2018 - Ongoing
A country of paradoxes, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a land rich in natural resources, but its people are among the poorest in the world. Throughout its history, the country is fraught with political instability, armed clashes, and human rights violations.
Rose lives with her family on the remote island of Idjwi in Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite its isolation, or perhaps because of it, the island is known as a haven of peace in conflict-mired eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, seeing a massive increase in population from estimated 50,000 in 1983 to over a quarter million today.
Idjwi Island rests in Lake Kivu along the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The lake lies nearly 5,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by mountains over 10,000 feet tall, which descend precipitously to the waterfront.
Idjwi is the second largest inland island in Africa and world’s tenth largest inland island, stretching 25 miles down the center of Lake Kivu to cover an estimated 110 square miles.
Rose’s father, Manda Balekage, arrived on the island of Idjwi with his young wife several years ago. I first met Rose, the eldest of their children, on a narrow dusty road. We bonded during long walks, stealing fruits from the nuns’ garden and caught fireflies at night. Here, it is easy to forget that we are in fact surrounded by the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. Idjwi has become the Balekage family's hiding place and Rose and the other children have no desire to leave the island.