Today is October 27, 2010, and SALT team and community members are about to hold their end-of-SALT-visit knowledge fair. I am supposed to facilitate the day, and I am a bit anxious. What format should I propose for a maximum benefit to all involved? Over the last three days, 4 teams visited each 6 communities and everyone learned a lot. How will about 60 people share so much in so many languages in so little time?

There is a last minute change of venue and we hold the fair in the hotel garden under beautiful trees. We start with the four teams reviewing all what they learned over the last three days. Everyone is contributing to lively conversations.
People only pause when the roar of a passing train covers everyone’s voice. Suddenly, a truck attracts my attention, as it enters the hotel garden, loaded with tall bamboos and with some tent material.Soon enough workers gently ask us to move and raise the bamboos to support a huge hall made of yellow fabric. “Oh my God, I think, the hotel must be organizing a wedding or some traditional Indian festival I know nothing about! Where on earth are we going to meet now?” My anxiety is reaching maximum levels. Soon a friend from Samraksha relieves my anxiety. This beautiful hall is meant for us, for our knowledge fair! The 60 people soon gather under the tent: visitors, Samraksha friends, members of the communities we had visited, and people who just came out of interest. I thought for myself: “Maybe I should have taken the advice I wrote on my board in my office: -Are you sure?”

We propose that we share how our visits deepened our understanding of SALT, using the letters of the acronym as guidelines. How do we stimulate response? I had always thought of S as asking Stimulating questions. But various contributions make me realize that I had missed another, powerful way of stimulating response: sharing one’s own story…

When the time came for sharing on L for Listen, Joao got up, and told us how he listened to a man who despite his loving care had lost his brother to AIDS. “The story somehow resonated in me, says Joao, and I told the man that I too had a sister living with AIDS. -Yes said the man, but yours is still alive. You can still
care for her; my brother is gone, and there is nothing anymore I can do for
him! - His reflection hit me, said Joao. I have worked on AIDS in my country
for more than ten years, but what did I do for my sister? Just before I went
for this trip, she asked me to buy a hair dryer for the salon she wants to
open. And what did I do? I spent all my money buying stuff for myself! So I called my sister, and asked for forgiveness. She told me that she always knew that I would come to her, because, she said, you are a good man!” Joao ends his story and goes back in tears to his seat. The silence is deep. People reflect, some are crying. I cannot read thoughts, but I know that many of us are thinking about their own family, as Joao’s story had in turn resonated with our own.

After leaving some time for people including me to recover, I said: “There is no need to explore further the L, and the T for Transform and Transfer. Joao, your
story tells it all: you listened deeply, the story transformed you, and you
transferred the experience into your own context!” Lawan added: “L does not
only stand for Listen, it also stands for Love!” At the end of the meeting, we
all could feel how we had come closer together.

Two days later, Sanghamitra tells me that Joao’s story made her call her mother. “It is Diwali next week, our biggest holiday in India. Usually, I don’t fly to Delhi to join my mother and our family for Diwali. I always think that I am too busy! But I told her that this time, I would come. My mother was surprised and asked me: why are you coming? I am doing well, there is no need for you to come! I responded: Wouldn’t it be great if we met when we both were doing well?” During the weekend following the SALT visit, I travelled with Sanghamitra through the beautiful Northern Karnataka and met communities and Samraksha staff. Those who had taken part in the SALT meeting told the power of appreciating strength and how Joao’s and others’ stories had resonated with their own. As in a chain reaction, others in turn said: “I will try this at home”.

We all share the dream that AIDS Competence spread faster than the virus. During the SALT visit and during the following weekend, I saw the dream come through. As communities inspire us, we can become the conduits for this inspiration to touch others. This chain reaction will have no end, if we let the inspiration flow.

This knowledge fair made it clear that SALT transforms work and life into a
spiritual experience. As the chair of the Constellation, I see it now as my
main duty to keep the inspiration flow. I was not prepared for it, but that
seems to be the essence of my humbling responsibility. With the help of all of
you, we can be part of the global movement that will take the world to a new
level of humanity and happiness.

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Comment by wiwin winarni on November 27, 2010 at 8:01pm
Dear JL,

Bagus Sekali..about anxiety this also always happen to me, I need to ensure my self about ARE YOU SURE..thanks for reminding me about this. Chandra and I just facilitated provincial stakeholder meeting at West Kalimantan. My anxiety really took place. There was a participant who was unsalty and start judging meeting session. I was happy then that other participants support to back my not confident heart . what Gaston said about compassion, inclusion, care, confidence obviously shown by those salty person at the meeting session.

knowing this, my anxiety lessen :)
Best Regards
Comment by Gaston on November 26, 2010 at 9:52pm
Beautiful. I want to share another experience linked to this. This week I spent another week driving to various communities and accompanying them together with a local facilitation team here in DR Congo. Yesterday, the driver of the National AIDS Program told us: I also want to become a SALT facilitator! I really like this approach. It's incredible what I see in these communities. Is it possible to be trained?

I also remember the WHO driver in an Asian country who told me: Every time I pick up a coach of the Constellation from the airport, it's different than my other passengers. You are very human and don't make a distinction between people or what's on someone's business card.

As long as all the drivers we meet, share this feedback, we're on track!
Comment by Sanghamitra Iyengar on November 26, 2010 at 8:51am
Dear Joao,

Thank you for your responses. Despite believing in community strengths for decades, each new story, leaves me humbled all over again as the amazement of it penetrates. Your story became such a powerful inspiration asset that flows like a magnificent river collecting more and more inspirations inits wake....why? It was your humility that triggered it off. It was your willingness to reveal and share your vulnerability that freed others from their own shackles and allowed them to act, to share!!
Comment by Sanghamitra Iyengar on November 26, 2010 at 8:39am
Thank you so much, Jean Louis. That gives us a real glimpse into the spirituality we experienced that day. .. This chain reaction that you talk about is something truly electric and I am seeing it snowball so rapidly this time that it is unbelievable....... When I read about Gaston's experiences in the Congo, it seems that SALT is an idea whose time has come to be a global movement!! A big thank you to the Constellation for inviting us to be part of these SALT visits. These have been truly transformational!!
Comment by Joao Arnaldo Vembane on November 26, 2010 at 5:39am
Dear Jean,

Thank you for bringing me back as a person to my family. Everytime I remember this (even now) tears come out, my face warms and my heart dries my throat. I feel small and insignificant, but happy to be in the same time finding a huge space for sheltering my heart in my sister, my grandmother, my wife and all that I owe gratitude and or the list I can do for now (hearing).

Like I may have shared with you: at the beginning of my approach to this process, I thought it was crazyness to think that we may learn from the illiterate communities. I and others like me were the experts and could change the course of whatever vulnerability. However since the reality starts to increasingly bring stronger debate on how much are really changing the trends. Nothing is happening. Something new or different (some people may say innovative) should be tried. We are all disparate. Thus joining the groups was my salvation and today I say with full words I HAVE ALL TO LEARN FROM COMMUNITIES... and the price is to be as I am - simple human being.

Thank you very much again Jean, Ricardo , Virgilio and all the team. Thank you Sanghamitra and all Samraksha team. Thank India and participants of the event of Inida.



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