20September2020

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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

Speech "Change the World with Love"

Speech of Wolfgang Schmidt (ADH e. V.) at the Brumlovka Business Center in Prague:
You can also watch the complete speech as a video under this link.
The presented Speech was not commissioned by Aktive Direkt Hilfe e. V. but in private responsibility of the author Wolfgang Schmidt (Vice President 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.
I was asked to give a speech along the line of the TEDx Talk I gave by the title: “Change the World with Love” (photo 1).

I am delighted to share more news about the Democratic Republic of Congo as this country has grown dear to my heart. I will give you some inside information, which is not covered by the mainstream media. As you hear my story, you will understand why this news is not talked about in the media.

Next, I will let you know what my wife Lenka and I are doing to help the people in this country. Finally, I will talk about a subject, which I believe will benefit all of us, whether we live in the South or in the North.

1. Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

I would like to start out with a question: Is there anybody here who does not have a mobile phone or a computer? You might be surprised to find out that if you use such equipment, you have a connection to the DR Congo. Because in your mobile phone and your computer, there is a rare and expensive mineral called coltan and most coltan used today comes from the Congo.

You also have a connection to this country if you own a car, since your car battery is made with another expensive material, cobalt, and about 2/3 of the world’s cobalt reserves are in the Congo.

Congo is a huge country. It is almost 30 times the size of the Czech Republic. The approximately 80 million inhabitants can be divided into about 200 ethnic groups, with about 400 smaller languages and 4 major languages, the official language being French. The main local language is called Lingala and if you want to say HELLO to a Congolese and you say MBOTE, you will make him or her very happy.

About half of the population is Catholic, 20% belong to various Protestant churches, 10% are Kimbanguists (a local church), 10% are Muslim and 10% follow traditional religions.

According to the “Human Development Index” of the United Nations, which records the human development level of the nations in the world, the DR Congo has been rated amongst the lowest of the 189 countries on the list for many years.

Millions of Congolese children, about half of all the school-age children, have no access to schools, either because there are no schools around or because their parents are too poor to pay the mandatory school fees.

Despite these longstanding problems, the Congo has a lot of potential because the Congolese do not easily accept a No as an answer. They live under very difficult circumstances, yet most of the time they do not give up. I have never seen a country with so many old and dilapidated cars and vans. When one of these old vehicles stalls in the middle of the traffic or if it does not want to start, they push it until it starts. If a small truck is stuck on a sandy road – even uphill – they keep pushing until it regains its grip and moves (photo 2).

In the capital Kinshasa, many babies are abandoned – either on the street or in front of an orphanage that barely makes ends meet. My wife Lenka and I adopted one such baby when she was one week old (photo 3). Anissa is now 10 years old (photo 4) and since she had the opportunity, she was able to develop her talents. She speaks English and Czech fluently, and is learning German with me; she likes skiing, ice-skating, inline skating and all kinds of sports. We are thankful for the good education she receives at the Elijáš School. Anissa proves how much potential lies in the African continent if its children are given a chance to develop their talents.

The Congolese members of our local association “ADH Congo” are the backbone of our work there. They are a group of talented Congolese who wish to bring their country up to the standard it is supposed to be. On photo 5, you can see from left to right: CEO Gilbert Nkuli, Ingenieur Jean Vita, Professor André Kapanga and Professor Francois Mpona.

In many parts of the world, you find big differences between rich and poor. However, in Africa, and especially in Congo, that difference is gigantic. Poverty is unimaginable there and affects the majority of the population. I will give more details about their poverty level later on.

Corruption exists everywhere. However, if a billion dollars disappear in a poor country into the pockets of the elite, the effects are more far-reaching. After all, their total budget is only a fraction of the money, which the industrialized countries have at their disposal.

Some Congolese work very hard, like for example the men who push heavy loads by bike many kilometers through the bush (photo 6) or those who work with a pushcart called “pousse-pousse” which can carry heavy loads. They push with all their might, wearing an old pair of flip-flops, and during the rainy season, they sometimes go through mud and huge puddles because there is no other way to the destination.

On the other hand, there are reasons why many Congolese are unable to work as efficiently as their counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere. Heat and rain play a role in many people’s working life and there are other influences, like a lack of education, motivation and training.

An Indian overseer of a construction site in Kinshasa told me why he had to repeatedly point out the same things to local laborers. He put himself in their shoes and explained why they have so little motivation to do a better job. He said something like this: “Imagine you had no breakfast and you will not eat much, if anything, for lunch either. You received little or no schooling and job training. You work all day in the heat for a monthly salary of around $100, which is not even remotely enough to support your family and send your children to school. When you fall sick, you must pay all your bills, as you are not insured. In fact, most of the time, you cannot see a doctor or buy any medicine because you do not have enough money. Therefore, you keep working often even when you are sick. How hard would you work under such conditions?”

Some people work for a long time in their jobs without payment, sometimes for years. They hope to one day receive a salary. About 80 % of the people there have no jobs with regular income. Many salespeople roam the city. They buy goods in a shop and then stand on the street all day, trying to sell them with a little profit, so their family has something to eat that evening. Some are quite inventive, like this man who sells eggs (photo 7).

He balances about 70 boiled eggs on his head without holding on to them with his hands and walks down the street like this to get your attention. If you like to eat an egg, he stops, takes them all down, peels the egg with a clean plastic bag, adds some spices if you like, serves it to you, takes the payment and up goes the whole thing again on his head.

In Kinshasa, many utilities for water and electricity still exist from the colonial era and can break down any time. Usually, water and electricity are cut several times a day. When the power turns off, the rich people turn on their generators, all others light a candle if it is dark. To cook, they pull out their little charcoal stoves and continue cooking as if nothing happened. It is admirable how flexible and patient those people are.

I noticed that Anissa’s school was closed recently for a day because the water in that part of Prague was cut off. If you would apply this standard to the Congo, most schools there would have to be closed all the time as for example in the countryside, nobody has running water.

The same with electricity: In some countries, it makes headlines when they have a blackout, but most people in Congo live all their lives without electricity. One time in Kinshasa, we had a power-cut for 3 days and had to cook all the food in our fridge and freezer to keep it from spoiling.

Everybody in Congo knows that the biggest need is in the countryside where almost two thirds of the Congolese live. Besides having no electricity and running water, the people in the countryside also have no solid roads (photos 8 & 9), and not enough or proper schools (photos 10 & 11). They are deprived of the necessities and conveniences that we take for granted in other parts of the world. In addition, because there are few jobs available, they possess little to no money.

Diseases cause further difficulties in these remote areas. Malaria alone kills more people than AIDS, especially in the countryside. Decent health care is lacking, and inadequately trained doctors likewise contribute to the high mortality rate. Many villagers cannot afford medical examinations in a far-away hospital nor buy medicine. Basic knowledge of hygiene is missing because nobody teaches them these things. Some become sick from the water they drink.

You might wonder why the situation is so dire there. Why do they lack enough schools, and why are the schools they have in such bad conditions? Why do people have no money to send their children to school? Why do poor parents have to pay for school lessons at all? How can all this be the case in a country that is one of the richest in the world in natural resources?

Besides coltan and cobalt, Congo holds oil, gold, diamonds, copper, tin, uranium and many other natural and mineral resources – all in highest quality and huge quantities! With the Congo River alone, one could generate enough electricity through its natural force and amount of water to power half of Africa!

To understand the many problems in Congo, it helps to know the historical development of this country. Dr. Salua Nour served 16 years in Congo as the director of the biggest German development cooperation organization. Then she taught for 10 years as an Associate Professor Political Science for African Regional Studies at the “Free University of Berlin”. She gave me the following insight into the Congo, which I render here in a simplified version:

“We all know about the terrible history of the slave trade and the colonization of Africa. The bloodiest chapter in this history was the reign of violence established in Congo since the Berlin Conference of 1885, when Congo became – listen to this – the private property of the Belgian King Leopold II! Imagine, one person owning this whole country! Under his 23-year rule, about half of the population of that time, more than 10 million people, died. Workers in the rubber plantations – including women and children – 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 father 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. In the last 21 years, around 9 million people died either as a direct consequence of fighting or through disease and malnutrition in the aftermath of this war.

Contrary to the popular opinion that it is just Africans killing each other, 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 relatively 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.” So far, the report of Dr. Nour.

I don’t think anyone of us can imagine, what the Congolese suffered in the last 130 years, and hardly anybody in the world is aware of it. (photo 12) That’s why I believe, this story needs to be published and we need to put an end to this crime on humanity.

2. How one can help

Lenka and I wish that all the children in Congo would have nutritious food, sufficient education and the opportunity to learn a trade that will benefit their future. We believe that better education and more agriculture including the needed infrastructure, like suitable roads, could raise the living standard in this country without too much expense. Congo has, outside of its huge area of woods and rainforests, 80 million hectares of agricultural land available. Instead of importing even basic food items, it could grow enough food in those vast, untouched stretches of land to feed itself and even export it as some other African nations do. They could grow and export coffee, cocoa and many fruits & vegetables like bananas, avocados, pineapples, papayas, as well as peanuts, coconuts and other nuts and fruits you have never seen. Their avocadoes are twice the size of the ones available in Europe. On photo 13, you can see the fruits I received from the farmers on my recent visit there. The pineapple was huge and weighed over 3 kg.

I brought you some samples from Congo: Peanut butter lovers will relish this delicious, nutritious peanut butter, made 100% from peanuts, just roasted and ground up, without any additives. I also brought some 100% natural honey from Congo, so yummy and healthy. If you like herbal tea, you can later smell the nice aroma of this lemon grass, which I brought from the countryside. Snack lovers might enjoy this natural banana plantain snack.

I hesitate to mention the fantastic wood that grows in Congo, as it would be a shame if more of their magnificent trees would be cut down, especially those in the rainforest, and if no new ones would be replanted. Anyway, here are some samples of carved woodwork, made from wenge wood: this touching relief of a mother with her baby and a robust elephant stool. You can hold this stool afterwards to see how heavy this wood is. It is so strong that even termites cannot eat it.

In 2007, we moved into a house in Kinshasa, which was looted in one of the two nationwide lootings under Mobutu. The people took everything out of that house which was removable. Even the toilets were gone, and the electric wires were taken out of the walls. They left only three things in the house, two bathtubs which were cemented in and a table made of wenge wood. The table was so heavy that they could not carry it out of the house.

As we personally do not have enough money and influence to bring about changes on higher levels and help on a larger scale, we do what we can to improve the situation in a few places and to show how positive change can be brought about even under difficult circumstances.

Since the year 2000, Lenka and I have engaged in humanitarian aid projects in 6 African countries. We have lived in Africa for more than 10 years and I continue to make yearly trips to inspect our projects in Congo and to consult with our team there. From our base in Prague, we organize and oversee the work in Congo by email and do our best to raise awareness and support for it.

In the year 2000, Lenka assisted in medical camps in Nigeria for one year (photo 14), while I helped friends in Guinea, Conakry where I imported a 40 Ft container with humanitarian Aid (Photo 15).

In 2001, we together distributed maize to the most disadvantaged people in Eastern Zambia who had lost most of their crops in floods (Photo 16).

In 2002, we imported our second 40 ft. container of humanitarian aid, this time in Cameroon (photo 17), where we had our first contact with the most peaceful people we ever met, the Pygmies, such wonderful and loving folks (Photo 18).

In 2003, we moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo where we imported our third 40-foot container in Africa (Photo 19). In 2004, Lenka had health issues and needed an operation in Europe.

In 2005, we moved to the milder South Africa where we helped friends in their work and Lenka could recover (Photo 20).

After her recovery, we returned with a new team of volunteers to Kinshasa where we lived from 2007 to 2011. At that time, we shifted the focus of our work to underprivileged children, for whom we started a feeding program (Photo 21).

In 2011, we experienced the appalling poverty of the countryside when we visited the village Mushapo, about 1000 km southeast of Kinshasa, near Angola (photo 22). 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 would? We made bricks out of the ground right there and burned those bricks to make strong buildings (Photos 23 & 24).

To reach Mushapo, we had to take old airplanes from Kinshasa to Tshikapa and from there we travelled by motorbike or by car 60 km through the bush, which can take 4 to 12 hours, depending on the rain and road condition (Photos 25 & 26).

On photo 27, you can see the three school buildings and the health center we built for them. In 5 years, more than 2000 children attended this school free of charge, which is practically unheard of in Congo, as normally everybody there must pay school fees (Photo 28).

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 natural resources there can be extracted easier. It is the same tactic and most likely the same perpetrators as in East Congo. 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 our school in Mushapo. Some schools and villages were destroyed – thank God, ours was not.

Most of our teachers and students had to flee with their families 60 km to Tshikapa, where – after many struggles – they could start teaching the children in the afternoon in another school building. After some time, our school in Mushapo was reopened, but only for children of the Tshokwe tribe, which forced out all the other tribes.

In 2017, we started a new project in Mabala where we built an Agro Veterinary High School. Besides the normal school subjects, the children receive training in agriculture and farming so they can earn a living instead of being jobless after their final exams. Here are some of the steps it takes to build such a school:

First the workers lay the foundation of hard stones and cement. The bricks are not burned because the clay soil there contains too much sand for the burning process. That is why we had to use cement mortar to build the walls (Photo 29). We used iron bars with cement to fortify the construction (Photo 30). Then the workers raised the roof beams, which had to be painted against termites (Photo 31). The walls were protected against the rain with cement mix (Photo 32). Last came the cement floors (Photo 33) and painting job inside and outside (Photo 34).

We also started a new agricultural project by giving maize seeds to extremely poor farmers along the road to Lebama where maize is growing well (photo 35). After the harvest we buy their maize, bring it to the river, ship it along 3 different rivers to Kinshasa where our partner organization BBK sells it and the profit will go back up to help support the school. This is our second school where the students attend classes free of charge (Photo 36).

On photo 37, you can see the location of Mushapo, Tshikapa, the capital Kinshasa and Mabala, near Nioki.

In order to give you a better picture about our work in Congo, you can see a short video of my recent visit there. For more information about our work in Africa, you can visit the website of our German NGO “Aktive Direkt Hilfe”, in English “Active Direct Help”. This website is in English and Czech, as well as in German and French. It has a lot of information with many photos and videos about our work since the year 2000.

We decided to help the people in the countryside because there is the greatest need. At the same time, this offers one solution to the migration crisis as it goes to the root of its problem. Let me explain why some Africans become refugees looking for better life conditions elsewhere. Basically all aid organizations in Congo are helping in the cities. The people in the interior of the country are mostly left to themselves. Because of this neglect of the rural regions, life is shaped by extreme poverty there. This causes many people to leave their villages, hoping to find a better life in the cities.

Kinshasa with about 12 million inhabitants is already helplessly overcrowded and faces enormous challenges. The cities are growing continuously because of this constant stream of people fleeing rural poverty, which is multiplying the conflicts already existing in the city. Many young people from the villages go to the cities. From the cities, they want to go to the capital and from the capital, they want to go – guess where? To Europe and the US! That is why we are focusing our help in the countryside.

Why should we wait until more people start leaving their home in search for a better place to live? We could lessen the migration to Europe from Africa by covering people’s basic needs like food, shelter, education and a job right where they live. But besides the small development projects we can do, things need to change on a higher level, national and international, and the available finances need to be better distributed and invested.

We should not be surprised about so many refugees when in their own countries they do not have enough to eat or are driven out of their homes by war and violence.

We also do not need to be afraid of foreigners. I have been a foreigner for the majority of my life, living in 14 different countries on 4 continents.

Here is a little summary of steps, which could help move Congo forward if they were implemented:

  • Stop the unfair and illegal exploitation of raw materials and the violence in the areas, which are rich in resources.
  • Income of the state needs to be invested into the development of the country, instead of ending up in the pockets of the elite.
  • Education and economic development is needed for the whole population, so they can get their needs met, build political awareness and real democracy.

After all we have done to help Africa and especially Congo in the last 19 years, we realize more and more that the greatest influence on the events in Congo depends on decisions made in the industrialized nations. For this reason, I have written a book about this subject and I am still looking for a publisher. We believe the best service we can offer Congo is an information campaign to spread the news about what is happening there and try to influence their national and the international policies concerning this country.

The book is written in English and German and it is being translated into Czech. We are looking for publishers for these 3 languages. We believe this book will not only help improve the living conditions for the people in the Congo, but could also help many people in the industrialized countries, because it also covers other topics, which I will shortly mention, so you can see a little bit what it all entails.

So far, we covered two points: Number 1: Life in Congo and the poor countries. Number 2: What can be done to change their situation. Chapter 3 of my book deals with challenges in the rich, industrialized nations, and how we can counter them – things like stress, unhealthy food and work habits, too much screen time for adults and children, loneliness, addictions, weapons of war and many other important topics.

Chapter 4 introduces what I call the fifth dimension. Besides length, breadth, height and time, there exists another dimension, which is invisible but very powerful. Chapter 5 describes miracles which we experienced in our personal lives. These miracles prove that this fifth dimension is not just an idea in our heads but can be tangibly experienced in real life. The biggest miracle is selfless love, which I write about in Chapter 6 and now I would like to give a little insight into this theme.

3. Love

Sometimes Lenka and I are asked: “How did you end up building a school in the bush in the middle of Africa? 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 and at different times 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.

I believe the best way to change the world is by changing hearts, minds and attitudes – our own first; only then can we try to help others to do the same. From personal experience, I can affirm that love is the best way to change any heart.

Let me clarify what I mean when I talk about love: The Hollywood type of ‘love’ is unrealistic, superficial and usually lasts only a short time. I am talking about real love which is active in helping someone else. Love is not about getting anything – it is all about giving. It gives something away, such as our time or ourselves or our resources. 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 all due to a lack of love. War, hunger, poverty, refugees and the migration crisis are all a result of greed and selfishness.

All the money and material wealth prove useless in the most critical moments and aspects of life. When we or our loved ones are lonely, fall ill, or face the loss of a friend or a relative, we realize this truth.

The most important things in life cannot be seen, touched, manufactured, sold or bought – things like friendship, happiness, peace, faith, hope and love. They are not material – another dimension is involved.

The life-changing experience Lenka & I had was an overfilling of supernatural love, which we believe comes from God. It is above all a personal relationship between God and us. We humans are naturally selfish and our human love can only go so far, however this kind of love is supernatural and can go further.

Love is a collective term, which includes kindness, fairness, understanding, generosity, positiveness, and helpfulness. It is inclusive, respectful, forgiving, humble, patient, tolerant, and all these positive attributes, values and virtues we would like to have.

The difficulty we face is how to apply love to our daily lives and the world around us. Here are some ideas of what love can do practically:
  • 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 those who are needy and the person who shows them 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 does not hurt us. On the contrary, when we reach out and help others, we end up benefiting both them and ourselves.
  • 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.
  • Companies and multinational corporations should think about the needs of the poor and not just their own economical profits.
  • A good question to ask ourselves regarding 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.
  • In short, love applies the golden rule: whatever you wish that others do to you, do also to them. And also: whatever you do not want others do to you, do not do it to them.

You might think, “What can I personally do to make a difference?” Well, for one: You are not alone. There are other people and organizations, who do their part to improve circumstances. Without their help, things would be much worse. And second: No one is an island. Everyone has influence and can participate in changing their neighborhood and more.

Here are some examples of what can be done:
  • Speak up or write about injustice in the world and try to win people to do something about it.
  • Find a needy situation and start a project or
  • Volunteer and 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 © 2020 Text: Wolfgang Schmidt; Picture: Aktive Direkt Hilfe e. V.



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