New Hope Center’s Beginnings


Anita Sundqvist Paden was born in the Central African Republic in 1940. Her mother died there when she was 5 years old. At that time people didn’t know much about helping a grieving child. Anita returned with her remaining family to Sweden, where she received her RN degree. She received further university training which enabled her to teach in a nursing school in Sweden for several years.

In 1997, Anita and her American husband, Bruce Paden, were living in Portland, Oregon. Anita saw an ad in the Oregonian newspaper about The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families in Portland, Oregon. They were looking to train volunteers. Out of curiosity about her own grief experience, Anita enrolled in the training at The Dougy Center in 1997 and in 1999. She found the training very helpful for her personally and decided to do something with it in Africa to help the many grieving children there, where she had been working since 1971.

Anita first started working with grieving children in Kigali, Rwanda at Kigali Parents’ School in December 2000, and in Goma, DR Congo in April 2001. 

The work in Goma started in a very simple church building, with dirt floors and rough wooden pews. As the grief groups grew in size and numbers, Anita started to dream about opening a center for her work with the children. 

In September 2006, Anita’s dream came true and construction of the New Hope Center was completed. 

The new space allowed Anita and her team to start even more grief groups. It also provided space for facilitator trainings.  Most importantly, it was a safe place for children to find healing and work through their grief. 

Anita is now the national team leader for New Hope Center in DRCongo, and the grief support groups continue in both Rwanda and Congo with help of trained national facilitators.

Anita Paden and her husband Bruce recently retired after over 40 years of service as missionaries in both the Central African Republic and Eastern Congo. Bruce has always been very supportive of the work that Anita does to help grieving children and young people. He has helped from time to time with administrative work, translation and training of facilitators. 

Anita and Bruce plan to continue working with New Hope Center, both in the US and in Congo. Their efforts in the US will focus on raising funds for NHC as well as raising awareness of the situation in Eastern Congo.  They will continue to make short trips (4-5 months) to the Congo to support the national team and conduct facilitator trainings.

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