06 Feb

Living in a united yet divided world – Arno

To start with, a statement : Do people travel because they want to escape their lives?

Or are they traveling with the hope of ever being able to get away? Why do people take drugs that ‘take them’ to a ‘better place’? To escape from a suppression of daily life, which we call society? And how can this ‘society’ be so rich and at the same time so poor?

Rich in well-being, food sources and other possessions that give us a false sense of happiness.

Poor to social contact. A vision about the outside world that is based on realism, not on prejudices or on-media-based nonsense.

Nonsense that we, the Western man, take in our brain because of our poverty in social contact, and remember. Prejudice forms and is accompanied by hatred. Hatred-filled hearts do not see the beauty of the world, nor the grief of it. The fact that sadness can be something beautiful proves that there is always something stronger coming back from the same pain. Adjustment. Evolution.

The media keeps us trapped in a world full of grief, pain, and death. But we should look over this. People are not made to hate each other. And yet we are the only species that kills each other in large numbers. We call ourselves the top of evolution, and let something primitive as territorial behavior co-decide our behavior. Strange!?

If only we could look further. Break our poverty of  social contact. Get rid of that daily routine. A routine in which we have developed speed,  in which we have locked ourselves in. People need to help each other. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We should live to each other’s happiness, not to each other’s misery. We shouldn’t hate each other. The earth is rich and can provide everyone. Life can be free for everyone, rich and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned our hearts, hastened the world with hatred and gradually brought us into misery and bloodshed. Machines that give abundance have made us want more. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our mind, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.

I see and meet people every day. People that want to change the world. Unite us all. But is there a place in society for humanity? Is there a way that we can all live together?

There are good people on this world, dreamers, and like one of the very first dreamer said :

You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one ~ John Lennon

And we’re not. But neither are the people who divide this world. And if we think about a united world, how does it look for you? With a uni-language? Is that even an option?

We should not give ourselves to ‘society’. People who despise us, make us ‘free’ slaves, decide our lives for us. Who tells us what to think and how to feel. Our drills for a life that we do not want. Let us fight for territory. Do not fight for this, fight for the freedom of every human being.

In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written: “the kingdom of God is in man” – not one person or a group of people, but in all people! In you! You, the people have the power, the power to make machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the strength to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

So, in the name of democracy, I ask you to let us use that power, let us try to unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that gives people a chance to work, that will give a future to the youth and safety.

The richer of society make themselves too powerful at the cost of others.

Let us fight to free the world, to remove international borders, to crush greed, hatred and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world in which science and progress will lead to the happiness of all people.

And please, don’t give up the dreams.

 

Arno Demaertelaere

Gent, 8/01/2019

 

 

 

 

 

15 Jan

Development aid: from handout to handup – Evance

Greetings to all!!!!!

A popular proverb says, “if you want to give someone a fish, teach him HOW TO FISH”. The aim of teaching someone how to fish is to make the person have the fish all the time he wants it.

I would like to relate the proverb to our topic about Development Aid, there are many reasons why third world countries seek help from those who are rich but that is a story of another day…. For a long period of time developed countries the Westerners and now coming in of China and other Asians countries have pumped much of their resources to poor countries like Malawi, but on the other hand it has been realized that less has changed on the ground. The past 50 years Aid has been provided in a form of FISH not HOW TO FISH, therefore again and again, the recipient countries go back and ask another Aid. I Am glad with the change by United Nations by introducing 15 years’ program called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I think this will change how we view and handle Aid by both developing and developed countries. The aim of SDGs is to teach developing countries HOW TO FISH, in what way?…. by making them to learn how their can solve their own problems and how to use locally available resources.

There are many problems which I think have contributed to less change while much Aid has been provided, for example

  • corruption by both the beneficiaries and the donor
  • timing of the project implementation
  • poor participation
  • and treating the effects not the cause.

I will explain the last point to you in a more profound way.

Most Aid which is provided to us is meant to treat the effect not really focusing on the cause, which I think if you provide treatment to outward result leaving inner problem then there is nothing you/we have done. I would like to give an example… “if in the community  kids are not going to school do not build a school block(s) thinking you have provided a solution, NO!!! Building a school block it’s not a solution because in our (Malawian) communities we have a lot of problems that can make one fail to go to school, we have the issues to do with cultural practices whereby kids are forced to participate while school is in progress, we have harsh reality of poverty… lack of food, clothes and other basic needs. The reason why I am mentioning all this is to give a picture of the things on the ground because if you want to provide education to us understand all these problems which are the cause to the problem of poor school attendance.

To END Aid provision will not be easy as we mighty think because both the donor and the recipient are benefitting from the Aid, how? The donor sends people to oversee the project, meaning creating job opportunities and some donors come with their own contractors and workers meaning they the Aid is circulating among themselves leaving the recipient in the same state, that is why they would not love to completely end supporting us, while on other side increasing us the spirit of dependence making us not to open our minds to think how we can HOW WE CAN FISH.

As an individual I would wish we should change the approach, how the aid should be provided and how we should hand them, I would wish Aid should be provided in form of “Handup” not Handouts.  In our communities we have plenty of resources, if our people are given that opportunity to realize how they can use them, then it will be a good move. On other hand it’s hard for the people to know how to use these resources since most of the population is not educated, like I said in two previous blog posts. So if we involve youth, through trainings and motivation programs then they will be able to know how to use the resources and in ten to twenty years we will have a big change which I think will reduce dependency syndrome.  To make one realize his or her capability it’s a gradual process which take more time. Therefore, I would wish if our generation should consider the actions and how it will affect the future ones.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Jan

Some critical reflections on development aid – Sara

Hello there!

Happy New Year!

I am having exams so I am going to keep it a bit short.

But “development aid” or “development corporation” is an area that interests me a lot and that I am sometimes worried about. Some weeks ago I attended a REALLY nice student’s conference where I met people from several African countries.

Before that day I already had some questions about Development aid. Do we do it in the right manner? Does it really have a good effect on the local people? Don’t we keep them dependent on financial aid from the North? And even: “Is it sometimes a new form of colonization?” The name already: “Who are we to think that we can ‘develop’ other people?”

Of course, not all ‘Development programs’ are the same, but that student’s conference confirmed some of my questions. What I remembered the most is that ‘Fair Trade’ is the best form of ‘development aid’.

Some quotes from that day that I would like to share with you.

“Development Aid is not going to end poverty”
“Every country is different, with different cultures and different values. You can’t judge everyone based on your own values”
“Stop suppressing African people by getting resources for very low costs and selling it, after processing, very expensively. Chocolat is a symbol for Belgium, but where does the cocoa come from? It’s not from Belgium. And the people who take care of the cocoa don’t get well payed for it. If people here are payed 2000 euros each month and we pay African producers 100 euros each month, how can they develop, how can that be sustainable?”
“Africa is a very rich continent. Even when the Western world took a lot of their resources, they still have a lot. The problem is the governance”
“African countries don’t ask for any help. Western countries think – or say – they need help. But they can never survive on aid. They have to be independent. They have to change their mindset, by themselves, no longer being ‘obsequious’. The Western world can’t do much to it, but when their mindset has changed, the Western world has to be prepared to embrace it.”

And then a last quote to end with:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Take care!

Best regards,

Sara, 20 years old, Ghent, Belgium

22 Dec

Dreaming about the future of youth- Evance

To answer the question, what are my dreams or what is my passion in life? It appears to be tough and hard for me to give exact answer because dreams come and go, we never stop dreaming according to me. I think dreams shape our lives, how we should live to achieve those dreams and live the life we want…….

“when we were 7 years old they asked us what we want to be and our answers were like… we want to be teachers, doctors, pilots and astronauts, when we turned 15 they asked us the same questions and said we want to be lawyers, footballers and many answers but now we are grown up they will need a definite answer and we have to be sure what we say and want because that will be our life” …. (Based on Twilight Saga Movie)

 My life has been like that too and this quote truly reflects what I have been doing.  For the past three to four years ago, my dreams are shaped, based on the situation I found myself in. For example during my high school days, I wanted to become a lawyer because I admired those people and because I was good at subjects that enables one to go to law college but, to my disappointment I did not make it to any law college. That was in 2016… In 2017 I joined Lilongwe Technical College where I began to study Mechanics. Then I said to myself that I want to own my own garage and car business, that means the dream to have a degree was gone. However, that same year I got the chance to go to African Bible College where now am studying Community Development. That means from 2016 to 2018 I have switched from being a lawyer to a mechanic and now, I don’t know, maybe I will be a social worker.

Now am 21 whereby people will need definite answer to the question above…. Currently I would say I want to be a social worker… all of my life I never wanted to be a person who should be much involved in community life but after one and half year of studying Community Development it has changed my life upside down. After interacting and sharing stories with those community people of whom most of them don’t have the privilege as the rest of the citizens that their ideas and concerns are held in consideration, I come to conclusion that I would be happy to be part of that group of people, for example people with disabilities, elderly people and youth….

My previous post I talked about youth being leaders of tomorrow, I believe if we give the youth motivation and training and platform to express the abilities they have I think we can develop good leaders who will transform our society and country. So how can we motivate youth? I think through community youth centers, make education affordable to everyone which is normally not the case, and give them chances to do voluntary work and many more.

“People without vision they perish”, that I don’t want that to be the case with my life. Apart from what I said above it’s my wish to be an independent person, to be a family man and have a stable household, and kids on top of that. I would wish to be a person who will be able to turn visions into reality as great leaders do.

All these dreams and wishes act as a framework which guides myself not to misbehave and do things which make a person one minute maybe in paradise then the rest in hell.

19 Dec

Dreaming about a sustainable world – Sara

Hello!

My name is Sara and I am a dreamer.

My dreams and goals come and go, they often change. But I think the thread that links them all is that I really want to make the world a better place for everyone. It sounds corny maybe, but it’s sincere.

How I want to achieve that, that’s the thing that varies over the time. When I was a child I wanted to become “mother” and a bit later I added that I wanted to become a princess too. Then many years followed without specific dreams or plans, until I was 16 years old and I wanted to become a minister. After a while that plan faded away because I don’t feel “hard” enough to endure the hard comments ministers get and because of the fact that being minister you can’t really do what you want or what you believe that’s the most important or the best option; you have to consider so many parties and you have to make that people will vote for you or your party in the subsequent elections. Therefore you can’t really make long-term decisions that are not really popular with the people, like sustainability operations. Politics continued to captivate me but in another manner. In my first year of Bachelor’s degree I encountered a UN-ambassador who gave me another dream. I even doubted to stop my study of bioscience engineering to start social studies. I want to see the world and I like to change of environment, habits and people, but this dream didn’t remain. My sisters weren’t really happy with the idea and if I would have kids it wouldn’t be very nice for them maybe and I think I underestimated the fact of leaving friends and starting again. That made place for another dream again. I shortly thought about doing politics ‘behind the scenes’ like being advisor, or member of the European commission. And then recently I really felt the impulse to do something about education. I made a plan of building a school where children would be happy, open minded, activated, stimulated to think and where exchange of other cultures would be one of the core items. I think exchange is the key for having respect for other people with different backgrounds and making good decisions in this globalised world of today.

For myself I don’t want to have kids before I am 30 years old so that I can explore, experience, listen, talk, see … without responsibilities. I want to see the earth, with time. Different people, different cultures, different habbits. I am really convinced that if you don’t know the culture, the habits, the norms and values, you can’t judge other people, cultures and countries and you can’t think about possible solutions …

To make the world a better place for everyone I think sustainability in all her aspects is a good guidance. To sustain the balance and to avoid a big crisis of climate refugees/environmental migrants it is important to maintain ecosystems and not producing too much CO2, but sustainability goes so much further. If you want people to do good things you have to make that they feel safe, nourished and happy enough. It’s in being’s nature to first take care of themselves and their family before thinking of something else. We, humans, have a big impact on all earth’s ecosystems, but we can’t change people’s mindset before their basic needs are accomplished. And then in the north we have too much. (I’ll come back to it later.) Another subject of social sustainability that concerns me a lot is the migration crisis of today in Europe. I think it’s so important that people can go where they need to go and that they feel welcome, that they don’t have to fear and that they can be accepted and integrated as much as possible. I personally think that’s the key against terrorism: making that everyone feels welcome.

And then the economic aspect of sustainability. Can it be sustainable to go for perpetual growth? How can it be one’s business model to produce so much that you have to throw away one third of it? How can plain companies offer so low prices while trains or so expensive? I don’t understand it, but I also see wonderful initiatives: peer-to-peer (like Wikipedia) and circular economy (rotation of materials) give me a lot of energy and hope.

I have a “life goal” above my bed that says: “creating a political, economic, social, education and prison system that’s as ideal as possible in our globalised world.” Therefore I want to travel, to listen and keep listening to people (from everywhere, in all contexts), to read books, to attend conferences (many different people on 1 location), to stay myself without being distracted by money, to stay open minded without limiting to one specific subject, or one specific kind of people … And often I add something, an idea, a possible part of the ‘solution’ …

To end this story of today I would like to share some quotes concerning my sustainability-passion with you:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland rapport, 1987)

“The consumption patterns of the North are driven by wants, not needs. It thus challenges the North to reduce its consumption to within the boundaries set by ecological limits and by considerations of equity and justice” (Summary: the Brundtland approach to sustainable development)

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed” (Ghandi)

 

26 Nov

Dans me naar de vrijheid – Ilse

Een beetje zwart in mijn hart? 

Vraag me niet waarom, maar ik heb altijd een fascinatie gehad voor Afrika. Geen angst, maar een nieuwsgierigheid naar de ‘ander’, die er anders uitzag dan mij, maar net daarom zo interessant. Mijn ouders wilden me vroeger zelfs een donkere pop kopen, maar in die tijd was dat nog niet zo eenvoudig te vinden.

In het derde leerjaar zat er een Antilliaanse jongen in ons jaar. Hoe vaak ik – tot vervelens toe – vroeg of ik zijn haar mocht aanraken. Wat was ik jaloers op dat haar!

En als ik wat ouder werd zei ik dat ik een zwart kindje wilde later, waarop mijn ouders mij duidelijk maakten dat ik dan met een zwarte man zou moeten trouwen. Mijn ouders plaagden me hier dan ook vaak mee: gij komt nog eens met een zwarte thuis.

 

 

Ontwikkelingssamenwerking in Malawi: een logische keuze

Ik wilde graag van betekenis zijn, van waarde zijn voor anderen, anderen helpen.

Wellicht dat dat één van de motieven was om psychologie te gaan studeren.

Mijn fascinatie voor andere culturen kwam in mijn opleiding nauwelijks aan bod. Mijn ervaring met onderzoek in een multiculturele wijk motiveerde me om na mijn studies een postgraduaat interculturele hulpverlening bij te studeren.

Aan Michèle:
Ik ben zelf psychologe en altijd geïnteresseerd geweest in andere culturen. Afgelopen jaar heb ik dan ook een postgraduaat interculturele bemiddeling en hulpverlening gevolgd, om mij verder hierin te verdiepen. Dit gaf mij meer bagage, maar toch mis ik iets: praktijkervaring met andere culturen.

Ik wilde altijd wel eens naar Afrika gaan. Die praktijkervaring en mijn zoektocht naar meer-waarde hoopte ik daar te vinden via het vrijwilligerswerk in het Zuiden.

Naïef. Idealistisch. Hoopvol.

Ik ben enorm geboeid door het verrichte werk van Gencoo Malawi. Wat een interessant project met zoveel meerwaarde voor de lokale mensen. Ik leerde het project kennen door mijn vriend, Bram Vissers, waarmee je al een aantal keer gemaild hebt

 

Michèle

Uiteindelijk kwam er geen zwarte man op mijn pad, maar wél een fantastische man die me in contact bracht met Michèle, de oprichtster van Generation Cooperation België.

27 oktober 2013, onze eerste ontmoeting, waar ik een dag later op terugblikte:

Ben vandaag wel wat emotioneel, maar dat is normaal 🙂 van geluk, van het besef hoe mooi het leven kan zijn, de kleine dingen, enz. Bram en ik hebben nog nagepraat over gisteren en we vonden het echt super :). Ik voelde me vrij snel op mijn gemak en kon heel open zijn (en dat zegt heel veel voor mij). En het spontaan schilderen vond ik ge-wel-dig! Gewoon doen wat op dat moment goed voelt en vooral genieten! Merci voor deze leuke avond!

Een paar weken later organiseerden we mee een Music For Life event ten voordele van Generation Cooperation Malawi en een half jaar later zetten we onze eerste stappen op Malawische bodem.

Nog nooit zo snel in het diepe gesprongen. Maar wat voelde het (voor een keer) goed.

 

Dans

Dance is so important in the world. 

It needs no language. 

Our bodies speak a language of its own. 

-Ibrahim Farah -

 

Eén van de zovele beklijvende momenten die ik in de afgelopen vijf jaar heb meegemaakt en waarvan mijn hart nog altijd zeer warm van wordt, zijn de momenten dat het alledaagse leven even stopt en dans en muziek de publieke ruimte vullen.

Dans, een belangrijk deel van mijn leven in België, kreeg daar nog meer betekenis.

Niet geïnstrumentaliseerd in lessen waar we keurig en technisch alle oefeningen (zo correct mogelijk) moeten uitvoeren. Gewoon, puur dansen, omdat het leuk is, los van of je goed danst of niet.

 

Dans me …

Mannen bespelen de drums
Een vast ritme herhaalt zich keer op keer
Herhaling biedt structuur, duidelijkheid
Opzwependheid, maar tegelijkertijd rust.

Enkele vrouwen uit de menigte
Heupen bewegen met een gemak heen en weer
Baby’s op de rug wiegen gemoedelijk mee
Gezang vult de ruimte
Lapa’s kleuren mijn zicht

Ndi funa kuvina: ik wil dansen.

 

Oh, dans me naar de vrijheid

Neem me mee op ritme van 
de bewegingen, de muziek, de menigte, … 

Oh, dans me naar de vrijheid
Heel even

Geen zorgen
Doen én vooral niet denken
Veel hart en weinig hoofd

Oh, dans me naar de vrijheid.

Eenheid
Gelijkheid
Gemeenschap(pelijkheid)!

Even dat gevoel
Dat mijn blanke huid van geen of minder tel is
Waar we een gezamenlijke taal spreken die iedereen begrijpt
Niemand zich misbegrepen voelt of zich vergist.

Waar we samen dansen
zijn we samen mens

 

23 Nov

Growing up in Belgium – Sara

 

 

Hello! My name is Sara Helsen. I am born at home in Haacht as second of four children and I am now twenty years old. My father is civil engineer and my mother is midwife who gives birth to children at home.

 

 

 

 

Until my fifth year of High School (where I studied Ancient Greek – Mathematics), I followed my one-year-older sister Heleen in quite everything she did. Heleen started to go dancing, me too. Heleen started to go to the “art academy”, me too. Heleen started to do athletics, me too. But then, in my fifth year of High School I went abroad with AFS to France for one semester. I came in a family without kids. If I wanted to do something I had to organise it myself. That experience really learnt me to be independent and opened my mind. After one trimester I came home as another person. My sister went to study in Leuven. I went to Ghent, where I am very very happy. The people, the atmosphere, the shops, the organisations, the activities, the encounters with people from different backgrounds … I love it all.

I study bioscience engineering with lots of love. We have a lot of courses, and I like to attend them. Together with being athletics trainer that’s the most fixed thing in my daily life. Besides that my agenda is filled with varied kinds of things: meetings with the sustainable agents of the Ghent Dorms, with professors to represent the third year of bachelor Bioscience engineering; I think on projects; Green Office activities, Swap Shop events, running, debates, parties, spending time with family, baby-sitting, youth conferences and other things. I feel very free.

I love life and I often feel my life energy, but it’s not all roses. I feel it’s very difficult to take other people into ‘my projects’ or ideas. Sometimes I am so filled with my idea that I tend to do it on my own without listening enough to what would make other people more enthusiastic for the idea. For example last year as sustainable agent of the dorm I really wanted to organise an “ecological breakfast” where we would offer French toasts made from old bread from shops in the neighbourhood; fruit mousse from fruit that shops didn’t want to sell anymore and other food. Because the sustainable agents from the other Ghent dorms weren’t that enthusiastic, I did it myself. Communication is my biggest trap I think.

“Collaboration is the key”

I am really happy with everything that comes into my life. I would like to finish this letter with two quotes that came into my mind during the last months:

“Everyone lives to be happy and everyone chooses for himself how he/she wants to do that.”

“You often learn the most from disappointment and failing. Don’t try to avoid them.”

Best regards,

Sara

20 Nov

Growing up in Malawi – Evance

My name is Evance Naluso, born in 04 August, 1997, in a family of three.

Currently am at African Bible College, where am studying Community Development.

I come from a village called (Balaka), where currently both my parents and siblings are living this makes me to have strong love because my story begins.

 

 

Malawi is one of the African countries, which is prone to the change of this crazy world… and the large population in Malawi is youth, who are denied access to many things which makes the life of youth to be hard. The old generation/people are the ones in control of many aspects of life which according to me, it needed active and strong people to do that.

 

So what exactly makes it hard to be young Malawian?…

  1. Lack of employment – As a nation is failing to create jobs for high growing population of youth each and every year about 2,500 youth are graduating in different colleges/universities, this has resulted into high dependence on parents or relatives. The problem with this is that as youth I/we can have ideas of doing something but because you depend on someone you cannot express your thoughts and ideas
  2. Culture – It acts as framework towards our lives but sometimes, I think we are imprisoned by other cultural teachings and rules…… as an individual you cannot make decisions which you’re comfortable with, culture restricts you from doing other crazy things. For example, at some point culture can determine, whom and when to marry, whom to help, how to dress these examples look so simple but have great impact in the lives of youth in Malawi.
  3. Money – Other problems that we youth in Malawi struggle with is, high tuition fees in colleges . This has resulted in many youth dropping out of school or never attending college.

 

Apart from all the troubles that we youth face in Malawi, we are proud to be called Malawians because of its beautiful lakes and mountains, its beautiful people with smiling faces although hardship on the ground, different culture practices that entertain us, like traditional dances Gule wankulu, Malipenga, marriage ceremonies just to mention a few all this makes Malawi to be called a “warm heart of Africa”.

 

Growing up in Malawi, as a youth I need to be proud of it and it’s my wish to see the voice of youth to be held and put into account, as it says “youth are leaders of tomorrow”, therefore to them to be successful leaders it’s good to start train them now with different opportunities.

 

Best regards,

Evance