A Manchester woman who lived most of her life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, suffering years of abuse, deprivation and rape, is back home after traveling to California and Nevada for a ritual at Lake Tahoe as part of CongoSwim 2013, a call to action on the deadly conflict and humanitarian crisis in the central African nation.
Coco Ramazani, recently featured in a New Hampshire Union Leader article, is the subject of a book on the crisis titled “Tell This to My Mother,” by Joseph E. Mwantuali.
Ramazani took part in a healing ceremony on the pilot boat while CongoSwim founder Keris Dahlkamp swam the 22 miles across Lake Tahoe, starting after midnight on Aug. 24 on the south shore of the lake and touching sand on the north shore nearly 14 hours later.
“With the surrounding wildfires, the heavy smoke made for additional challenges and a bit of a surreal environment,” said Dahlkamp’s wife, Rena. “But his lungs remained strong and the rest of us could use masks.”
Ramazani led the team on the lead boat in a prayer as she heaved a stone into the water. The stone was covered with words of pain to be left in the deepest point of the lake.
“When I gave Keris a hug before he went into the water, I gave him my bag full of pain, shame, guilt, anger and non-stop tears as a rape survivor,” Ramazani said. “When he found the right spot in the middle of the lake, I threw the rock and it buried my bags. He came out without my baggage. That’s my brother.”
After the swim, which was part of CongoSwim events worldwide, Ramazani spoke at several venues, sharing her life story at the University of San Francisco, University of California at Berkeley, at churches, in private homes and at bookstores in the hope of raising awareness of the conflict and donations for the victims.
CongoSwim will be accepting tax-deductible donations through September at congoswim.org.