Everyone has talents, but because of lack of education and challenging circumstances, many don’t know how to maximise the unique talents they have been born with. Very often all that is needed is a jump start – to boost their confidence and give them courage to succeed. Given an opportunity, everyone can achieve great things and become self-sufficient.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has become one of the bloodiest conflict zones in the world. In the last twenty years, more than five million people have died; millions have been forced to the brink of death by starvation and disease, and gender-based violence and brutality is a daily occurrence.

Because of its abundant mineral wealth, the eastern part of the Congo in particular, has been dramatically affected. Most of the wars have originated here and are often linked to the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Gold, diamonds, copper, uranium, cobalt and coltan are abundant. There is enough hydropower to light up the African continent and enough fertile farmland and forests to feed the DRC’s 84 million people many times over.

Despite receiving nearly 20 billion USD in foreign aid, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world with 70% of its people living far below the poverty line ($1.90) on less that $1.25 a day.

The culture of aid cannot diminish the tide of unrest and hopelessness – with much of the money being misspent on projects that have no lasting impact on the country’s people. Aid is still necessary, but an increasingly youthful and enlightened population are now demanding jobs instead.

The Arete Stories Charitable Trust (ACT) aims to #givework instead of aid in order to help people regain their dignity, promote their talents and decide on their own destinies through supporting a range of different projects throughout East Africa.

Handouts are not going to end global poverty, but work - real work - just might.

Leila Jannah, founder of Samasource.

Nicole Esselen has worked in the region creating projects that support children, men and women.

Kate Holt has photographed and reported on the region for the last twenty years for the UK media.

Olivier Esselen developed a 40-year old family business in Goma and supported his wife, Nicole’s projects.

Jim Clemence is based in the UK and has had a career spanning financial services, business and the charitable sector.

Kate Holt

Kate Holt

Nicole Esselen

Nicole Esselen

Olivier Esselen

Olivier Esselen

Jim Clemence