Though he opted to leave his Bat-cape at home, Ben Affleck was no less powerful as he appeared on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C on Thursday, to represent his Eastern Congo Initiative. According to Sky News, he appeared with Bill Gates – renowned philanthropist and founder of Microsoft – and testified before the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittee hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to request financial assistance for initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ben Affleck’s involvement in Congolese issues began in 2006, when he visited the country and was inspired by citizens working hard to improve their nation, in spite of war, social and economic difficulties. Co-founded by Affleck soon afterward, the Eastern Congo Initiative works to support farmers of the Congo as they produce and sell coffee. The issue at hand for the filmmaker during Thursday’s hearing was to encourage the U.S government to make aid-based investments in public-private partnerships, enabling economic development programs to have an even greater impact.
With an estimated 40 million people in the Congo reliant upon income from agriculture, Ben Affleck is seeking to expand his Eastern Congo Initiative to reach more farmers – arguing that doing so will result in improved quality of life, along with increased access to education and healthcare. The Los Angeles Times recounted his testimony.
“[The Congo deals with] two decades of armed conflict, [an] estimated 5 million deaths due to violence, disease and starvation, 2.7 million who remain displaced today and the appalling levels of sexual violence.
“But these statistics tell you nothing about Congo’s future or about the extraordinary and resilient people working every day to rebuild their nation. Despite the many challenges, the Congolese people refused to be defined by their country’s past and in spite of those who may question the effectiveness of our foreign assistance, I can tell you first-hand that U.S diplomatic and financial investments in Congo are working.
“Starbucks has already purchased 40 tons [of coffee]; that may not mean a lot for Starbucks, but it’s a heck of a lot in Eastern Congo, I assure you. It’s the entirety of the cooperative’s very first export that will be representing millions of cups of coffee that will be sold in the U.S market.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) heaped praise upon Ben Affleck and his non-profit organisation, Eastern Congo Initiative. In his remarks, the Senator stated that what the group has achieved in less than a decade of operation is to “take hell on earth and make it a bit better.”
[Image: Mark Wilson/Getty Images]