APEX Hour at SUU

9/16/21: Celebrating H.E. Madame Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Episode Summary

As the season opener for the Fall 2021 season for A.P.E.X. Events, Southern Utah University celebrates the visit to campus from the 1st Lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this show the panel discusses the 1st lady’s current initiatives for the empowerment of Congolese women and girls and her own foundation named Foundation Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi (FDNT).

Episode Notes

A.P.E.X. Website

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hey everyone. This is Lynn park and you are listening to the apex hour on KSU you fender 91.1. In this show, you get more personal time with the guests who visit Southern Utah university from all over learning more about their stories and opinions beyond their presentations on stage. We will also give you some new music to listen to and hope to turn you on to some new sounds and new genres. You can find us here every thursday@threepmoronthewebatseu.edu slash apex. But for now, welcome to this week's show here on thunder 91.1.

Speaker 2 (00:46):


Speaker 1 (00:47):

All right. Well, welcome in everyone. It is fall here at S U U you're listening to KSU thunder 91.1. My name is Lynn Barton, and this is the beginning of our fall semester for apex events. For those who are listening live, apex events is Southern Utah. University's premier lecture series. We do events all through the year and we also have this radio show, the apex hour associated with it. I'm so excited about today. Today we had one of the most prestigious events I think we have ever had at Suu. And I have three guests here to talk with me about it, and I thought we'd start with just a little bit of introductions. And then before, let me tell you who the guests was. It was the first lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it was just such an inspiration to hear her talk and hear her message. And so we're going to talk about what happened today, and we're going to talk about [inaudible] relationship with the DRC and you know, just hear from everyone and get a good conversation going. So I think please, we'll start with you. Tell us a little bit about who you are and you know, what you do at SDU. 

Speaker 3 (02:00):

Okay. My name is please Luco. I am a freshman here at SCU. This is my second semester. I'm doing a computer science major and a mathematics minor. I am one of the five students sponsored by the first ladies foundation. And that's why I'm here to study at SCU from Congo.

Speaker 1 (02:21):

Fantastic. Thank you. I'm have more questions for you for sure. But in the meantime, let's continue with the introduction.

Speaker 4 (02:29):

Hello. My name is kissy Joani community manager at the foundation, the first ladies foundation. [inaudible]  I Came Here To Accompany Her  at the apex events.

Speaker 1 (02:41):

Great. Is this your first time in Utah?

Speaker 4 (02:43):

No, it's my second time actually in Utah, I came last me to drop the students and to settle them down and to see where they were going to study to see the environment. And yeah, like it's so far. So,

Speaker 1 (02:55):

Gosh, how long have you been working in your current position? I have

Speaker 4 (02:59):

Been walking since last year, January. Ah,

Speaker 1 (03:03):

You best love it?

Speaker 4 (03:04):

Yes, I do. I do love everything. I do. You get to

Speaker 1 (03:07):

Travel a lot too.

Speaker 4 (03:09):

I got to travel, but it's not the most exciting things. The most exciting thing is actually really like seeing that you're being a change in the environment, seeing that what she do ever thing actually brings change not only to other people's lives, but to your own life. You get to see the reality of what life is actually is. There's more joy in giving and receiving.

Speaker 1 (03:31):

Oh my gosh. Well, I have more questions about that also, but in the meantime, let's continue with the introductions.

Speaker 5 (03:38):

Hi Lynn. Thanks for having us. My name is Steven Allen. I work here on campus. I am the associate vice president for international affairs.

Speaker 1 (03:47):

Thank you so much for being here. This has been an awesome collaboration between our offices and what a joy. And I just want to comment on, I know our readers, our listeners can't see your shirt, but your shirt is phenomenal. And I wondered if you might just relay the story behind it.

Speaker 5 (04:04):

I love to, I first met the first lady in January of 2020, and somehow we were able to get on her calendar for just a two minute visit. It turned into five minutes, but as we left, she presented us with a bag of material and a couple of momentos and one of the mementos was fabric and it was this most beautiful, bright, vibrant pink and gold and blue fabric that is very Congolese. And I held on to it, but I didn't know what I was going to do with this. And in April, when the first lady confirmed that she'd be coming, I thought to myself, I'm going to get a shirt made and I'm not going to tell anyone so that when she came, when she spoke at the convocation, I could have it on and commemorate. The visit with with a shirt made out of the fabric that she had

Speaker 1 (05:05):

W is fabulous and it looked great on stage this morning and what a great story, you know, to kind of come full circle you know, more than a year later. So thank you for sharing that well, to continue the conversation I'd love to talk with, Cassiah more about the first lady and her mission. I was so inspired by her today. And it, she seems like a leader who is so invested in positive change. I wondered if you might talk a bit about her message, her mission and the foundation.

Speaker 4 (05:40):

Indeed. It is very, very, very [inaudible] positive towards the informant of girls, especially those that don't have enough opportunities. So her vision is scored in F in French proof art, which translated to English as like stronger, stronger together. So her vision is all about pulling together putting off horses together to make it better for everyone. We all here, we all have to live together. Why not just make it simple and easy for everyone? It seems so simple to say, but it's a hard thing that needs to have everyone involvements on an everyday basis. So the foundation is working on four main grounds, which is health education, a woman empowerment and fight against gender based violence. On the education part, we are focusing on Excelencia, which is a scholarship that every best students that get an 85% on their state exams. So in the conga, when you finish high school, you pass a state exam. And those that get 85 gets preselected for the pursuit of the scholarship. And they come to the foundation, we do an insight test and older, they have 70 plus gets it's kind of ship.

Speaker 1 (07:00):

Wow. And the scholarships right now are just in a few countries and there's a plan to quadruple and, you know, really expand more. Can you tell us a bit about,

Speaker 4 (07:09):

About that? So on a fab on the program is on five years. So in five years where we'd like to have is having a hundred students studying internationally and a thousand students studying locally, right now we will have already have 37 plus five here at SGU internationally. And then we have 129 students locally.

Speaker 1 (07:32):

How are the funds generated for that art? Is it donations? Is it fundraisers? How does, how does this move forward in that way?

Speaker 4 (07:40):

Before you start, you ask yourself, where am I going to get the funds? But as you start, you see that actually a lot of people as here in SGU want to get involved, want to be the part of the change. So it's actually from people as you and me that help putting not only their finances, but its time and their intelligence together. And that's all this is being possible.

Speaker 1 (08:05):

And that's the education side of it. And the foundation has the three other parts. Can you tell us just a bit more about the

Speaker 4 (08:13):

And the health? We focus on sickle cell because the can go is a third country internet, an internationally that is affected by sickle cell and more than 85% of Congolese, people are not aware of the sickness it's seen as witchcraft or people are really on the knowledge is not really there in the Congo. So most of the children that are they have sickle cell in the Congo. They're mostly like they're rejected from their family. They, they, most of them are street children after that, just because people are uneducated about that. So the first lady took that as her fight to educate the Congolese people about sickle cell to help some of the Congolese people with the w two carrying it. Let's say. And so yeah, that's, that's her biggest fight in her, in the health part.

Speaker 4 (09:06):

Then we have woman empowerment. So which is one of the third or the third thing the first day is focusing on why women empowerment, because when a woman is educated, when she's in a good health that's the way she can work and be part of the society be a stone toward building the society. And I feel like we, women, we are special, our feely, we do rights. And yes, that's, so what that's women empowerment is really one of her own fashion wants a woman to be independent, to know her worth, to know that she is capable of achieving everything that she wants. She only needs to put her heels on area going, isn't it?

Speaker 1 (09:52):

Oh my gosh. I love that. That's kind of like my mantra. Just put your heels on and go. That's a true girl power. And she's also dealing with some of the violence aspects and really trying to fight strongly for that as well.

Speaker 4 (10:06):

Yes. so in the Congo we have some the war is going on, on in the Eastern Congo and the first lady has taken it to educate men's on positive masculinity on beat knowing how to, how to respect a woman a woman, a girl doesn't need to ask for respect, he needs to be given to her. So she is involved in that in making women understand that your, your body is yours, making men understand that a no is a no. And no, it's not. Yes, maybe, but it's actually not. So yes is really fighting against set aside sexual yes. Yeah. Sexual assault or yeah. On intimidation. Yes.

Speaker 1 (10:56):

Yeah. Are these is, is she re very cutting edge in this? Was it a bit of a surprise that she would take such a strong stance in this way?

Speaker 4 (11:07):

Knowing that we come from the Congo it's wasta, she could have done the country. We come from the era we're living in. It is important that young girls, when looking at up to someone like her knows that, you know what, I'm a woman. I, my body is mine. No one can decide for me what I want to do with my own body. So yes, it was just something that she had to do as being, not only a mum, but a first lady.

Speaker 1 (11:34):

Thank you so much for that. Well, I think it's time for a bit of music. I, I did a little bit of research and I hope I found some famous or at least known people in, in Congolese music, Papa [inaudible]. Is that a famous [inaudible]? Well, I, a song of his called yo Layla. And so we'll take a listen to that.  and so it's your Layli by pop, pop Papa women, and you are listening to KSU youth thunder 91.1

Speaker 2 (14:51):


Speaker 1 (15:16):

All right. Well, welcome back everyone. So that song that you just heard was called yo Laylay and it's by Papa [inaudible] who is one of  one of, I think the most famous Congolese artists. And I was just so, so glad to know about his music. Now, I had it on the car in the car this morning. We had it on at the event today, and it's just been so fun to listen to. So you're listening to the apex hour, a couple of little bits of business. If you like the music that you hear on the apex hour, you absolutely can go to our website, which is sbu.edu/apex. And on that site, our playlist, if you click on the podcast tab  you'll find that there is a played on apex, our playlist. It's a public playlist on Spotify, and you're welcome to check it out.

Speaker 1 (16:03):

It has all the music that I've played on past shows. You can subscribe to the podcast, you can subscribe to the playlist and all of that. So we are here just basking in the inspiration that we had today from the first lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And I want to talk to please about your experience. You are here as a scholarship recipient from the foundation of the first lady. I would love to know were you the type of young person who always wanted to travel to go to school, or was this something that came to you a bit later?

Speaker 3 (16:40):

Actually I think it's very exciting for any young people to travel, to go to school, especially because you don't have your parents around you feel more responsible, you feel more independent. So like it's a dream that every year, everybody like every young people have in the, in the life. So I went to school in Congo to high school in Congo and I always loved school, but I wasn't like focused on any particular feel or I didn't like anything more than in other things. So I didn't really know what I was going to do after. And when I finished high school my father gave me the idea of doing law school. Yeah. So he was really pushing me to do law school and I wasn't really like against that because I wasn't really even myself, I wasn't sure of what I wanted to study.

Speaker 3 (17:41):

So I was like, okay, I'm going to go for high school for law school. And when you finish high school in Congo, you have to take a national exam. Every single Congolese student who's finishing high school has to take these exams the same days. It's like a few days long, several exams on different subjects, mathematics French and general education. And so when we, when we took that exam I scored 85%. Yeah, good. 85% of that exam. And okay. It was very good for me, but I went to law school and you don't have to have that much point either to go there. Seventies enough. So I was a high high-class student, but it wasn't really different from other people. So yes, I went to law school. I spent a year there a year in elf.

Speaker 3 (18:45):

And then one day I was I was coming back from school and I had that call from the supervisor of my high school. He was calling me asking if this was my permanent number, because some people will important one in my number. And I really didn't understand first I nervous. I was very, very nervous. Like you receive a call and they tell you, oh, some important people want you to number. I was like, oh, give them my number. Okay. And then after that I received a call from the first ladies foundation and they tell me, oh, you're going to come at this place. And we're gonna have an interview with you to know you and to know more about you and what you want in life. And I was very careers because they didn't say anything about the scholarship first. Oh, so you didn't know what it was. I didn't know what it was for, but I was very excited. I was thinking, oh, maybe it's for an event. Maybe they want us students from university or something like that. Did you prepare for the interview?

Speaker 1 (19:54):

Did you study? I mean, how could you, you didn't know what,

Speaker 3 (19:57):

I didn't know. All I could do is dressing good.

Speaker 1 (20:02):

Well, that's a good start.

Speaker 3 (20:05):

I dressed the best. I cool. Yeah. And I went to the interview and that's where they taught me about the scholarships that the first lady was given scholarship and we will have the opportunity to meet her in person. And I was very excited for that. So basically the first lady's foundation has different programs of scholarship. They have national scholarship for, for students to study in Congo and they have international scholarships, of course it into study outside. And that first they told me I was qualifying for do national scholarship because there were students who had scored like higher and they were going to for the international, I still, I was very impressed, impressed already for the national scholarship. And I was really like grateful for this opportunity, because even on the national level, the fact that I was already studying in last call, that will be a lot of support from the first lady foundation for me.

Speaker 3 (21:08):

And I was really glad for that. And then they started supporting me on a national level, but after that the, that, that crime in the opportunity to study in Morocco. So the Morocco was offering scholarships to students and they had to choose students that were already enrolled in the program. Excellent. Yeah. And I was called the game the second time they call me and they tell me, Hey, okay, you're going to bring your documentation and we're going to check if we can send you to Marco. I was so excited, oh my God, I'm going to go and study Morocco and all those things. And we started preparing for for the travel. We started preparing for the trip to Morocco. And then after that you know, what happened with COVID-19, right? Yeah. So everything was like shattered all over.

Speaker 3 (21:58):

Everything was upside down because of COVID-19. So the moral wasn't very sure if it was a good idea to receive students who may be, would have to deal with the the, the difficulties that brings the quarantine and the lock down and all those things, they really didn't know. And they were like, oh, are you guys sure that you want to come now and not wait one more year? And I was like, oh, am I really gonna leave law school and wait one more year. I'm just gonna stay here in Congo. And then the first lady had that idea that maybe she could explore more opportunities for us. And we have the international affairs office who, who does a lot of how to, which in a lot of African countries. And there was doing some kind of [inaudible] talking to institutions in Congo, but as she knew about the programs there, and that arrived in the ears of the first lady, and she was like, oh, that sounds like a good place to send my students Southern Utah university. And then I received the third call that let's say, okay, you come here and maybe we're going to send you to the U S wow.

Speaker 1 (23:23):

Yes. That's how it happened. That's amazing.

Speaker 3 (23:26):

That's how it happened.

Speaker 1 (23:28):

So w now that you're here and you're studying here, what, what are some things that have surprised you, you know, what, what maybe has surprised you about studying here?

Speaker 3 (23:39):

What has surprised me about studying here? Okay. a funny is that I arrived in summer. I arrived in summer and we, we were five and we were supposed to take a placement test to determine our level of English how deep we do have our English. And if we needed to improve I was speaking and everything, and I took that placement test and I was very confident. I was like, oh, there are six levels. Maybe I'm going to be like five or six, because I taught myself English when I was a child. So I was like, yes, I'm going to, I'm going to do that

Speaker 1 (24:19):

Yourself. Yes, I T how did you do that with movies? Oh my God. That's amazing.

Speaker 3 (24:26):

Yes. I was very confident and we are wives there and we took the placement tests and they told me, oh, you know what? You didn't need to do English at all. Your English

Speaker 1 (24:35):

Is perfect. Sounds great.

Speaker 3 (24:39):

That wasn't great for me. It was everything upside down. I was like, oh, I'm going to just going to chill and learn English. And then they're like, no, you're going to take classes right away.

Speaker 1 (24:47):

I see. I see. So you kind of got right into it and you were like, whoa, this is faster than I want it. Well, you were too good,

Speaker 3 (24:57):

But it was like I a white here in Cedar city on Monday, and my class was on Tuesday. Oh

Speaker 1 (25:03):

My God. I

Speaker 3 (25:04):

Had no time to prepare. And I was just jumping right away into the poll of students. Wow. That was awesome. Wow.

Speaker 1 (25:12):

Have you had a chance to do any hiking or anything like that around here in our natural landscape? Oh,

Speaker 3 (25:19):

Not yet.

Speaker 1 (25:19):

Not yet.

Speaker 3 (25:21):

No, not yet. Yeah. But I plan to, I see a lot of people, a lot of friends and she even went to Mrs. Casey. She even went to the Kenyan. I haven't been, but I want to,

Speaker 1 (25:33):

Well, we'll have to get you out there. Well, it is so fantastic to hear your story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Well, it's time for another song. Okay. So this one that I have is by Gerald Toto and it is called mama mama. And we're going to try to play that one and see how that sounds to you. There's several artists on it. Gerald, total, Richard bona. I think it's more of an instrumental song. Let's see how that sounds. You're listening. Oh, wait. And lo Kula Konza is the, yeah. One of the main artists on that. So we're going to check that one out and again, you're listening to K S U U thunder 91.1

Speaker 6 (26:41):

[Inaudible] [inaudible]

Speaker 7 (27:43):


Speaker 6 (28:00):


Speaker 2 (28:26):


Speaker 6 (28:40):

[Inaudible] [inaudible]

Speaker 2 (29:25):


Speaker 6 (29:41):


Speaker 1 (29:52):

All right. Well, welcome back that a song that you just heard is called mom mama, and there's just a bunch of different artists on it. And again, it's a Congolese artist. That's a part of that compilation there. And what a great groove just to kind of make you feel good in the middle of the afternoon. You're listening to KSU thunder 91.1. This is the apex sour. And again, you can find us online at scu.edu/apex. We are here celebrating the visit of the first lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo today. And I have three guests in here to talk, and we've heard from all of them, except one. And now it's our time to talk with Steven about the SCU connection to the DRC. So, Stephen, I would love to hear you told us a story about that first two minute meeting, but how did this all come to be? How did this connection happen? Tell us about that.

Speaker 5 (30:47):

It's been something that's been in progress for several years. Oh. In 2014, when president Wyatt was hired he was really interested in growing our African student population. He has an incredibly, a special place in his heart for students from all parts of Africa. Wow. So in 2014, I don't know that we had any students from Africa today. We have 122 students. Wow. 52 coming from the DRC. Wow. 38 from Cote d'Ivoire or ivory coast, and then 19, 19 countries total. And so it was a series of trips to various parts of of Africa. But I also have a colleague that is originally from the DRC and so has a real understanding of the culture and a lot of connections. Right. And so it has just been a lot of efforts that have kind of culminated.

Speaker 1 (31:52):

Right, right. And these start with conversations. And when did the idea of having students come on, scholarship? How did that particular connection come to?

Speaker 5 (32:04):

Yeah, that's a great question. So, 2020 is when I first met with the first lady, and then I had the chance to meet with her for a longer conversation in February of 21. And we were one of the first schools to get out of the country and to start outreach again, outside of the United States and Africa. And Dr. Congo is one of the first countries where you could travel to, oh, if you were vaccinated. Wow. And so I think the timing was really ideal because as pleas was telling us, Morocco was really a kind of closing down and not a lot of places, but we were open for business.

Speaker 1 (32:49):

Well, it's one of these few positive things that we can say from the COVID pandemic is that perhaps the, the timeline fell right into place for this incredible collaboration to come. Wow. And so we have five students that are here as part of the foundation. We have many more from the DRC, as you said, what are the future goals for this collaboration from the SVU perspective?

Speaker 5 (33:16):

Well, I think there's several before we were aware of the foundation, we have we created a partnership with a university in Dr. Congo university of logia. It is, it is a remote community with no paved roads to the city. Wow. So to get there, there is maybe a flight once a week, it's really hard to get there. And so we created this partnership. And one of the things that we did is we started providing language training with volunteers. We did a computer, a laptop computer drive for lightly used computers. And and this this March, we Dr. Al Quito who's on my staff has a science background. And so we started a project with the governor of, of that province to try growing garlic really I'm told that garlic is brought in from other countries but it's a source of flavor. It's a source of help and good for the economy. And Dr. Congo has wonderful soil, moisture weather. And so we think that a lot of these projects can tie in really well with the mission of the first lady.

Speaker 1 (34:42):

Wow. That's great. I had no idea that that was happening. That's awesome. If anybody listening or anybody who hears the podcast would like to get involved, are you looking for connections and how can we get in touch? What, what do, what are your needs? How can we help?

Speaker 5 (34:59):

We would always love help, whether it's from students or community. We aspire in 2023 to lead a group to the Dr. Congo to do some major work, particularly in the region of logia where we have a lot of connections and, and our partner there. We also would love to do a learning abroad to different parts of Africa. We were able to do only one learning abroad, and it was to Kenya. Wasn't Dr. Congo. But the students that participated were there, lights were transformed through that experience. And and they actually in the residence halls met a lot of students from the DRC who were in Kenya studying. So come to our office and say, I don't know exactly what I want to do, but I want to help. And we will, we'll find something that will be meaningful and can make

Speaker 1 (35:59):

Well, I would love to help and be part of that trip in 2023, if possible, if you need a music instructor or anything, or an interviewer. Well, that's great. Thank you for sharing, you know, how the history of this connection and the possible future of it as well. So, well, I have another song to play and I think I did okay. With my choices. That's what I hear. And this artist is Thali Poopa, who is quite famous, is that right? Right. And so I have a song by him called a Moray. So we're going to listen to that right now. You're listening to KSU youth thunder 91.1

Speaker 8 (38:35):

[Inaudible] [inaudible]

Speaker 2 (39:22):


Speaker 1 (39:24):

All right. Well, welcome back, everyone. You're listening to the APEC sour, KSU youth thunder 91.1. This is Lynn Vartan, and we are here closing our hour a little bit on the early side today, the song that you just heard was a Moray by folly Poopa. We are celebrating Congolese music today, and we're celebrating the great visit of the first lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to close our star, we're going to keep our tradition going this year of asking a playful question of what's turning you on this week. And so I'm asking my three guests today, what's turning you on this week, who would like to go first? I think please wants to go first because you, we have an idea. We know. So please what's turning you on this week.

Speaker 3 (40:10):

Ah, well it turns me on this week is probably the food, because it had been here for a while and said our city and I was missing my home food so much. Like I missed everything we used to eat in Congo. And when the first lady arrived here, we was staff. They brought a lot of food from Congo, a lot of food we used to eat like I was salt, fish, seafood, and cassava. And we were really thrilled at home.

Speaker 1 (40:39):

Oh my gosh. What's your favorite sort of traditional Congolese food?

Speaker 3 (40:44):

It's cassava bread. Like we eat that every single day. January to December sweet bread. No, it's not sweet. More like potato it's like that, but it's like a pastor it's like a bread. Oh

Speaker 1 (40:59):

My gosh. And you eat it all the time. All the time. Every day.

Speaker 3 (41:02):

Every day.

Speaker 1 (41:03):

Every day. And you've got to have some this week. Yes. All right. And let's see, what's turning you on this week. Thanks. Just coming back.

Speaker 4 (41:11):

City coming back, seeing that the children have settled down, they made us a home. When I came, I was the one leading them, looking at my phone, where do we need to go? No, it's like them. Oh yes. It's there. You need this. It can go this way. And just being happy that they are happy and feeling that it is home. So, yeah. That's awesome. That's a big turn for that

Speaker 1 (41:33):

Must be so rewarding. You know, that they're like, oh yeah, I know where to go now. And I'm comfortable and everything's fine. I know what to do. I'm like, oh my God, you guys have grown on me. Oh, how cute. Well, thank you for sharing that. Thank you for having us. All right, Steven, Alan, what's turning you on.

Speaker 5 (41:49):

Okay. There's two things to have the first lady on campus after a lot of work and a lot of time spent on this is just a real high for the week. And because it's the start of school and having all of our students back, particularly our international students from 76 different countries, that is just a real terrific week for me.

Speaker 1 (42:15):

The six different countries. That's right. That is amazing. Go T-Bird. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Global birds indeed. Well, on that note, I want to say to all of my guests, thank you so much for taking the time today. Thanks for talking with me and being on the APEC sour. All right. Yay. All right, everyone. We will see you next week. Thanks so much for listening to the apex hour here on KSU use under 91.1, confined us again next Thursday at 3:00 PM. For more conversations with the visiting guests at Southern Utah university and new music to discover for your next playlist. And in the meantime, we would love to see you at our events on campus to find out more, check out seu.edu/apex until next week. This is Lynn Vartan saying goodbye from the apex hour here on funder 91.1

Speaker 2 (43:19):

[Inaudible] [inaudible].