We started by accepting mostly diamond engagement rings, but we now accept all types of rings. Our donated rings have many types of precious gemstones, and are sometimes simply a gold or silver band. We have received ring donations from five countries and across eight states!
Next, donations go to D&H Jewelers in San Francisco, California, where they get appraised. Depending on the style and quality of the ring, it will either get melted down and recreated, or sold as-is in store. The Ring Project receives the wholesale value of the gold band immediately, and once the diamond has been re-set and sold under its new certification, we receive the wholesale value of the gem.
We actively recruit applications year round from women in the Democratic Republic of Congo hoping to pursue higher education in law or medicine. Most of our applicants come from very difficult circumstances and have overcome enormous hurdles to graduate high school and qualify for these programs. Each September, we select and award a cohort of scholarship recipients to attend universities throughout North and South Kivu. You can check out our current cohort of recipients here.
From left: Benedicte, Mihali, Djamilah, and Chantal, four of six scholarship recipients for the 2017/2018 cohort in Bukavu, DRC.
We recognize how important it is to support our awardees throughout their program as they face the rigours of their degree. Some of many challenges they might face, other than the academic challenges of the degree itself, include caring for their family and young infants, being one of the only women in their class, having no professional support or guidance, and having to complete the program in a language other than their mother-tongue. While all higher education is conducted in French, many of our recipients have grown up only speaking their native, tribal languages. The Ring Project links practicing Congolese doctors and lawyers with our scholarship recipients for monthly mentorship meetings and support. We also offer additional French-language course scholarships for women who would benefit from the additional instruction. Additionally, we conduct extensive on-boarding interviews and monthly check-ins with each student to gauge what they need and how we can best support them through their program. Each student receives her next year's scholarship based on her performance and engagement the year prior.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has faced ongoing violence of a particular nature since independence in 1960, after arguably one of the worst colonial rules in history (some estimates put the death toll at 10 million through King Leopold's rule alone).
Plagued by the US-backed assassination of the first democratically elected leader Patrice Lumumba, two subsequent civil wars and over five million conflict related deaths since 1998, the humanitarian state in Congo has become one of the worst of our time - and perhaps one of the least understood. Though the international community has been highly integrated in the response to the violence, it has also, at times, been responsible for its maintenance and perpetuation. US foreign policy towards the DRC and Rwanda has caused immeasurable damage and loss of Congolese life, British companies have undermined Congolese laws to profit off the mineral resources, and the enormous Western aid packages have proved to be largely ineffective and damaging.
While the DRC continues to be a massive recipient of international aid packages, there is very little funding for higher education, and even scarcer funding for women pursuing legal and medical degrees. There is a great need for financially-based programs designed specifically to support women who have created their own dreams and who are committed to pursuing them.
What seems clear is the fact that the DRC doesn't need another international NGO setting up shop. Populated areas in the Kivus have been highly impacted by aid organizations, with many locals unable to afford housing or food as a result. This is precisely why The Ring Project wants to support local Congolese initiatives. They know best. But we're in a position to bring awareness and money to the right places, so we feel good about doing that. And we'd love your help.