Comfort Dondo

Comfort Dondo
"Providing refuge to African immigrant survivors"

In 2017, Comfort founded an organization called Phumulani Minnesota African Women Against Violence. Phumulani - also the middle name of Comfort’s daughter - means “peace” in Zulu. Comfort and her team assist historically-marginalized communities and African immigrant survivors of gender-based violence and their children. They help them find housing and authentic connection. At the peak of the pandemic, Comfort expanded the organization’s work to protect and advocate for unhoused women in the multiple encampments across the metro area. Since its founding, Phumulani has helped more than 400 unhoused survivors.

As a survivor of sexual violence and homelessness herself, Comfort knows firsthand the difference a mission like Phumulani’s can make. Her own journey remains deeply entwined with the women she assists. In 2018, Comfort and her three children found a place to call home after ten years of couch hopping, staying with friends, and moving from hotel to hotel. Three years later, Comfort opened this same home to survivors of domestic violence who did not fit into the shelter model. The Phumulani Healing Home is a culturally-specific, seven-bedroom refuge that provides a safe haven to families in their time of transition.

Comfort identified cultural specificity as an important need when starting Phumulani. While Minnesota has well-resourced Sexual Violence Protection programs, “there was nothing for African-born women,” she says. Because there is such a stigma around sexual violence within the African immigrant community, many women do not talk about it. Phumulani hosts Healing Circles for women to share their struggles in environments that are honest and safe.  

Comfort notes that her approach to her work, and the women she assists, isn’t “mainstream.” It’s out of the box. She puts her heart into her work, and finds fulfillment in turning pain to purpose. “Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a rising in consciousness in cultivating work and environments that give us joy,” she says. “People need to rest and have joy for them to recognize their own joy and humanity.” 

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