There are certain stories that stick with you. Sometimes, these are stories that, in spite of their origins in sadness and despair, speak of hope. A year ago, we brought you one such story -- about Mayo Clinic volunteers (physicians, nurses and allied health staff) who traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to treat female victims of physical and sexual abuse. And we told you how a group of courageous women bonded together to form a community they appropriately call the City of Joy.
What makes this community unique is that "it does not view the women it serves as individuals that need to be saved; rather, the City of Joy aims to provide women with the opportunity to heal and redirect themselves … on their own terms."
They are healing and then some.
Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, which supports City of Joy, writes about this "oasis of transformation, healing, and love" in a heartfelt letter to the volunteers who have helped the cause. She writes that "more than 400 young women" have not only changed their own lives but are now going back and "impacting the lives of others in their community."In her letter, Ensler includes a shout-out to the Mayo doctors and nurses who have provided care for these women. "I would like to take this moment to honor some amazing doctors, three of whom actually saved my own life when
I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Deborah Rhodes, M.D., Sean Dowdy, M.D., Eric Dozois, M.D., Emanuel Trabuco, M.D., and nurse practitioner Lois Mc Guire all traveled from the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. to Panzi Hospital, and spent days performing operations and lectures with Dr. Mukwege," she writes. "All of us at V-Day and City of Joy thank them for their amazing generosity … We are overjoyed they came to dance with us at City of Joy on the last day of their visit." (Sadly, we have no video footage of said dance.)
About the women themselves, Ensler had this to say, "Their dance is the dance of those who returned from the edge, who have stepped into their bodies and vitality, released their shame and rage and hurt, and are now ready to seize the world." Mayo's Lois McGuire echoes Ensler's assessment of the progress being made in the community. "The City of Joy is a wonderful place where the women of the DRC can get emotional healing," she says. "They learn a trade and how to manage a business so they can go back to their communities with their heads held high."
Just as they did last year, these Mayo Clinic volunteers are again organizing a run/walk -- the Rochester Rising City of Joy 5k -- to raise funds to help the women of the City of Joy. The run is at 6:30 p.m. on May 30. If you're in Rochester, we hope you'll consider walking or running for the cause. If not the event's organizers are encouraging "virtual participation" and encourage you to run or walk where you are to support them.
If you are so moved, dance on down and share your thoughts below.