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Separated by War, 9-yo Speaks to Mom for First Time in a Year

Monday March 10, 2014    9:09 AM

Jean-Marie Minani gets to witness powerful emotional moments with the simple use of a mobile phone. Minani is helping reunite families with loved ones in a refugee camp in Democratic Republic of Congo by providing free phone calls. Thanks to the humanitarian effort facilitated by Vodafone, nine-year-old Nirere was able to speak to her mother for the first time since they were separated 15 months ago.

Minani manages four free humanitarian calling booths at the Mugunga Refuge Camp in Goma as part of the Instant Network program run by the Vodafone Foundation, the company's philanthropic arm. 17,000 displaced people in the camp have connected with friends and family with the free mobile calls.

A film released today documents the emotional moment as part of Vodafone Firsts, a global program telling stories about people doing inspirational and life-changing things with the use of mobile technology. Another woman was able to speak to her brother for the first time since arriving in the Mugunga camp in 2012. Both of Mama Furaha's parents were killed during the war and she was displaced from her siblings. She was able to talk to her brothers for the first time in two years.

The moments of reunion, along with little Nirere's, are both featured in the film launched today on African boy talks to mom

"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," said Minani, Vodafone Foundation Instant Network Camp Operations Manager. "For me, this is not just a job, it is a vocation."

People living at the Mugunga camp are given five minutes of free calls a week.

Since the project opened in the camp in October 2013, more than two thousand calls each week have eased the burdens of the refugees there.

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