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Enough recently had the opportunity to travel with actress and activist Ashley Judd on her second trip to eastern Congo. John Prendergast accompanied Ms. Judd to the region, where they worked closely with Enough’s field researchers to visit camps for Congo’s displaced people, mines, local civil society organizations, and hospitals treating survivors of sexual violence.
“We really drilled down into the causes and solutions,” reports Prendergast. “Ashley mixed real compassion for survivors of sexual violence with probing analysis of the issues that drive the violence."
CNN.com published the first report about the trip this morning. Here’s a portion of the piece, which captures Ms. Judd’s thoughts on the trip in her own words:
CNN: In general, how should travelers planning humanitarian missions prepare emotionally, mentally and practically for journeys to remote and possibly dangerous places?
JUDD: Number one: Check your motives. That's the most important thing.
Number two: Understand the local context. Educate yourself. Reach out to experts, both at the policy level as well as the grass-roots level. Read books about the history of the place. And also be savvy about the particular historical perspective that the author may have.
Watch documentaries. I watched "Born into Brothels" before I started spending time in brothels in Mumbai, India, and it was very helpful for me to kind of spiritually fortify myself because I had the visual.
I knew what they looked like, what they sounded like, before I went, and so that helped me skip over the visceral shock of walking into these phenomenally crowded, fetid brothels.
I had a spiritual director in my life and a spiritual community with whom I stay very current -- and that's enormously important to me.
Because eastern Congo is what it is, it's such a severe place and the problems are so huge, I had my crisis of faith and my breakdown within 72 hours of getting here. Normally, it happens like three weeks into a trip, but this place just cut me off at the knees immediately, and I had to reach out to people with whom I'm walking this walk -- both through e-mail and through telephone -- and that sort of helped me have that breakthrough and tap back into my resilience.
Click here to read the full piece and check out more photos by Jeff Trussell of Ashley Judd in Congo.