Lyn Lusi was the heart of HEAL Africa. Everybody called her “Mama.” She was like a mother to the 400 employees of HEAL Africa and to the thousands and thousands of women, children and men for whom HEAL Africa was and is providing care for. Lyn passed away in Goma, DR Congo, on the evening of March 17th.  One patient in HEAL Africa’s ward reflects the impact of losing her while confirming the legacy of compassion and generosity she leaves behind: “We are missing her so badly, but we know she is now in a better place. We will never ever forget what she did for us and for our country.”

Lyn first traveled from England to the DR Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1971, where she began to work as a teacher with the Baptist Missionary Society. In 1974, she fell in love and married a Congolese physician, Dr. Kasereka M. “Jo” Lusi. The couple’s combined skill in medicine, education, and administration led them to serve for 19 years in northeastern Congo’s Nyankunde Hospital as well as several associated schools. Even then, Jo and Lyn dedicated themselves to training young national doctors—a commitment that would lead them to found HEAL Africa in 2000.  Having earned her Master’s in Human Resource Development and Training in 1999, Lyn began applying her formidable skills to develop HEAL Africa not only into a medical training center, but into a place capable of healing and supporting survivors of violence and rape.

Despite serious challenges and setbacks due to the region’s economic impoverishment, political destabilization, and natural disasters, HEAL Africa has thrived under her efforts in the last 12 years.  This is not merely a testament to Lyn’s skill, but to her determination.  In 2002, when a local volcano destroyed the organization’s original hospital, rebuilding efforts accomplished more than repairing the damage.  Ultimately, Lyn’s thoughtful guidance helped the organization discover ways to grow stronger after the disaster.  Lyn’s efforts in rebuilding the hospital stemmed from the same attitude she used to help many, many Congolese not only survive their traumas but rebuild their lives.  Lyn’s model of service lives on and will continue to do so in HEAL Africa’s work.  The thousands whose lives she has already touched through this organization will go on to affect thousands more, growing her positive influence long after her time of service has ended.

Lyn Lusi succumbed to cancer at the age of 62.  She leaves behind her loving husband Jo, son Paluku and his wife and son, daughter Nadine,  four sisters, and thousands of friends and colleagues who loved her. She will be laid to rest in Butembo, North Kivu in DR Congo, on Tuesday March 20th.  The Lusi family originally comes from this area, giving it special meaning as Lyn’s final return home.  Some of her last words before her death were: “Tell them not to cry.”  To the end she was thinking of how to comfort the sorrows of others.  Her love and her full heart will carry on – forever.

In November 2011, Lyn was awarded the prestigious Opus Prize which recognizes unsung heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, solving today’s most persistent social problems. The funds from that award were placed in a trust to be used for specific projects Lyn was most passionate about; these projects will carry on her legacy of working with women and communities in eastern Congo. Funds given in memory of Lyn will be used according to the same guidelines.  To give in honor of Lyn, click here for our give page and please indicate your gift is for the “Lyn Lusi Memorial Fund.”

To see the PBS Newshour tribute to Lyn Lusi, click here.