The school project was initiated by the Christian Focolare Movement under the leadership of German theologian Dr. Monika-Maria Wolf, who went on to develop Petite Flamme into a large-scale school organization in the ensuing years. At the beginning, 25 children were cared for and taught in the classrooms of a looted school building that was then standing empty. Now, more than 100 staff of Petite Flamme run schools under the two Congolese directors Dada Adeline Diambu Mbinda and Odon Makela Dhombazi Basosa at nine locations in the slums of Kinshasa and in the capital’s immediate surroundings.
Petite Flamme is largely funded by donations and sponsorship. German sponsors first began to support the project in 2006 when the German armed forces took part in the EU’s “EUFOR RD Congo” operation to provide security for the first democratic elections in the Congo. The German contingent of 780 soldiers was led by Rear Admiral Henning Bess, who visited Petite Flamme with his troops. Many of the soldiers were so impressed that they sponsored the first of the children straight away. Sponsors pay 20 euros a month. For that, a child gets schooling, healthcare, one high-protein hot meal a day and a school uniform. Henning Bess and his wife Jule Müller now supervise more than 320 German sponsors from their home in Potsdam.
Many of the former students report that they see their own future in the Congo – thanks to the support of Petite Flamme. They do not want to travel north as refugees, they want to use their schooling and further education to help advance their homeland of the Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries. That being the case, projects like Petite Flamme are instrumental in preventing future refugee flows.