Ann Marie

Behind the Scenes of Giving Up to Give: An Interview with Maria Brown

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts about nonprofit work is the collaborations that grow out of shared passions. For GBA, the recent partnership with Giving Up to Give’s Maria Brown, her family, and their community, has demonstrated both the power of personal connection and the joy of creative and communal giving. Curious about the Browns, their story, and the future of Giving Up to Give, I decided to dive in and find out more. For background on the Giving Up to Give blog and giving campaign, please click here (will link to previous blog post). Giving up to Give focuses on the part of DR Congo that most people don’t see—the smiles and dreams of the people that live there. Instead of giving to an image of DR Congo entrenched in suffering and civil conflict, Giving Up to Give aims to have people give while viewing the life and positivity of the Congolese people.

The Brown family, a Kentucky family of five, created Giving Up to Give; their son, Oliver, is Congolese. After doing research about the conflict in Congo, and after meeting GBA co-founder Ann Marie Thomson, the Browns were inspired to get involved with GBA’s work.

Maria Brown met Ann Marie at the annual benefit gala in 2012 and continued building the relationship. Maria says that the formulation of Giving Up to Give began, in part, with an experience the family had with friends.

Maria writes, “Some friends of ours were beginning the adoption process and were fundraising. We saw them selling things that they owned in order to raise the money they needed to adopt. We wanted to help, but we didn't have much extra money to give. We did have a few things we didn't have to have, so we sold them. In just a few days (and with minimal effort) we had $100 to donate. That got us thinking about how much excess we have and how our small "giving up" can make a big difference, while also making us more purposeful in our giving.”

The Browns thought that this idea of giving up could be applied to GBA. Through conversations with Ann Marie, Jim Calli, and Beth Yoder, the Browns turned their idea into a reality. Maria says that Beth thought of the calendar idea and helped with starting up the website.

Maria notes, though, that Giving Up to Give is designed to be more than just a fundraiser. “The ultimate goal is to connect people to what is happening in DRC and to the children at Centre Salisa, and to help us all realize that we don't just have to give out of our excess (or lack of it)--we can sacrifice, and in doing so connect ourselves more intimately with other human beings halfway around the world,” Maria writes. She encourages people to think about the ripple effect of their positive actions and to think about the boundary-less principles of generosity and love. She reminds us all that we are connected to DR Congo at almost all times—through our cell phones and other electronics and the conflict minerals used to create them.

The Browns and the network of Giving Up to Give offers lessons that everyone can relate to: “Every country has a story, and more importantly, every person has a story, and we need to listen. In a world that is increasingly smaller and more connected through the internet, we can no longer claim ignorance about the poverty, suffering, and injustice that is happening in so many different countries to so many different people. Being aware is the first step towards being a part of change and hope. And what we find when we listen to the story of DRC, of children at Centre Salisa, and of so many people around the world, is that they are not just a cause to give to or a terrible story to cry over--they are signs of hope and resilience and they are lessons of strength for us all.”

As for the future of Giving Up to Give and the children of DR Congo, life is bright, despite the inexplicable nature of poverty and cruelty in the world today. Maria hopes that the 2014 Giving Up to Give calendar can be filled with an act of giving for each day. She also hopes that the movement will continue to grow and move into new communities and can continue to raise awareness for DR Congo. GBA welcomed Maria as a new Board Member earlier this year.

“I hope that the students and teachers at Centre Salisa will be encouraged that a group of people who don't know them are supporting them,” she concludes. Of course, they’re supporting all of us too, as members of this ever-connected human family.

Thank you, Giving Up to Give for your valuable work!

 

If you would like to learn more about Giving Up to Give or commit to giving up something in 2014, please visit givinguptogive.info.

The Noyau Give Back to their Colleagues

Giving Back to Africa’s assets-based servant leadership program focuses on the teachers and students of 5th through 9th grade. lsdkjfhOver the last three years, the Noyau, this cohort of teachers, have studied project-based learning, safe-classroom techniques, how to turn “right/wrong” questions into open-ended questions that foster curiosity and creativity, and how to work with their students in developing critical thinking and reflection skills.

Most amazing, however, is that the 1st – 4th grade teachers and students have been observing the dramatic change in their colleagues’ teaching styles and the degree to which they have begun to enjoy their work. They have watched the 5th – 9th graders present their annual Fete de Presentation and complete their various community service actions in the community.

This year, the Noyau decided they wanted to share all that they are learning with the other teachers at the school. This kind of professional collegiality is rare. All the teachers at Centre Salisa came together last Saturday to listen to the Noyau share their learning and to listen to teachers not directly involved in the program who had many questions.

dl;kfj
All the teachers at Centre Salisa (even those not directly involved in GBA programs) came together last Saturday to listen to the Noyau.

The non-Noyau teachers discussed the current education system they see in Congolese schools. In general, they said “students are learning without motivation because of many factors, but [especially because] of the lack of care and attention from teachers, the large number of students in each classroom, and the fact that teachers are not highly motivated." They said this stood in stark contrast to what they were observing in the Noyau teachers and their students.

The Noyau teachers, they observed, “are applying new techniques to help students in the learning process…[the content] is rich [and] people can apply [this knowledge] at home.”

Mr. Pombo, the 6th grade teacher, described his experience this way: “What is capital is the fact [that] students [are] put at [the] center observing, listening and expressing freely. We are using [techniques] to stimulate students participation in the learning process and by some small experiences, they [have] discovered things they didn’t know first, even we, teachers didn’t know at first.”

d;jfThe Noyau and non-Noyau ended their meeting by agreeing that: the Noyau would take some time to explain nutrition concepts to the other teachers who will also be encouraged to observe the Noyau in their classrooms.

In this way, Giving Back to Africa is impacting the entire school; teachers and students are learning to think and act differently as a result.

 

Story, direct quotes, and pictures taken from Internal Report, Dr. Jerry Kindomba, Feb 2, 2014

Giving Back to Africa Student Association: Connecting Students to Students

Dani Walker's no stranger to DR Congo-- she's been interested in the country since 2005, a junior in high school, when she learnt of the devastating effects of the civil war there. After watching about the conflict on an episode of Oprah, the messages she heard that day on the show stuck on in her mind. She began reading about Congo, the conflict, and Africa overall. Dani later entered IU for International Studies and the African Studies program."It was the only thing that really gripped me at the time when I was supposed to be deciding what to do with my life and what to go to college for, " she explains.

After beginning her career at IU, Dani was referred to Ann Marie, co-founder of GBA, who grew up in Congo.  There were few people Dani knew of who knew about the conflict there, let alone had visited the country. The two quickly formed a friendship, and Ann Marie helped to nurture Dani's passion while also continuing to grow her vision of Giving Back to Africa.  "I have always been a big-picture thinker, so I loved how GBA strategically invested in people to grow up leaders for the country," says Dani.

Ann Marie really hit home the idea of investing in people rather than projects. She saw potential in Dani and in the Congolese people to be the producers of their own positive change. "Most organizations bypass people and instead invest in projects, which at the best will make a temporary difference.  What is special about GBA is that they have a long-term vision for Congo and they work alongside the Congolese people.  This is truly a unique and special vision that I wanted to be a part of and make a way for others to also be a part of!"

Later on, Jim and Ann Marie connected Dani with another student, Micah Widen. Both wanted to be a part of the GBA vision. Dani writes, "We began envisioning a student organization with three objectives: 1) to raise money to support GBA’s programs 2) to raise awareness about the issues facing DR Congo, and 3) to build mutual relationships between the Congolese and Bloomington communities."  They wanted people to see Africa outside of the media spotlight and to connect individuals in the US with individuals in Congo and show how each affects the other. They also desired to show the capacity of the Congolese people to take control of their own future, to show Americans that GBA's work would be a partnership, not a one-sided aid machine. Soon, the Giving Back to Africa Student Association (GBASA) was born to help fulfill these wishes.

As GBA grew, so did GBASA's events and activities. GBASA partnered with the PAID students and students at Binford Elementary for an art project. Students were given the same materials and the same assignment-- draw a picture and write something about yourself. The results were displayed at the Village Deli. This helped in aiding with GBASA's vision to connect individuals and to show that, despite cultural and environmental differences, everyone holds on to similar human characteristics and values. Another highlight was Kambale Musavali's, a Congolese activist, speech at IU. GBASA has also screened films, participated in the Lotus Blossoms Bazaar, and helped to plan and host benefits, like the Krista Detor Holiday Concert and this year's first annual spring benefit gala, Teach Me, Congo.

Both GBA and GBASA continue to plan new activities today, and both continue to grow! Why team up with GBASA? Dani pretty much sums it up--

"I grew as a leader, I interacted with incredible people from around the world, and I gained a set of skills I would have otherwise missed out on.  This is a huge advantage to being involved with a smaller organization – that you can be involved on many levels.  Take advantage of this opportunity and use it expand your own growth and learning!"

 

For more information on the GBASA, you can email gba@indiana.edu and join the GBASA Facebook group. We look forward to seeing what kinds of creative and inspiring actions the students will lead this year!

Educational Values Lead to Educational Action in DR Congo

Co-founder Ann Marie, left, was born and raised in DR Congo “We agree that quality in education is the right of every child, regardless of gender, and that every child should have equal access to education that places the child at the center of all learning.” Co-founder Ann Marie Thomson sums up what education means to us.

In a recent letter, Ann Marie writes of our educational values and how they relate to the structuring of our program. “We see children and the environments in which they live as integrally related. That is why the first step in our process curriculum deliberately focuses on trust-building— listening, observing, gathering information, and sitting with community members and children, learning what matters to them and how they feel about their community life… children are the greatest asset any community has; investment in the education of children is the most sustainable way to bring about long-term positive social change.” Our program offers platforms for students, but the students are the ones who create real change.

Ann Marie also highlights a few key aspects of our curriculum and how it creates quality education in DR Congo. First, we focus on experiential learning, engaging, rather than just lecturing. Authentic learning and student engagement are integral for the success of any student. We also value higher level critical thinking and life skills that students can use and apply to situations in their communities and at home. Students often formulate and lead projects in the community, reinforcing what they have learned while also tackling community issues, such as water and waste management. Read more about these service learning projects!

Additionally, intensive teacher training ensures the best learning time for both our staff and students; it also ensures that students can learn in a safe classroom. Education is linked explicitly to environment, as Ann Marie writes, and safety and comfort are a huge part of that. We take the time to make sure that teachers and students both are comfortable in the classroom by training teachers in trust-building and having them put themselves in the shoes of their students.

Lastly, evaluation and reflection and forming partnerships are vital, sustainable practices for us. The only way to assess impact, gather feedback, and anticipate next steps is through introspection and serious evaluation and reflection of ourselves and our program, and evaluation from the teachers, students, and community. Moreover, partnerships with other organizations help us to expand our efforts and those of the other area nonprofits, as well as provide the community with means to meet its other basic needs apart from education, such as clean water and healthcare.

Our educational philosophy is continually revisited, refined, and ignited with educational action. As we do this, we invite you to partner with us, too.

Ann Marie’s Journal – Day 4

Friday, January 14, 2011 Today we went to Université Protestante au Congo (FrenchEnglish), a strong supporter of our work in DRC. The GBA Scholars Program was based at UPC and all of the Scholars enrolled at UPC during the first two years of the program while they are completing the coursework for the equivalent of their Masters degree. The UPC faculty and administration have played a key role in establishing the GBA Scholars Program at UPC.

Seeing all our old friends, joie de vous revoir!! Joy to see you again! Samy, our driver for so many years, Teddy and Dongala, with whom we had the best time in 2006! Mr. Mamba, the personification of equanimity, never disappoints me.  How wonderful to be back on campus!

A formal meeting with the UPC Administrators was exceptionally productive. It felt so great for me, personally, to give a complete report and evaluation of the GBA Scholars Program and to listen to their excellent advice. The relationship was as collegial as ever despite the fact that our champion, the Rector, Dr Ngoy was not present. I left the meeting feeling as though we had done the best we could with our first pilot (the Scholars Program) and the Comite de Gestion was saying – “well done.” I was, for the first time, able to breathe quietly and feel good about what we had accomplished under exceptionally trying circumstances between 2007 – 2010.

We then piled into cars with the Methodists and PAID staff to visit Mpasa I and the Methodist’s health clinic, and Kindobo farm, PAID's land outside Kinshasa.  At the clinic we met Mama Docteur Rebecca, who has been serving as the director of the clinic for 12 years. What an exceptional woman! She taught herself surgery because she had to and even now if she has to do surgery at night, she does it by a flashlight. Amazing resilience, how humbling for us.

Later in the our trip Docteur came to PAID to discuss regular medical visits for the orphans and students and the Mpasa II community.  PAID would be site for these health clinics.

Then, off to the Kindobo Farm with . Finally, after 4 years of having heard about this 125 hectare plot of land, I am able to see it with my own eyes.   Kindobo Farm is 125 hectares PAID owns and wants to farm. The vision is that the farm would provide a source of food, income and training for the orphanage and school.  It’s beautiful but a long ways off the main road and the soil is poor.  Still, this remains a min d’or (goldmine).

Kindobo Farm

Currently less than 1 hectare is under cultivation.  A local farmer is growing Cassava, a staple food in DRC.  The leaves and root, aka manioc, are the edible parts of the cassava.

Cassava plant growing at Kindobo Farm.

 

Ann Marie’s Journal – Day 5

Saturday, January 15, 2011 So, today was one intense day, that’s for sure. Yet, another practice in the meaning of partnership. The 4 PAID administrators and the 4 of us, all around a table, agreeing to be frank, honest, and open.  Marty and Jim cut to the chase – I translated it as “tokoti njamba directment” – we entered the forest directly instead of skirting around the forest. This became a recurring theme – “tokoti njamba” – and helped to diffuse the lack of cultural understanding.

What I loved most about this day – one long 6 hour meeting – was the way everyone listened respectfully each other.  Everyone had their time to speak. It took a lot of time, not an easy thing for Americans to sit for hours like this willingly letting everyone have their say. I think, overall, it created an environment conducive to exploring the feasibility of a real partnership between PAID and GBA. All my many hours preparing an agenda and translating all 10 pages of it went by the wayside, none of it occurred. “Tokoti njamba” and that was it. We left determined to continue the discussion on Monday.

There’s nothing easy about this, that’s for sure, but the four Congolese at the table underscored how unusual it is to have these kinds of discussions with NGOs. I felt this to be the most encouraging statement of the day.

Later, Masani and Mihigo came to visit. It was great to see them in a different setting than as Scholars in the GBA program at UPC. We talked about their love lives, their current job prospects, I asked their opinion about the shift in focus from university to primary / secondary school students…I felt a collegiality with them that I had not felt when our relationship was more formal at the university.

Dr. Bill Clemmer and his wife Ann, joined us for supper. Yet another highlight given their long experience in the DRC. I think we cannot underestimate how important it is to meet people who have been here for years and remain hopeful, sane, and committed.

 

Ann Marie's Journal - Day 3

Thurs Jan 13One of the many lessons learned from 3 years of work in the DRC is that you cannot survive alone in this country; if you are to have a long-term positive impact, you have to find like-minded organizations with whom you can partner. We camewith a list of principals of partnership. Some examples are:

  • Commonalities between partners’ value systems are necessary but not sufficient for partnerships to be productive and mutually beneficial; the ability to work together is equally important for partnerships to thrive.
  • Each partner has to be able to achieve their own goals better working together than alone; each needs the other to be more productive.
  • Although inequalities will always exist between partners, each partner respects the autonomy of the others, and trusts in the goodwill of each to be able to resolve conflicts as they arise.

How, I found myself wondering, does this actually work in practice? How theoretical it all sounds on paper, how impossible it seems in reality.

But GBA was founded on a determination to seek partnership with Congolese and their institutions – and this requirestime – lots of it – patience and persistence. That is why we came to DRC on this trip – to honestly wrestle with themeaning of partnership, partnership between GBA and PAID, between GBA and UPC, between PAID and other localNGOs, between GBA and other like-minded organizations such as FINCA, World Vision, Save the Children…

So, today, we visited the Central Congo Methodist Episcopate and had a long talk with Bishop Yemba and his righthand man, Adolphe. Several months before this trip, we discovered that the Delaware Methodist Conference in the US supported a Health Clinic and Feeding Program in Mpasa I, just 5 km or so from PAID. Why not explore the possibility ofpartnering with them for the sake of the two Mpasa neighborhoods?

So, discussions between Jon Baker in Delaware and Jim and I in Bloomington led to our meeting with Bishop Yemba herein Kinshasa. The Methodists are interested in agriculture – PAID has property to develop a farm, 125 hectares of land!  The Methodists have a health clinic and experience with a feeding program – the orphans and children in the PAID school desperately need health care and adequate nutrition. It doesn’t take a medical degree to see that many of the childrenhere are malnourished, such tiny little arms and legs, and children so small for their age.

So partnership works in practice through faithfulness.  Faithfulness without implying faith in a God; in this case, it means a deep-down determination to believe that life can actually be better, some day…how the Congolese I know maintain this faith is beyond me, but they sure do. It isinspiring. Without faith and hope, there is no way to survive here, personally and organizationally.

But, I have to keep reminding myself, all GBA can do is facilitate the possibility that PAID and the Methodists here inKinshasa can find a way to mutually benefit from a partnership. I find myself having to let go of a desire to “make thispartnership happen” because it seems so obvious to me that it could result in a productive relationship…that is not for meto do…Let it go, Ann Marie…I am learning to say that a lot these days!

The case of Juselin, part 2

Juselin is the smart, bright, and entrepreneurial young man we met on our first day in DRC.  He wants to create a garden at PAID and in his youthfulness, he says he can, with great confidence.  He is a PAID-GBA “success story” – a young man, placed in a good foster home, enterprising, carrying on his foster grandmother’s legacy, growing beautiful greens next to the river to sell. He says he wants to make a garden at PAID to “give back” – because of what PAID gave him as an orphan. It’s another manifestation of hope and faith. I am captivated by this young man’s ingenuity and self confidence.

But here he is, having gotten a little 15 year old girl pregnant – what chance does this enterprising young man actually have? What will keep him from not having more children condemning him further in a cycle of poverty? He can’t make much money on his little garden plots. He needs Koko Katie to put some sense into him but Koko Katie is gone and he is on his own – though he still spends a lot of time at the orphanage playing with the kids and talking with the staff – hours and hours, esp at night, in the peacefulness of the night when we sit around telling stories…

How can you possibly articulate the horror of a 15 yr. old mother and an 18yr. old father bringing their little child to me, so malnourished and suffering from malaria that her tiny little limbs are limp, so limp they simply flop when held up and allowed to fall?  The child was blistering hot, I tried to give her water. She did drink but according to her parents, she had not eaten for 2 weeks. Why had they not sought help?? I asked. "We did not have the money…"

So we walked to St Angel, a Catholic health clinic about 1.5 kms away.  Because of my white skin and, I suppose, the utter absurdity of seeing a mondele actually “living” in Mpasa made enough of an impression on the staff at St. Angel’s that despite the fact that the clinic was closed, they opened their doors to this little one and examined her.  The diagnosis:  malaria, malnutrition, and extreme anemia.  You have to take her to the hospital closer to town – about 15 km away.  We cannot help her here!

So, Juselin and the 15 yr old mother, set out to walk to the main road to find a taxi to go to the hospital where they spent the night, outside, while their little girl received a blood transfusion.  It turns out that to get blood, you have to give it, so not only did Juselin and his “wife” have to carry their little one to the hospital so far away, they also had to give their own blood.  Blood that will likely not be screened for the many illnesses present (malaria, AIDS, TB).  With the money I gave them, they were able to pay the hospital but what would they have done if I had not been there.  This little one would almost surely have died – like the, what – 58% of Congolese children under the age of 5 who die from malaria every year? This little girl was not statistic to me. She was beautiful, though almost lifeless, she still struggled to live.

Ann Marie's Journal - Day 2

Wed Jan 12

A very long day, hot and filled with emotion… As we drove the 30+ km to PAID, the orphanage and school in the Mpasa II neighborhood, I found the same emotions hitting me as they always do – the pulsing “vie de Kinshasa” is so overwhelming you are simultaneously exhilarated by an amazing, almost palpable spirit of survival against all odds and repulsed by the conditions under which most Congolese are forced to survive.  This poverty is a brutal kind of lifestyle that demands justice. But how? Where is the justice for most Congolese? Masena, one of the poorest, vast, and crammed neighborhoods of Kinshasa teems with people, bartering, yelling, laughing, running, making life work even as the rented car we drive snakes its way through masses of humanity. A city of 10 million – Kinshasa never stops!

Marty and Michael see PAID for the first time; Jim sees it again after 3 years. I return remembering with mixed emotions the last time I stayed here for three days with Rick, one of our board members, and two of the GBA Scholars. That was Nov 2009.  Not much has changed except one HUGE disappointment – the well that provided such gushing clean water in Nov 09 stands as a dead reminder that nothing lasts. It is locked, rusted, and sad.  The well is broken. It is the same old story, no money to maintain it, no money to fix it…

How wonderful to see Mamas Eliza and Bebe again; these two women are the true servant leaders at PAID caring for the 20 orphans from morning to night.  I remembered most of the orphans by name except for 4 new children, each so small; Enoch (8 yrs old), Alain and Exorce brothers (5 and 6—Exorce is adorable), Dorcas (a quiet troubled young 8 yr. old). What chance do they have – it’s the question that haunts me continually.

We visited the orphanage, each classroom, and then had a great “get to know you” meeting with the 4 administrators at PAID: Jackson Babese (who I grew up with), President of PAID; Rodin Mabingi, Exec Director of the whole PAID Center, Pasteur Jean, an exceptionally bright and committed student at the Protestant University of Congo who is the principal caretaker of the orphanage and accountant for PAID, and Director Willy Wasido, Director of the PAID Primary School. What a collegial and fun time it was. We sat in Pasteur Jean’s bedroom/office with the breeze gently blowing in the window.  I felt happy. Is this the beginning of partnership – being real with each other despite the white/black – we have the same blood, right?

A walk around the Mpasa neighborhood helped to place PAID in its own context. This is an exceptionally poor, peri-urban refugee area without any obvious coherence or sense of community. Yet, surely, I thought, there has to be some way people survive together.  The gardens by the stream about 1km away from PAID are one bright spot, and all the little gardens scattered here and there near the cement shacks of local neighbors; these little gardens surviving like the people who farm them are a reminder that there is always hope.

I was so looking forward to seeing Mama Katie again. In Nov 09 on our last trip, I fell in love with this “Koko” (grandmother) who had taken in two orphans from PAID, Juselin (now 18 yrs old) and a young 8 yr old girl. Koko Katie taught Juselin all about gardening and he was so proud to explain to us how he kept the production of the greens he planted throughout the year.  He was proud of his work and attributed all of his learning to Koko Katie.

I fell in love with Koko Katie in Nov 2009 when she literally marched up to me when we came to see the farm plots by the river yelling and pointing her finger in my face – “what good does it do for you white people to come here and look at us when you don’t offer anything. What are you going to do about this—look at how we barely survive?” She did not mince words. We became “friends.” I was so looking forward to seeing her again and to give her a present I had brought for her.  They said,

Mama Katie is dead.

Now it starts – the realities are sinking in, realities so easy to forget in my wonderful little warm house in Bloomington.

I found out she had become sick and died just a few months ago. Even though she was a Koko, she wasn’t that old, my age or even younger.  Juselin, her adopted orphan, was keeping her gardens alive despite her death. This is just one of the thousands of images that fill my mind with wonder and hope in the midst of the sadness that comes over me in nauseas waves.

Ann Marie’s Journal

Ann Marie Thomson is co-founder of Giving Back to Arica.  She was born to missionary parents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and lived there until she was 18. Upon returning to the DRC in 2005 she was struck by the staggering lack of access to education and was determined to do what she could to make a difference in the country that had given her so much.
This post is the first in a series we will be publishing of Ann Marie's reflections on her return to DRC in January 2011.

Tuesday Jan 11, 2011 - Day one DRC

Exhausted from a 22 hr flight from Indianapolis to Addis Ababa to Kinshasa, we stepped off the stairs and our feet touched the ancient Congo earth. This is always a holy moment for me. For Michael and Marty, the first time ever!  The usual hot smells of Congo hit me like they always do – palpable as a brick but permeable, nevertheless, and welcoming. The first step on Congo soil already introduces the dominant reality of life in Kinshasa for me – PARADOX.

Ndjili – Congo’s infamous airport -- a mass of hustlers, soldiers, squeezing you in despite everything you do to avoid them, a mass of humanity, all doing everything they can to make something, anything, off of the rich folks coming off the plane; even 500 congo francs (45 cents) is worth it – at least that can buy a “sucre” (fanta). It’s a kind of dance with lots of laughing, jostling, negotiating, and an underlying seething anger, too…if you know the game you can make it just fine; if you don’t, chaos…

But this time, it was a new place – hard to believe! Orderly, no one allowed but official “welcomers” called “protocol”, gone were all the hustlers and police (except a few). I couldn’t believe it. It was almost as easy as being at the Indianapolis Airport. AND all our luggage arrived!

But everything else I love about Congo remained, the smells, the laughter, the craziness with its own rationality that defies definition.  We arrived safely at Danielle and Vinson Anderson’s home, warmly welcomed by their staff. Thanks to Danielle, a GBA volunteer here in DRC, I could already feel this trip would be less stressful than all our previous trips. What a wonderful gift to an exhausted group of 4!