a song and a powerpoint for reconciliation

March 27, 2008 at 8:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The youth conference I am coordinating in Rwanda is in full swing and these youth are blowing me away. I arrived at the conference center this morning and 80 of them were standing in rows at their conference table singing. We have so many resources in our audience, we just have to ask, who can lead a song? and an entire choir comes up and sings in harmony. I don’t know a lot about music but there is something about an African choir that the West can’t even touch.

This was the first day of the conference, so I was worried everything would go wrong, but the it was a great day. We have more than 80 young people from Rwanda, DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and USA. Somehow they came, across language barriers and borders, and the way the information traveled is a fascinating exercise in word of mouth and community networks, but more on that later. After the singing, a young person from each church and country came up and told about their local youth projects and challenges. Everything was translated to English or Kinyarwandan on the spot. Did I mention that this portion of the schedule was unplanned?

Our speaker on peace and reconciliation came with his own powerpoint machine during lunchtime. While I was pleased to see he brought his machine, I was worried about the power supply, the screen, the technology…so many things could fail. Well, now I understand whey a trainer on peace and reconciliation needs a power point. When you talk about a genocide, the pictures of the people who have been killed, bodies stacked in the road, have so much more power than any words. The electricity held throughout, but a tremendous downpour — the kind that is inches of water in minutes– started mid-presentation and rain came through the roof and onto his laptop.

Unfortunately the conference center promised us both internet and a sound system and failed to deliver on both. So our youth media team can’t blog live as planned, instead they have to shuttle in the evening downpour to a hotel so they can upload pictures on their blog. (You can have a sneak peak as they just get started.) But they are determined, so they will stop at nothing now that they have a platform.
media team hard at work
They are cutting videos on the new Flip Video, a camera with a USB port on its side, cute as an Ipod, super easy to use, and takes double AA batteries for an hour of footage. Interestingly, the youth media team of the conference is almost all women. Now this doesn’t surprise me as my co-students in Strategic Communications are almost all female, but we had to struggle to make sure that this conference had gender balance. When you make a call for youth leaders in Africa you will get all men if you’re not careful. In Africa, communications is still a male profession, so building a youth media movement could really do a lot to empower women, as well as promote literacy and civic participation.

There is something really happening here, so stay tuned…


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