Connecting local responses around the world
I was just one week in Indonesia and filled with all the feelings one has when in a new country - excitement, apprehension, curiousity... So, armed with just a 1-page ToR and an Indonesian Language Dictionary I was sent along by my new employer, UNFPA, to the ACP Facilitators Conference in Bogor, Indonesia.
First stop... the CLC website, where I started reading the blogs and working my way through some of the ACP learning materials. I couldn't believe what I was reading! This ACP - it seems great! To me, it seemed that I may have finally found a true example of "community ownership" and ëmpowerment", 2 principles that I have always subscribed to, but have never experienced in reality. In fact, prior to arriving in Indonesia, I had become a little jaded, a bit pessimistic as to whether such ideals are just "buzzwords", used to make projects more appealing, more politically correct per se. Over the years I have wondered if these words, "community ownership" and "empowerment" were in fact like spices. Good spices make food yummy. It makes us want to eat it. But throughout history, spices have been used to cover up rotting vegetables or bad meat. So that was my fear. What really lies under these yummy words and ideas? Bad meat?
So I attended my first ACP conference with an alert mind but an open heart, keen to find new inspiration...
Day 1 - OMG I have to improve my Indonesian!. We played some ice-breaker games in small groups, and after the first game we had to report on what we had learned about our new friends. I hoped hoped hoped that nobody would notice me... perhaps I can just fade into the crowd..... but of course, I had to present. All of a sudden I lost my entire Indonesian vocabulary (trust me, it wasn't that big to start with) and the only 2 words I could find were "pretty" and "sick". Not a great choice really, so I went with "pretty", the better of the two. The problem was, I was reporting on a couple of men! I guess it broke the ice.......
I have enrolled in language lessons now, by the way.
To be honest, I left Day 1 feeling flat and deflated. These people are amazing! They are experienced, knowledgable and passionate. But I am useless! What could I ever contribute to such a capable group?! I thought about going home, to Jakarta. But instead, I went back to the ACP materials. I asked myself, what can I learn from ACP and from these great people? And then, like a lightbulb, I realised. I must focus on my strengths! I must listen and learn! I must become SALTY!
So, I started day 2 with a new mandate - to STIMULATE, APPRECIATE, LISTEN and TRANSFER. With the kind help of some translators I listened to the stories of my new friends, asked lots of stimulating questions and even shared a story or two from my own experiences. I began to appreciate more and more the wonderful diversity of the group and the work they do in ACP and beyond. Adopting SALT was turning out to be quite easy!
The conference was a success (see Chandra's blog). Turns out, there's no bad meat in this soup - just salt ;-) The Facilitators came from many backgrounds, ages and experiences. All 3 genders were represented. It was a diverse group but everone was united through their commitment to ACP. At the Bogor ACP Facilitators Conference I met people who were salty not only in their work, but in their lives. I met people who are committed to working with communities so that they can achieve their dream to be AIDS Competent. I think I may have found my inspiration....
My plan now is to attend some SALT visits with my new friends, and to look for more opportunities to learn. In my role at UNFPA, I know now that rather trying to find problems to solve, I can look for the strengths, and celebrate these. Rather than trying to find answers to questions, I can instead just listen, learn and appreciate. So this is what I will do, always keeping my hand held out in case someone needs it.
Thank you to all the wonderful ACP Facilitators in Indonesia for helping me to build this dream....