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A little nervous I stepped out of the airplane from Nairobi. Finally, stepping foot in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 2 weeks of French speaking in a country that is generally known in the press as ‘being a mess’. When I told many of my friends or family that I was going to DRC, many would say: ‘Wow, that must not be easy’ or ‘pfff, tough trip’.

Well to sum up my trip in one sentence: ‘DRC is one of the most impressive countries with the warmest, kindest and most joyful people I have met in my life and a country from which ‘we’ can learn a lot’. This country and its people are ‘real’. No pretending, no role-playing, this is it! I love it and learnt from it. How? Here is a crash course is how to learn from DR-Congo:

First of all, I had to look beyond the chaos at the airport (it is quite exceptional...), the infrastructure that needs further development and the governance that hasn’t reached its full potential yet. If I would stay stuck in a complaining mood on these aspects, I can just as well read the newspapers and not visit the country at all. As many of you know, our starting point is: We look for strengths. So that’s what I did.

I met the smiling warm Judith, one of our coaches, who shared great stories with pride about her country and is an impressive facilitator. I met the National Facilitation Team, RDCCompetence. A group of young exceptional people, who have taken AIDS Competence to a different level. Most of them do the work straight from their heart. During a general assembly of RDCCompetence I was touched by the testimonials of facilitators on what the approach brought to them. From personal growth to life-changing views towards other people. From becoming more effective in a current job to strengthening their own life competence. These testimonials alone could sustain my motivation for my work for the next year.....

Smart Eric, funny Mike, analytical Junior, hospitable Sandrine, warm Toussaint, real Judith, passionate Mami and the others quickly made me feel home. This hard-working group of facilitators are ready to make their vision reality: an AIDS Competence DR-Congo. During a first presentation to potential NGOs we will be working with in a new process, I was overwhelmed by their conviction to phrase the approach and its results. This did not come from a book or manual, this was hands-on community experience that was shared with passion.

After working hours, I got a good taste of Congolese culture, dance, smiles, food, hospitality and joy. This country is alive! I break danced with street kids before a discussion on HIV, I danced the rumba with ‘teacher’ Antoine Sakasaka, I discussed with ACP facilitation teams in suburbs enlightening my understanding of the approach, I was invited into cosy houses of Eric and Toussaint. I simply made a group of real friends and I can’t wait to go back.

My conclusion: DR-Congo has one enormous strength: its people. And if we’re open to this, we have lots and lots to learn from them.

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Comment by Camille Collin on January 28, 2010 at 10:33am
super! wil er ook onmiddellijk naartoe!
Comment by Mimi Gerniers on August 7, 2009 at 9:23am
Merci Gaston d'enfin donner une vision positive de ce pays, bien loin des clichés habituels. Cela rejoint ce que j'éprouve après tant d'années passées dans ce pays que j'aime envers et contre tout.
Comment by Bobby Zachariah on August 6, 2009 at 9:15pm
Woww Gaston! Amazing post. You communicated the spirit of CLCP so well through this narrative. Bobby
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 4, 2009 at 4:23pm
Fabelachtig, Gaston.

One of the nicest, most inspiring blogs I read on celebration of strengths, of humanity, of joyous life filled with care, concern and love. A learning that one must invest one’s energy in the positive, looking at negative aspects never works. “People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?” urges Thich Nhat Hanh.

However, it is easier said then done. How do you keep this spirit going, when there is negativity all around?

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