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Learning Applied - Dialogue to Address Child Healthcare in the Congo

Over the month we've been in the Congo, the Zeidler Center has been graciously hosted by Rally International/Nouvelle Communaute de l'Esperance (NCE). NCE is a local church with locations in the Goma neighborhoods of Berere and Magunga. Most of the facilitators-in-training are NCE leaders, desiring practical skills in dialogue facilitation to foster reconciliation and healthier communication within these communities.

During the three weeks of the training, at least three children have died of preventable diseases in the Magunga community alone. In light of this crisis, the class discussed applying the training to address the problem of child health care. Together we brainstormed a community dialogue to address the needs of local parents. The group discussed dialogue goals, logistics, content, and reporting: what questions would be asked, who would be the conveners, and how to prepare participants for a unique conversation. Broadly speaking, the major goal would be the reduction in the deaths of local children. We identified the specific goal for dialogue as increased communication between parents and leaders of NCE where the parents attended.

For the leaders, the dialogue would hopefully reveal why parents had been reluctant to share that their children were ill until it was too late. Common diseases such as malaria and typhoid, if caught early, can be cured with $5 worth of medicine (a manageable amount for the church to raise together). For dialogue participants, the dialogue would be an opportunity to be deeply heard, and to grow in trust and communication with other parents and leaders to take advantage of a broader support network. The groundwork laid with the facilitators, plans are now in the works for these dialogues to take place. The Zeidler Center greatly looks forward to receiving updates from these leaders as they plan and facilitate these and other dialogues throughout the year.

At the conclusion of the training, one of the participants, Marcellin, stood up and announced, “speaking on behalf of the whole group, we’d like to say thank you so much for the training!” at which point everyone started laughing loudly. We had just been discussing strategies for how facilitators could respectfully intervene when dialogue participants attempted to speak for whole groups of people. One of the primary communication agreements we use for dialogue is that participants will “speak for themselves from their personal experience, and not try to represent a whole group or ask anyone else to represent, defend, or explain an entire group of people.”

A “dialogue joke” -- what a perfect way to close the session.

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