1. Home
  2. Digital Cortile
  3. Cortile 2022
  4. Supporting the Children of Idjwi

Education has been my life and my passion. I have taught for more than four decades - small children, university students, adults, refugees, but mostly teenagers, and mainly at St. Stephen’s. I consider myself very fortunate. My decision (taken at the age of 11) to live in Rome has brought me immeasurable riches. My thirty-five years at St. Stephen’s gave me the opportunity to teach what I love in the city I love, plus many valued friendships. A chance meeting with Kizungu Hubert, the director of an orphanage I met in 2009 in war-ravaged Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), gave me a new purpose and direction to my life, but education has always remained an essential part of it.

I have returned just now (in March) from a two-week visit to the DRC, my twelfth trip in fourteen years. Covid took two away. I spent several days on Idjwi island on Lake Kivu, where I visited the poultry project, which students and faculty of St. Stephen’s got off the ground some years ago. I checked in on our Agriculture for Pygmies initiative and the new Primary School, Idjwi Island Leadership Academy (IILA), established a couple of years ago by a Canadian colleague, Vicky English Pearson.

Some background about the island: Idjwi, also known as Africa’s Forgotten Island, has been practically untouched by the conflicts that have taken place off and on for years around it–fighting in eastern Congo and genocide in Rwanda. It is the second-largest island on the continent. Idjwi is situated between the two countries, is home to roughly three hundred thousand people, and is considered one of the world’s poorest places; the average life expectancy is one of the lowest globally. One Harvard study put it at 26 years. Food insecurity has become critical with the doubling of the population in the past 25 years. Over half of the population does not have enough to eat. Malnutrition is one of the principal causes of death on the island. (HSPH, Harvard)

Alberto, my Neapolitan partner in Congo projects, and I received a tumultuous welcome to the school as we arrived by boat. Four hundred children, teachers, and locals crowded the shores to greet us, exploding with friendliness and warmth. As we approached the beautiful, new, solid, brick school amid the throngs of dancing, singing, laughing kids, I thought back to my first visit to a school on Idjwi many years ago – kids with threadbare clothes, dirt floors, no desks or school equipment, holes in the walls. Photo. How different this was! What an outstanding contribution to the life and the future of Idjwi.

I sat in on classes, and I observed the enthusiasm and sheer joy of the kids as they competed to give the correct answers. I admired the dedication and energy of the teachers, and I was deeply impressed by all that I saw. I felt proud to be part of this wonderful educational venture.

But then, as I spoke to the Headmaster at the very end of my visit, I learned that many of the children who live at some distance from the school must get up at 4 am, walk up to 8 kilometers, have lessons from 7.20 am to 2.50 pm, then walk 8 kilometers home, arriving around 5 pm. None of the children or teachers have anything to eat or drink during this period. Some of the pygmy children (there are now 43 enrolled – a remarkable achievement) are often so weak from malnourishment that they do not have the strength to walk the distance every day.

Though Idjwi’s people live in relative peace and stability, they are desperately poor. Nearly 3,000 die each year from preventable causes, but the island has received little attention from the international community (HSPH, Harvard).

We are now investing in the education of the children of Idjwi. To do that most effectively, we must also invest in their nutrition.

Nutrition and learning go hand in hand. School feeding has positive effects on all aspects of schooling – enrolment, attendance, and performance. (UNESCO/WFP)

And so I am seeking support in order to provide a simple daily snack for these children, so they will be strong and make the most of the education they are being given. They are the hope for a better future.

“Well-designed school feeding programmes have demonstrated high returns in four important areas — education, nutrition, social protection, and local agriculture — all of which translate into human capital growth and sustainable development.” (WFP)

Buying food would cost around $7.50 per month per child, but I am exploring more sustainable possibilities – building a bakery adjacent to the school, vastly increasing our poultry and agriculture project next to the school, sourcing local markets on Idjwi.

Contacts or information regarding school feeding programs would be most appreciated. We are looking to raise 30,000 Euros.

If you are able to give a donation of any amount at all, I would be so very grateful. 100% of all donations go directly to the project – I personally guarantee it.


You can donate through this site
supportingidjwiisland.com or

cink 1
Chapter 13: Celebrating Faculty | Celebrating Lucy Clink

Lucy Click

2-D and IB Art Teacher

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Aggarwala Rohit Headshot
Chapter 14: Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview, Cortile 2022 Highlights

 Rohit Aggarwala ‘89

Chief Climate Officer and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
cortile21 baker1
Chapter 14: Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Varun Baker ‘01

Co-Founder & Managing Director Farm Credibly

cortile21 nicholson
Chapter 14: Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Rachel Nicholson ‘06

Director, Visitor Engagement and Research at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
cortile21 mckenna1
Chapter 14: Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Brian McKenna ‘00

Music Producer

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
cortile21 plantation
Chapter 15: Alumni Stories | Visiting Family Stories, Alumni Stories

Visiting Sully Plantation, Visiting Family Secrets

I stood in the thick green grass, looking at a slave dwelling at Sully Plantation, Chantilly, Virginia.

The cabin was built to replicate one that had housed the people my ancestors enslaved. It was a hot August day in 2021, 95 degrees with Virginia’s drenching humidity. I heard the loud chorus of crickets, the leaves shifting in the nearby copse, felt the heat in the breeze.

By Sarah Fleming ‘71
cortile21 science stories1
Chapter 15: Alumni Stories | Science Stories for Grown-Ups, Alumni Stories

Science Stories for Grown-Ups

Everything ended with a book.
No wait.
Everything started with a book.

By Guilia Sebastio
cortile21 serendipity
Chapter 15: Alumni Stories | St. Stephen's Community, A Small World, Alumni Stories

The Small World of Serendipity

This story is equal parts chance, serendipity, a small world, and the St Stephen’s community.

I am a musician and young entrepreneur, and when I was based in London, I was searching for ways to build connections.

By Edoardo Pariante ‘15