Humble Beginnings


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 retired and living in Federal Way, Washington.  The work at the New Hope Center is led by a fantastic Congolese team, lead by Country Director Chantal Ndayazi. The grief support groups continue in both Rwanda and Congo with help of trained national facilitators.

Anita and Bruce continue to support the work of the New Hope Center from the United States.  Their efforts focus on raising funds for NHC as well as raising awareness of the situation in Eastern Congo.  They  continue to make short trips (4-6 weeks) to the Congo to support the national team and conduct facilitator trainings.

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.