Barebones 2022 Employee Congo Trip


In 2022, we launched a new initiative to send employees, with our CEO & Founder Robert Workman, to volunteer with ongoing Tifie humanitarian efforts. This program allows team members to further connect to our company roots as a philanthropic enterprise. In December, to kick off this new initiative, three employees spent a week working and learning in the Congo. Below are their stories. 

“We tell stories to inspire others
to make changes and to tell their own stories”
- Robert 



Ian Rogers


Barebones’ purpose has always been centered around people. Coming from technology, I never really understood the importance of some of our products and the impact that they could have on people’s lives.

What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?

There is a lot that we can do to help the community and the people in the Congo. Coming from a society where we have the opportunity to obtain an education, we can build better infrastructure and systems. This information enables us to create a ton of value. I believe that if we continue to help the communities in Congo to learn, they will be able to do things for themselves and build systems that last and serve a larger population through agriculture, infrastructure, or even education.


Kids welcome Barebones team at local AAE school


How did the trip tie into Barebones for you? 

Barebones’ purpose has always been centered around people. Coming from technology, I never really understood the importance of some of our products and the impact that they could have on people’s lives. After going to Africa, it allowed me to see the importance of agriculture and how our products enable people to directly grow food for themselves. This is huge in a part of the world where nearly 42% of the population is starving.

How can your skills help in the future? 

Currently, there are six schools that AAE is operating. All of these schools keep track of data via pen and paper. They considered getting a web application that could help manage their schools, but when looking at budgeting, all these off-the-shelf applications were ten times more expensive than a realistic solution. 



Once I returned from this trip, I rounded up some of my friends in the software space and started a project to build a web application to help these schools. We have about ten software/Data engineers working on this. Most of these people work full-time and are also students. They are donating the time they have to build this application in hopes of helping the children in the DRC. Our aim with data tracking is to help the administration gain more visibility for every student. This data should help students on an individual level and help the administration make more informed community decisions.



Rayda Slitine


“It's amazing to see the local people in leadership roles taking initiatives to work for progress.”

What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?

I learned how significant the Barebones & Tifie impact is on AAE and other organizations we support. It was interesting to learn that BCP & AAE leadership was actually more local. It's amazing to see the Congolese people in leadership roles taking initiative to work for progress. 


How did the trip tie into Barebones for you?

I have a better understanding of the roots of the organization and the origin story of how things began. My current role entails working with our counterparts in China and Pakistan on operations and development. I feel I can explain our mission better to our international partners as well as help take their projects from concepts to fruition.


A favorite memory. 

I loved listening to the different AAE schools welcome us, singing their school songs, and being excited to meet us. 
Kids from the AAE schools welcome Barebones team


Odessa Fellows


“When I go to trade shows, have meetings, and talk about my work, I feel passionate and proud of what we’re doing and who we are.”


What was the most interesting thing you learned about the Tifie partnership?

As we embarked on this trip, I knew nothing about Tifie beyond bits and pieces. I had no idea of the history. I was striving to learn more. 

The most striking insight happened while at the Dumi farm. What an incredible journey Barebones and Robert have been on! The farm required many other businesses to participate in production in order for it to run smoothly. Barebones team visits Dumi farm, a project started by Robert on some of his initial visits

I loved hearing about the trucking company that was started to transport the crops back to the city. Of course, the Dumi farm is now a very different operation than it once was, so my favorite Tifie Partnership component is with AAE. The school system is truly incredible. With 5500+ students getting the chance to learn and grow and having access to applicable trade education - it's mind-boggling. (Go, Rick, & go BCP!!!) 


How did the trip tie into Barebones for you? 

This trip invigorated my appreciation and love for being a part of the Barebones family. I take a lot of pride in sharing the experience with others personally and professionally. Being privy to Congolese culture, the work that Tifie and BCP are doing in Kinshasa, and knowing that Robert cares to share the history is immensely important. When I go to trade shows, have meetings, and talk about my work, I feel passionate and proud of what we’re doing and who we are. Barebones, Tifie, and this whole company are truly doing good. 

How do you hope to help in the future?  

I seek to get immersed in the art world everywhere I go. The pull of the creation process often assigns meaning to an experience. It was really special being able to connect with the Congolese artists, as well as sharing the affinity and care with Robert.

Local artisans sell their work, Gloire with his camera

Congolese artist, Gloire - photographs from a Congolese city

I would love to be able to help orchestrate an art show using Glory’s photos and Mertins’ work at a Barebones event. I know that the vibrant colors, the subjects, the raw talent, and the ties to supporting small businesses would be impactful and powerful for sharing the Barebones story.



“ One of the first things I noticed about the Congo was the use of color. The clothing and fabrics are crisp, clean, vibrant, and colorful. The pride in one’s image is apparent, even when the poverty feels overwhelming. The new grocery stores were bustling with chattiness and excitement, with bright colorful labels and a constant hum of advertisements through a speaker system.  Meeting artist Mertins Kusola was one of the most impactful times of the trip. His smile and laugh are contagious, and his imagery is complex and skillful. He employs other artists at his studio to help provide an outlet for their endeavors to be creators, including one of the original Tifie Orphans, Grace.  The juxtaposition of play, femininity, laughter, food, and African themes contrasts darkly with the reality that getting materials is challenging, finding an audience is nearly impossible, and the oppression of corruption bleeds into each creation. We were yelled at and threatened with bribes right outside the studio for driving on “the wrong road”. This is a challenging existence, yet, Mertins continues to push himself to create something that is not a requirement, but an asset for society.” 



“Sometimes we don’t think we are doing good. Sometimes we wonder if what we are doing makes a difference. And sometimes we don’t get to know that. But sometimes we do. These are the human moments.”  - Robert

Read about some of our other humanitarian efforts. >>>


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