18September2019

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What are Vitamins for the Heart? Additionally to the physical help for us the spiritual support has likewise a big meaning. ‘Vitamins for the Heart’ is the title of series in which we publish new articles monthly. The Vitamins are compositions out of texts, which we are friendly allowed by the authors to present on our webpage. Because we had many positive reactions to the vitamins we also want to present them on our webpage and hope that they will also bring many others a big pleasure.

Vitamins for the Heart

Change the World with Love

TED Talk with Wolfgang Schmidt:
You can find the complete TED Talk here as video on YouTube.
The TED Talk was not commissioned by Aktive Direkt Hilfe e. V. but in private responsibility of the author Wolfgang Schmidt (Second Board of Aktive Direkt Hilfe e. V.). The political statements contained in this publication are personal views of the author, which do not necessarily reflect the views of the association. Although Aktive Direkt Hilfe e. V. dissociated from the political statements contained, the publication is presented in full on this website due to the high degree of compliance with the convictions of the association.

1. I just came back from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is a huge country, with enormous challenges. You may not know much about that situation, but I’m sure you are aware of many other trouble spots in the world. When we look at all these problems, it is easy to come to the conclusion that there is not much we can do about it. However, I believe that everybody can do something and things will change for the better if we act in love. I believe the best way to change the world is by starting with our own heart; only then can we try to help others to do the same. I have found that love is the best way to change any heart.

Let me tell you what my wife Lenka and I and our small team are doing in Congo, to show you what can be done, even under difficult circumstances.

Try to imagine, if you can, your fridge is empty or you do not even have one. You are also without a job and money. In the rich countries, in such cases, you can receive social help, for food and shelter. Not so in the poor countries! So, imagine, no such help is available. You go out in the morning on an empty stomach, try to raise a little bit of money and bring home some food for your family that evening. Hundreds of millions of people live like that every day!

  • 1 billion people on Earth live on less than $1 a day. That means, 1 out of 7 people is hungry most of the time.
  • On the other hand, the richest 1% on Earth has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined.
  • Every 3 seconds someone dies from factors related to extreme poverty, which is more than 10 million people every year.

Big numbers like this are just numbers for some people. However, since my wife and I lived in Africa more than 10 years, we have experienced first-hand what some of these statistics mean. We lived in six different countries there and decided to focus our help on Congo because it was the neediest country we ever lived in.

Congo has so many problems because of its many natural resources. Why is there so much trouble in the Middle East? Because of its oil, right? Congo has more than oil; it has oil, gold, diamonds, copper, tin, cobalt, uranium and coltan, which is used in mobile phones and laptops! With the Congo River alone they could create enough electricity to supply half if not all of Africa with it. Yet, there is no electricity in the countryside and in the cities, it can be cut off any time! About 80 % of the 80 million Congolese are jobless. The biggest need is in the countryside (photo 1), where they have no electricity, no running water, no proper roads, not enough schools and hardly any jobs or money. In spite of all its riches in the ground, why is Congo one of the poorest countries in the world? One reason is its historical development:

At the end of the 19th century, Congo became the private property of the Belgian King Leopold II! Under his rule, about half of the population, more than 10 million people, died. Many workers - including women and children - in the rubber plantations could get their hands and feet chopped off if they did not collect enough rubber.

After King Leopold, the Belgian government controlled Congo by less barbaric methods, but by equally oppressive colonial rule and continued to steal Congo’s raw materials, until formal independence in 1960. Shortly after independence, Mobutu ruled Congo as a horrible dictator for over 30 years, supported by Belgium and the US.

In 1997, Laurent Kabila and his allies from Uganda and Rwanda chased out Mobutu with their army. When Laurent Kabila did not deliver the Congolese raw materials to his allies, it sparked a war between these countries and Congo.

In 2003, this war stopped officially, but in reality, it continues in eastern Congo until today. These are some recent rebel activities there (photo 2). In the last 20 years, around 9 million people died either as a direct consequence of fighting or due to disease and malnutrition in the aftermath of this war.

This war is a raid on the Congo by foreign mining companies, which use Rwanda and Uganda and their rebel armies to steal the resources in the East of the country. Congo receives little income from the official sales of raw materials, and this income goes only to the people at the top. By far the biggest amount of resources are taken out of the country through illegal mining and smuggling. Airplanes like this, land in eastern Congo and fly out raw materials to Rwanda and Uganda (photo 3).

What are some of the possible solutions?
  • Stop this war and illegal exploitation of Congo’s resources.
  • Income of the state should be invested into the development of the country, instead of going into the pockets of the elite.
  • Congo needs proper education and economic development for the whole population so they can get their needs met, build political awareness and real democracy.

2. What did Lenka and I do to help?

In 2003, we entered Congo after the war moved to the East of the country. We imported a container with humanitarian aid and distributed it to needy people in Kinshasa (photo 4). Next, we started a feeding scheme for orphans (photo 5). Some people in Kinshasa are so poor, that they abandon their babies on the streets or in front of orphanages. Hundreds of babies are abandoned and thousands of children live on the streets in Kinshasa.

In 2008, we adopted one such newborn baby whom we called Anissa. This is two months after we adopted her (photo 6), and here is a more recent photo of her (photo 7). Since Anissa had the chance, she could develop her talents: She speaks English and Czech fluently and learns German with me. She likes skiing, ice-skating, inline skating, athletics, dancing, singing, and is learning to play the piano. She proves how much potential is in Africa if its children receive a chance to develop their talents. We do our best to raise Anissa in a loving environment, so she can also learn to be loving and considerate. Personally, I believe that these values, besides being taught at home, should have top priority in any school and university curriculum.

In 2011, we experienced the appalling poverty of the countryside when we visited the village Mushapo. The village chiefs asked us to build a school, as they did not have one. As difficult as life is out there, we realized that if we did not build that school, then who will. We made bricks (photo 8) out of the ground right there and burned those bricks (photo 9) to make strong buildings. To reach Mushapo, we had to take old airplanes from Kinshasa to Tshikapa and from there, we travelled by motorbike (photo 10) or by car (photo 11) 60 km through the bush, which can take 4 to 12 hours, depending on the rain and road condition.

These 3 buildings are the school and here is the health center we built for them (photo 12). Since 2012, more than 2000 children attended our school free of charge, which is unheard of in Congo, as normally everybody there must pay school fees (photo 13). That is one reason why almost 50% of Congolese children receive no schooling, because their parents cannot afford it.

In 2016, the same kind of fighting that is going on in eastern Congo, started also in the Kasai provinces, where our school is situated. The goal of this violence is to drive out the local population so the resources can be extracted easier. Thousands of people were brutally killed and 80 mass graves were found; more than one million people became refugees or internally displaced people and hundreds of schools were closed, including ours. The majority of our teachers and students had to flee with their families to Tshikapa, where - after many struggles - they were able to start teaching our children in the afternoon in another school. I just found out that our school in Mushapo was recently reopened by the Tshokwe tribe, which forced out all the other tribes.

In 2017, we started a new project in Mabala where we are planning to build a school for older children and give them extra training in agriculture so they can earn a living instead of being jobless after their final exams. Here is Mushapo, Tshikapa, the capital Kinshasa and Mabala, near Nioki (photo 14).

I have a strong desire to help these children and spread this information through a book I’m writing and through the website of our German NGO “Aktive Direkt Hilfe”, in English “Active Direct Help”.

3. Sometimes, we are asked, why do you help in Congo…

…and why do you like to help people in general? Why do you do it fulltime as volunteers, without a salary?

This leads back to a special experience Lenka and I each had at separate occasions many years ago when we experienced deep love in such a strong way, that it completely turned our lives around. We realized that this kind of love was the solution to our personal problems and for the world. It was like finding a remedy for AIDS and cancer.

Let me clarify what I mean when I talk about love: The Hollywood type of ‘love’ is unrealistic and superficial and usually last only a short time. I’m talking about real love which is active in helping someone else. Love is not about getting anything, it’s all about giving. It gives something away, such as our time or ourselves or something materially. This kind of love is crucial, it is the key, for changing the world. Without it, things will continue as they are today. The biggest obstacles we are facing today are due to a lack of love: war, hunger, poverty, refugees and the migration crisis are all a result of greed and selfishness. We shouldn’t be surprised about so many refugees when in their own countries they do not have enough to eat and are driven or bombed out of their homes. We also don’t need to be afraid of foreigners. I’ve been a foreigner for the majority of my life, living and working in 14 different countries on 4 continents.

The rich nations are wasting 220 million tons of food every year, and the whole world is wasting 1.7 trillion dollars on military expenses every year. With just a fraction of that money - and with love - we could fight poverty instead of fighting each other.

Here are some more ideas of what love can do:
  • Drug abuse, loneliness, depression and suicide can be reduced if we spend time with people and show them some love.
  • Giving, helping and showing love to others create win-win situations. It helps the needy and the person who shows love. If you give something away or help somebody, love will come back to you.
  • We all can share something with those who have less than we do. It doesn’t hurt us, but it helps someone else.
  • We need an attitude of love and act in love. Any family, company, organization or government should be concerned about their team members, their coworkers and their citizens.
  • A good question to ask ourselves for any plans, decisions or actions is this: “Is it loving or not?”
  • If we act in love, we will not steal, lie or cheat; we will not be lazy, contentious or greedy; instead, we will help others and lift each other up.
  • Another form of love is to confront evil, to speak out against it and do something to change it.

4. How can we receive more of this kind of love?

The most important things in life cannot be seen, touched, manufactured, sold or bought; things like friendship, happiness, peace, faith, hope and love. Besides the physical, there is a spiritual dimension involved. The life-changing experience Lenka and I had was an overfilling of supernatural love, which we believe comes from God. It has nothing to do with religion; it is a personal relationship between God and us. We humans are naturally selfish and our human love can only go so far, but this kind of love is supernatural and can go further. Everybody can receive this love, no matter what color, creed, social status or education.

5. Everybody can do something, you too.

For example, you can:
  • Speak up about injustice in the world and try to win people to do something about it.
  • Volunteer in an existing NGO or start your own with some friends.
  • Find a needy situation and start a project, or help with or support an existing project.

Mother Teresa said, “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” She also said, “We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.” We don’t have to do what she did. It is also not necessary to go to Congo to change the world. If we show love, consideration and kindness to the people around us, it will change our part of the world. Let’s face it, the world has enough food, land and money for everybody. What we are lacking is enough love to share them.

  • So, let’s work together in love, even with people who are different.
  • Let’s help the poor and needy in whichever way we can.
  • Let’s change the world with love!

Copyright © 2018 text: Wolfgang Schmidt; picture: Aktive Direkt Hilfe e. V.



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