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In the Middle of Nowhere

By Melanie Bödeker & Jens Ottinger:

From the perspective of someone who came to leave again, I think I can only barely understand what it has to mean to come to stay.

On February the 22nd, 2011 we departed on-time from Basel to Kinshasa to support ADH with their new school project in Mushapo for two months. After a ten-days stay in the Congo’s capital and a turbulent adaptation phase to the climate, mosquitoes, the food, the country and the people we set off together for Mushapo. There we soon started the planning of building the school. We quickly recognized what it meant to leave behind all amenities and to live several weeks in the heartland of the Congo.

In Mushapo we were accommodated in the camp of the agricultural company SADR where we, in contrast to most of the locals, enjoyed “great luxury”. We lived in a converted freight container and thus had a rainproof roof over our heads. Apart from that, we were served something to eat several times a day and were provided with a sufficient amount of water. There even was a generator. Hence, we even had a slow internet connection and air condition in the “bush”. However, the generator only operated for two hours a day when SADR’s mills produced flour from manioc. Afterwards, at about 35 degrees Celsius in the shade, we instantly broke into a sweat again.

The people in Mushapo live in simple self-built huts made from wood and clayey soil with thatched roofs. Every day anew, they have to search for work. Sometimes they walk up to 55 kilometers to the big district town Tshikapa to buy and sell goods. Nevertheless, they hardly have something to eat and have to fight illnesses day-in day-out.

That's why it is so important to give hope and prospects to the people in Mushapo. Education is for most people the foundation for change and a better future. Hence a school in the „bush“...

We engaged the villagers with great enthusiasm and evaluated different approaches to accomplish the building of the school under the difficult circumstances. We quickly realized that we had to abolish our European point of view and expectation. “God gave the Europeans the clock but the Africans the time.” A proverb that holds some truth. The planning of the building of the school progressed significantly slower than we anticipated and we often had to cope with setbacks when everything went a different way than planned. But even though we progressed in small steps, we covered the first steps in the actual building of the school.

From day to day we learned to adapt to the people and the situation and opened our eyes for new things. We became conscious how unnecessary material things in life can be and how you can be happy about seemingly trivial things. Watching laughing children playing simple games marked one of the most precious moments. In spite of many difficult and sad moments our stay in Mushapo was definitely one of the most important experiences in our lives.

 The greatest reward was when I stood one morning before the school and the children sang with all their heart beautiful songs as a token of their gratitude.

Our school is growing - now 150 students


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