The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo National Association of (CNAD) has successfully hosted its first three day workshop from December 18th – 20th, 2012 in the capitol of DRC, Kinshasa for CNAD members and the DRC Deaf community. Participants were a mixture of seniors, youth, female, male and late deafened adults. Four province representatives out of 11 Congo provinces were able to attend. The furthest traveling representative is from Lubumbashi, Katanga.
The events were arranged by members of CNAD including the late CNAD president, Mr. Bandibanga Kapena Alphonse, who had passed away several months before the event. Vice president, Munzus Augustus, assumed the role as acting president and carried on the events. The event and workshop was also supported by Kiombo Kabu, an international development expert and native of DRC from the United States of America. Kiombo worked with CNAD specifically in the development of the workshop and as DRC Deaf sign language interpreter.
The late CNAD president and Kiombo agreed that it would be best to invite international development experts for the workshop. Kiombo recommended Peggy Prosser (USA), Lisa Fisher (USA) and Sarath Kumara (Sri Lanka) to talk about organization development. Kiombo knew Peggy and Lisa from the Master of Arts International Development program at Gallaudet University in Washington DC. The three have studied and graduated together in 2009. Sarath is a colleague of Lisa Fisher and is president of the Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf, the Sri Lanka National Association of the Deaf in Colombo. Sarath met Lisa at CFD where she had volunteer some time there. Lisa asked Sarath to join the trip to Kinshasa to share information about the development of CFD.
The morning of the first day opened with a visit from the assistant to the head of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Mr. Muteba Wa Beya, and Mr. Vita Malele Martin, a government liaison between disability organizations. Prior to the start of the event a Protocol from the Ministry of Social Affairs oversaw the seating arrangements, the morning agenda, and security. After enduring the arrangements, the Protocol called the assistant to the head to come in and be seated at a table with the district mayor, liaison, CNAD president and facing the audience. A DRC sign language interpreter was present to interpret speeches made by the dignitaries seated in front. Augustus opened the event with a welcome message to all. Then the assistant head of the Ministry of Social Affairs greeted everyone and presented the Ministry’s agenda to include persons with disabilities in society. He explained that the ministry recognizes that the importance of Deaf development is for them to understand the struggles and challenges the Deaf experience in society. He ended his speech saying that the Ministry of Social affairs looks to developing a unity with CNAD and promoting sign language awareness.
After the departure of the assistant head and local government the workshop with the three international visitors, Peggy, Lisa and Sarath began. Peggy started off the workshop with Kiombo as DRC sign language interpreter. She introduced herself and the outline of the day’s workshop. She added how the the four including Kiombo came together for this event and expressed thanks and great honor to be a part of CNAD’s first national event.
Following the self introductions of each visiting guest, Peggy and Sarath changed to talk about their national organizations. Sarath introduced his organization the Sri Lanka, the Central Federation of the Deaf. He talked about the founding of CFD and the challenges they experience today. Participants nod their heads as to agreeing, when Sarath talked about lobbying for sign language recognition, interpreters and about financing for programs and membership issues. Next Peggy shared information about the US – National Association of the Deaf (NAD). She also talked some things about the Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD) as she had lived in Japan for twenty years. She compared the difference in organization structure between JFD and the US-NAD. At the near end of her presentation she talked about the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and their affiliations with national organizations of the Deaf around the world. She explained the benefits of membership to the World Federation of the Deaf and encouraged CNAD to continue their membership to WFD. Participants scribbled notes on whatever paper they could find on them. There were a few who wrote notes with a pen on their arms.
Three sign languages and two spoken languages were used during the workshop: Congo Sign Language, American Sign Language, Sri Lankan Sign Language, French, and English. Interpreting and translating took up much of the workshop time but everyone seemed to enjoyed watching three sign languages and the linear translation in play. And during lunch and social time a combination of all sign languages emerged as well as international signs.
The second day of the workshop brought a temperature of 32*C and no electricity. Electrical blackouts are frequent in Kinshasa. Only a few places afforded a generator to produce electricity. Luckily the wide windows of the conference room bought in sun light and breeze. And the flip charts saved the day! The morning workshop began with members divided up into groups for group discussion and activities. After breaking up into groups, Peggy asked the group to give names of national and international organizations we know about. Following the discussion of the different organizations participants knew, Peggy showed the flip chart with the question, What is an organization? Both English and French were written on the flip chart. Peggy explained that each group are to discuss what and how they view organization.
After discussion, one participant from each group were to list one or two words or short phrases of their group’s response onto the blank space under the question of the flip chart. Peggy then would comment on participant’s input and open the room for greater discussion. Peggy also compared inputs on the flip chart about organization with the US and Japan Deaf organizations. There were five other questions with topics focusing on organization structure, organization success, leadership, and unity. For 90 minutes participants exchanged thoughts and comments about organization before breaking away for a group activity outside of conference room. Members moved to a spacious yard for the activity.
Peggy decided on the famous human knot activity where group members form a knot by holding hands crisscrossed of each other and try to untie the knot without losing grip of the hand they hold. Members snake under and over each other until they loosen up and form a human ring. Laughter broke out after each group try to untie. Two groups were able to untie and form a human ring. One group broke loose of each other. At last, everyone came together to discussed their experience and reflection of the activity. Words such as unity and persistence were a large part of the participant’s thoughts. Eventually the workshop ended in time for lunch.
Following lunch was the afternoon workshop with Lisa. Topic of the afternoon workshop focused on the importance and impact of working together as community, in teams and unity. Lisa discussed the power and importance of including all persons who are Deaf (women, men, youth, children and seniors) in CNAD projects. Children of Deaf Parents as well as Parents of Deaf Children and others who work with Deaf may be included. Lisa then asked participants what they thought makes a successful organization. Many participants responded “a mission accomplished”. However a true measurement, she said, but what it is that takes an organization to reach a goal?
Lisa opened the room for discussion. Many participants raised their hands wanting to respond to Lisa’s question. A long list of thoughts about what makes a successful organization was listed on the flip chart. Though during the discussion several participants bought up some issue in regards to organization. Some have said there were duplications of national organizations by and of the Deaf and with many other organizations who share the same mission. There were challenges as well as conflicts between organization having the most cooperation with government sectors as well as competition for funding for community projects.
The two hour afternoon workshop also ended with two activities outside of the room. Everyone moved to the same spacious yard used earlier in the day. A new game invited by Lisa includes nature’s wonder of community cooperations by ants and bees and a tug of war game between one person and an increasing number of people on one end bought out joyous screams among participants. The two activities left smiles on everyone’s face at the end of the day.
The third and last day brought back the assistant to the head of Ministry of Social Affairs and the government liaison between disability organizations. The CNAD president, one conference participant, a visitor, and the head assistant gave closing remarks. The international visitors discussed and appointed Lisa, the youngest of all three, to give the speech for the closing. All presenters commented on the event with positive experience and with hope for the DRC Deaf community
Lisa reminded everyone in her speech that we must be sure to work together to maintain high quality, expand and to be involved with new development as Congo grows in the future. She also added that if Deaf people are not included in all development, Deaf people will become a burden to society. “We cannot let this happen. Deaf people must be included and be an independent strong contributing deaf citizen of Congo.” ended Lisa. Peggy and Sarath are hope that the assistant of the head of the Ministry of Social Affairs and the disability liaison officer were heard these words. Lisa added that as this workshop is a first for CNAD, it should not be the last. CNAD should build on it and continue to ask international development experts for feedback, advises as well as support.
After the closing speeches, everyone moved outside to watch a dance performed by young deaf dancers and group pictures were taken with the dancers. Also exhibited were art work by deaf artists. One deaf artist had his art featured in the Congo’s Concours Gouvern’ Art exhibit. The program book published his art was displayed on the platform after the dance. The assistant head of the Ministry of Social Affairs shook hands with the artist and showed the visiting guest this Deaf artist’s work in the program book. Other Deaf artists also displayed their work.
And to boot, the CNAD conference and workshop were on National TV for a week. Peggy, Lisa and Sarath got many comments as they continued walked and traveled around Kinshasa after CNAD’s event.