Salty experiences and new dreams....

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....



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Comment by Dewi Rahmadania on June 7, 2010 at 9:05pm
dear Olive..,
you are really inspiring me in that room.,
with ur big smile n hospitallity.
we are friends for the first time we meet..!
im still remember what u say when we are listening someone talk or share
" are we really listening or just waiting to talk.?"
its really gives me something to learn.,
we very gratefull to have you in Indonesia..,
please come to our office @ PMI Jakarta and share...

spirit clap.,
Comment by wiwin winarni on June 7, 2010 at 1:05pm
Dear Oliv..

Bagus sekali ceritanya....I enjoy reading your writing. I really like your rotted vegetable and bad meat thta really not there at a bowl of soup, its just salt. It just SO SALTY...

I will be very happy accompany you at our next mission at Tasikmalaya and Bandunng (perhaps)
Comment by Phil on May 27, 2010 at 4:02pm
I would be VERY interested to read about what happens and what you discover as you go about looking for strengths. Keep on writing.
Comment by Olivia Munoru on May 26, 2010 at 3:12pm
Gosh - these comments have been so nice... I feel so appreciated! Thank you to Laurence, Gaston and Marlou for sharing your similar experiences. You are all so kind with your words and so open with your friendship - it's quite inspiring.
Comment by Laurence Gilliot on May 26, 2010 at 3:05pm
Dear Liv,

How wonderful to meet you and to read your wonderful experience. You write so well. And you think you do not contribute :) that makes me smile! Because I recognize myself in your words. We do have this tendency sometimes to compare ourselves to others and not to be in touch with our own beauty and contribution. Right?

That's why SALT is so interesting. It is much more than a community approach. It applies to ourselves first. Marijo once wrote that when we do SALT visit we discover our own strengths... to appreciate!

A facilitator from RDC said: "With this process I feel so light. As a health worker, I don't have to carry this heavy burden on my shoulders but the whole communities is now responsible and active."

Welcome on board!

Comment by Gaston on May 26, 2010 at 8:02am
Dear Liv, thank you for this posting. I enjoy starting days with stories like this. I like your style of writing. I can also really understand your experience. I have been many times in situations, workshops, community visits where I don't speak the language and I felt that I wasn't adding value.

This was especially in the Philippines some years ago. For me it was a good symptom of me 'always wanting to help others by bringing solutions'. Once I became at peace with not having to give advice, I started really being interested in what they were doing. I started learning about their ways of working. I learned things from them which went well beyond work and that I am still using in my own life. And then I started sharing from a different space my own experiences. Not as an expert, but as a peer and as a human being.

The rest of my stay in the Philippines was wonderful (and useful!). You are lucky with a team of wonderful facilitators around you. All the best.
Comment by Marlou on May 26, 2010 at 1:22am
Liv, Many thanks for sharing your nice experience. From your writing I can see the friends in Indonesia around you: inspiring and fun as they are - and through your writing it feels like I am there with you in that room. Enjoy your time in Indonesia, en selamat datang!



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