‘Courage’: An Encouragement from DRC, by Anna1st September 2018

I’m sitting on the floor of my friend’s living room. My rucksack is packed. I’m ready to go. My head is swimming with the briefing information Heidi gave me last night. A wave of nausea washes over me. Its four hours until my flight leaves and my visa still hasn’t arrived. I cannot leave without it.

It had taken a considerable amount of time and patience to get to this point. Originally I had planned to visit the DRC Congo Tree team in the summer of 2017, but continual delays with my visa application meant that when it was finally granted I was unable to go. Nonetheless we persevered. But even with all of the planning, here I was: still visa-less and uncertain.

Faith and perseverance in the face of uncertainty can be tough. Those same feelings of anxiety and nausea returned when we climbed Mount Nyiragongo ten days later as a team. It was only with the support and encouragement of the DRC team (and the help of some fantastic porters) that I managed to make it through this gruelling, but spectacular, self-inflicted agony.

Courage, Anna,’ Professeur Sage would say to me. ‘Courage’.

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Photos left to right: ‘Professeur’ Sage, Liz and Armel from the DRC Team on top of the volcano; Anna by the crater; View over North Kivu from the volcano.

There were a number of occasions throughout my trip when I was struck by how small and insignificant my own personal battles seemed. The personal, social and political battles the people of the Congo survive and thrive in on a daily basis really put things into perspective.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I crossed the border from Rwanda to the DRC. The taxi ride from Kigali to the border was incredible.  Misty mountains clothed in terraces of banana trees and coffee.  Everyone was walking everywhere. It took a while for it to sink in that I was finally here.

The Congo is one of the most beautiful countries I have been to. I have been sitting here for a while trying to think how I could best describe it to you. Safe to say all of my words sound empty and meaningless. I’d rather rely on this stunning photo I took over Lake Kivu and encourage you to go google it for yourself.

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Photo: View over Lake Kivu from Goma

The conflict is real. There are reminders of it daily. Roadblocks, military personnel, compounds, guards, guns. I have learnt to always have a driver you can trust and one who has eagle eyes. Laugh lots. Come with a generous spirit.

I went to the Congo to train the Congo Tree facilitators in the Tree of Life approach. The Tree of Life enables people to talk about their lives in a way that makes them stronger. Developed in a partnership between Nzcelo Ncube of REPSSI and David Denborough of the Dulwich Centre Foundation to support survivors of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, it has been so successful it is now used with children, young people and adults throughout the world. I encountered the Tree of Life in my first training placement in East London. Its simplicity and beauty is striking; its ability to uplift and encourage, unending.

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Photos: Tree of Life Facilitator Training, Goma, April 2018

One of the most exciting and encouraging aspects of my trip was having the privilege of sharing this approach with the facilitators and seeing how seamlessly it slotted into their own understandings, approaches and plans for the future. The Congo Tree has an amazing team of facilitators, 17 of whom are now trained to facilitate Tree of Life. Since I visited in April 2018, the DRC team have run Tree of Life with 2 groups – a total of 44 young leaders – and are currently exploring how they can best incorporate it into all of their WYLD programmes. I feel blessed to have been even just a small part of this.


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Photo: Tree of Life Facilitators

And so I end with an encouragement to you all: follow the sage advice of Professeur Sage. Have some courage in even one small part of your life. Do something you have been thinking about doing for a while. Take even the smallest small step of faith. It is a dangerous thing to go out of your door, but you do never know where it may take you!

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Photo left: Anna visits Complexe Scholaire Esperance (Hope School) with Rally International in Mugunga.                                                  Photo right: Anna, Heidi and Michelle (Rally International) on a field trip to meet with potential partners in Sake and Bweremana.