After a visit to the Congo in 2009 I left with the desire to make more people aware of the situation in Eastern DRC. This prompted to run a marathon a month through 2010 and in 2011 take part in the world’s longest kayak race. The strongest memory I have from this campaign was my visit to the Congo in August 2010 when myself and four friends went to the Congo to share the stories of the women and men in the DRC to people in the UK to understand how their lives having been affected by the ongoing instability in the region.
That was over three years ago and the situation in the Congo has not improved, despite significant developments, such as the much-publicized G8 announcement on sexual violence fronted by William Hague and Angelina Jolie.
For me personally it has taken a while to realise that it doesn’t matter how far or fast you run, you need to be creative to get people to take an interest and when you get their attention you need to be able to show them why it matters by letting the people who live there, tell them what they are going through. That’s why in June of this year I’m going back to Congo, but the main thing in my backpack will be a cookbook rather than my trainers.
You may have seen already but Women for Women the charity that I have supported through my campaigning efforts are have released a new book which has recipes from the women they work with in different conflict zones, like the Congo. Other contributors to the book include more well-known personalities like Meryl Streep, Paul McCartney and Nelson Mandela. I was fortunate enough to be asked to contribute a recipe too (I supplied a rather basic pasta recipe).
I bloody love cooking and this all got me thinking. So I’ve decided to back to the Congo in June to understand a little bit more about what food and cooking actually means when you are surrounded by conflict and insecurity. All these questions started buzzing in my mind and I wanted to go out there and try and find answers to them.
In the simplest sense food can make you stronger and give you energy, but in a region ravaged by civil war can it mean more than that, bringing joy and satisfaction when everything around you is so unstable? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I want to know and hopefully be asking these questions and cooking alongside these women.
My main aim in going back to the Congo is to see what has changed since last there in 2010 and to continue my campaign to get people to keep their interest in the Congo. While I’ll be taking my trainers and running another marathon there. My main aim will be to try and get people to relate to those in the Congo, to appreciate what they are going through by focusing on something that is common to us all – eating.