The Impact of Community Engagement Can Be Mutual
When a volunteer engages with local communities through the Waza Alliance programs, the impact can be mutual, if not greater for the volunteer than the beneficiaries. Below are a few reflections from some of the volunteers:
Here is one of the reflections from Nuoya Chen:
My name is Nuoya Chen, I am currently in 12th grade attending the International School of Indiana. Over the past summer, I volunteered for WAZA club. I have always been interested in African culture. I have a strong passion in helping children, and improving children’s lives.
I found out that Democratic Republic of Congo is very different from what I pictured in my mind before I went on the trip. The cities in D.R.C. are more developed than I thought they would be. The use of electricity is much more common than I expected. People are generous and kind. Generally, people seem very happy even though their social welfare is not comparably satisfying.
However, the children’s education and living conditions in the countryside are still not very optimistic. Teachers and students are eager to learn more knowledge. When I assisted in vision screening for the teachers, I was very impressed by how much they needed medical help. It makes me realize that the volunteer work I did is worthwhile. The kind natured people I encountered during my visit had strengthened the feeling that it is a responsibility for me to help improve children’s living conditions and medical care.
Dan Ntala went to D R Congo on a mission trip with Waza Alliance in summer 2013. He also got to visit his extended family that he had not seen since age one and a half:
My name is Dan Ntala, a junior at the International School of Indiana. In summer 2013, I spent several weeks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a volunteer for Waza Alliance for Quality Education. I was very humbled to have joined the Waza president, Faustin Ntala, on his annual trip to the Congo in an effort to enhance the lives of children in the Congo by improving the quality of their education.
Waza conducts various fundraising activities and actively spreads the information about the organization throughout the Indianapolis community to show its dedication to making a difference in the lives of African children. I had heard many stories of the difference Waza had made by hosting seminars for teachers and providing scholarships for kids. Yet, experiencing the whole process first hand had excited me to go on this trip.
I was anxious to experience the Congolese culture and spend time with my own family who I had not seen in almost 13 years. My brother also traveled to the Congo the previous year, and shared his memories of listening to the thoughts expressed by many teachers in the seminars. I’ll admit, they were very compelling stories, but the trip gave me the chance to experience the Democratic Republic of the Congo for myself. In hindsight, it proved to be a very beneficial trip for my development as a person, as I was able to grow my passion and interest in community service from a global perspective.
I was able to sharpen many technical and learning attributes as I was presented with the opportunity to create an hour-long documentary film on the development of education in the Congo. I learned the details behind the process of creating a documentary film, which encompassed aspects such as the conception of a script, techniques to enhance the quality of the film, the interviewing process, and most of all technological editing. With the opportunity to complete an individual project, I was able to further learn about the state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and what can be done to aid its situation.
Peter made the trip to D R Congo in 2012 and had this to say:
For me, the trip was much more than a mere voyage across the ocean. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997, and left in 1999. I had not been back to my home country since until I was 15. Up until then, all I knew about the Congo, I heard from either my parents or the news.
The news chalked up the D.R.C. to be a country in a perpetual war-minded state against militant groups, the center of aversion for travel, and the breeding ground for precious earth metals. From my parents, I learned a lot about my family and the actual political situations (and not the ones depicted by outside sources). But I never truly knew what it was to experience my homeland with my own five senses. I was lucky to get that chance when my dad offered to take me with him to the Congo not only to see my family but also to experience the actual results of the programs planned in the U.S. for WAZA. If you haven’t heard of it now (although I strongly believe you have), WAZA is a non-profit organization that Faustin Ntala started to help bolster the educational system in the D.R.C.
Taking me on this trip would not only help me get in touch with my roots but also learn what it meant to passionately change one’s country for the better. As the date for my departure neared, I came to realize that I wasn’t actually nervous about the trip Even though I’ve heard plenty of tales about my family, my hometown, and the situation at large in the D.R.C., I never actually knew what to expect when I would get there. I honestly felt that since I was going in virtually with new eyes, ears, and hands, I would have no real preconceptions that would warp me into thinking about my country in a certain way before I got there. Sure I’ve heard reports from my parents and the news, but I never took that into my personal emotional account; I treated it as plain factual information, nothing to be scared, proud, or angry about.
So the date came for my departure, and all I felt was excitement towards the prospect of a whole new experience entirely different from the one I’ve had for 13 years in the U.S. My dad cautioned and advised me the whole time on the trip there to what I was supposed to/not supposed to do, say, think, and the like, but I will honestly admit I was too excited and much of this information slipped from my mind.
The plane eventually touched down in Lubumbashi, and from the very grass, everything was entirely different. I knew the Congolese built their buildings differently for one, but it was a whole other thing to experience them in person. That was the way I felt for the rest of my physical experience there. Everything was new, even if I had heard about it before at my dinner table. I would compare myself to a wide-eyed kindergartener going to the zoo for the first time. It was truly fascinating to see everything, smell everything, taste everything, touch everything, and hear everything that the Congo had to offer for me. Reuniting with my family for the first time in 13 years was an overpowering joy in and of itself and made up the majority of my experience there, but the absolute and intangible impact that the country had on me was what made up my experience there.
Then there’s what WAZA’s groundwork was, and that alone made up another good third of my experience. I will admit that in the U.S., Waza Alliance honestly seemed small, perhaps nothing but a great idea on a bunch of good-looking papers and the lips of the occasional few but highly respected individuals who worked within. However in the Congo, Waza Alliance went from a sensational idea to a physical miracle. Knowing how difficult it is, per se, to establish extra-national organizations in the Congo and have them work while the organization’s president isn’t there, what he was able to do in the past and up to that point in the Congo, both in and out of his presence, was just truly something else to see. The president of Waza Alliance really had a way of his to capture even the most sullen and disrespectful people to at least believe in his cause. Furthermore, the amount of detailed and yet grand work he was able to do in the few short weeks we were there garnered much more respect from me towards Waza Alliance (though it should have been there in the first place, admittedly).
I saw for myself what it truly meant to be a child with educational aspirations and yet the family was financially incapable of providing the means to do so. I saw what it meant for kids to be finally given that chance and see what “eyes lighting up” actually meant in real life. This, my reunion with my family, and my first-time physical experience with my home country, I knew, would make up a phenomenal part of my life.
I returned to the U.S. a completely different person. Before I felt just like your average American with an African heritage, living a precise life with their family. Of course I may have had more global (especially African) awareness than some, but I honestly took that for granted and never understood the true meaning. Now I have come back entirely reformed and exponentially more aware of what it meant to be an African. My life suddenly found a new focus for the actions I would choose to do in the future, and my past was suddenly much more important than it had been before. Even to this day, though I have reflected on my experience countless of times before and written multiple observations, I still can’t quite concisely determine what exactly about me has changed. And yet I have an answer: everything, absolutely everything, about me has changed the moment I took the plane back to the U.S. after my trip to the Congo.
When Quality Education Matters!
I have heard that teaching and learning can occur when there is a qualified teacher, a motivated learner and a medium. Our experience this past summer 2014 has proven that there are institutions such as the mining company MMG/KINSEVERE, that understand the above statement. Based in the south east of the DR Congo, in the province of Katanga, the MMG/KINSEVERE mining company has moved to the next logical step, in its search for bringing quality education to the most needed population of the rural area that is under its sphere of influence.
School buildings by themselves do not make education occur, no matter how new or how well renovated they can be. Teachers, learners and books make education happen.
Like many in the corporate world and nonprofit organizations out there, MMG does build schools in places that do not have any. The company renovates public schools and provide logistical support to them. However, MMG/KINSEVERE is doing more than just building schools. The company has decided to enter into partnership with Waza Alliance, in order to provide quality education to the communities surrounding the mine. It has successfully helped organize a teacher training for all the teachers and administrators in the schools it subsidized, but also the schools surrounding the mining area. MMG has also given opportunity to teachers to access vision screening through the Waza Vision screening program. The company intends to provide resources to the schools in order to enhance reading, writing and numeracy skills.
The partnership between Waza Alliance and MMG/KINSEVER is set to improve the learning and teaching environment in the schools surrounding it. The pictures of the closing ceremony give a snapshot of the training. (Faustin Ntala)
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