Antoine Pambu Lutete, a Congolese priest and his wife Hannie, themselves childless, have looked after the orphans and street children of Boma (Bas Congo) since 1997: AIDS and war orphans, abandoned street children, sick, physically and mentally disabled, “bewitched” and sexually abused children. They lived off small donations and the yield of a manioc, corn and mango field. They slept with 63 children in 2 sheds on a concrete floor, they were hungry, undernourished and some were very very ill. There was no water and no sanitary facilities. Antoine and Hannie gave them home education, there was no money to pay school fees.
From 1992 to 2004 Antoine was a parish priest of a church community of 6,000 people. At that time they were living in a house owned by the church in the centre of the city. After a number of warnings by his church superiors he is excommunicated and they are thrown out of the house by the church because they were looking after children who had been “abandoned by God”. The local authorities were not willing to listen to him let alone offer any support; orphans and street children don’t generate political votes. Because of his engagement he found himself isolated as a priest and abandoned by his own church community.
With the help of a befriended German couple who had worked for the Catholic church in Boma for a number of years, doctor Bernard Romhildt and his wife Ursula, a pharmacist, they were able to buy a plot of land 6 km out of the city centre. Here the children are less exposed to the dangers and aggression of the big city. With the help of these friends and, through them, the financial support of the German embassy in Boma they built two shelters here. The German doctor’s couple provided free medical care to the sick children from 2004 to 2006 after which they returned to Germany.
More than 1,000 children and young people have since been helped in Creroea. Orphans stay there permanently. Other children stay for shorter or longer periods of time and then return to their families or Congolese foster families. About twelve children have been adopted by Italian and French families.
Antoine and Hannie are responsible for the practical operation of the orphanage together with the oldest children who finished school and the support of volunteers. It is entirely voluntarily, in the general interest of the children/youths and the local population. Thanks to their social engagement – and our financial and moral help – they have achieved spectacular progress over the last eight years and more than proved their integrity.