”
Oisin Walton, Instant Network Programme Manager at the Vodafone Foundation, said: “Jean-Marie is passionate about connecting families who have been displaced as a result of the conflict in the Congo. For the first time, the refugees in the camp have access to free calls to reconnect and stay in touch with their relatives. This is one example of how a simple mobile phone call has the power to reunite families and transform people's lives.”
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About Vodafone Firsts
Vodafone Firsts is Vodafone’s global brand programme, activated across the world from 2014. A social media-led programme, Vodafone Firsts is about inspiring people to do something remarkable for the first time using mobile technology. Vodafone began by recruiting a series of inspirational people to help them achieve their Firsts. In 2014, Vodafone will also ask consumers what they would like to do for the first time, helping to make their ambitions a reality.
About the Vodafone Foundation and the Instant Network programme
The Vodafone Foundation's Mobile for Good programme combines Vodafone's charitable giving and technology to make a difference in the world. Globally, the Vodafone Foundation supports projects that are focused on delivering public benefit through the use of mobile technology across the areas of health, education and disaster relief. The Vodafone Foundation invests in the communities in which Vodafone operates and is at the centre of a network of global and local social investment programmes.
The Vodafone Foundation provides assistance in the area of disaster relief through the Instant Network programme. The Vodafone Foundation deploys Vodafone volunteers and technology in emergencies to provide free communications and technical support to aid agencies, enabling them to carry out life-saving work, and to individuals, allowing them to contacts their friends and relatives.
Vodafone is one of the world's largest telecommunications companies with approximately 411 million customers in its controlled and jointly controlled markets as of 30 September 2013. Vodafone has equity interests in telecommunications operations in nearly 30 countries and around 50 partner networks worldwide.