Tim Neels

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Testimony

Experience youth forum 2008

My motivation to participate in the forum was my love to travel in a non-tourist way and the fact that I like to know other cultures and especially the people who live in this other culture, besides I wanted to do a job for the good cause . All these things I found in the history of the 2008 youth forum.

At first I was a little worried with everything about the forum because there was the organization that was a little chaotic, with the change of date and the plane tickets at the last stroke. In addition, I wondered if the situation in Burundi was enough, as the Dutch embassy did not want to send the group of young Dutch for security reasons. Other things that worried me were how I would react on poverty, how will be the contact with the young people, the work on the building site, ...

As soon as I arrived in Burundi most of these worries disappeared. Especially the security in Burundi amazed me. I have never felt anxious and that in a country that has just been in a violent war. Of course there were soldiers and armed police everywhere and in large quantities but they never bothered me. In addition the people on the street were always very nice (and always a little too enthusiastic to see a white person) and in the 5 weeks that I was in Burundi I never got stuck. Also about the forum my concerns were for nothing. The contact with the young people was great, I did not dare to hope that would be so good. I made several good friends among the young people with whom I continue to have contact. In addition I was able to discuss a lot of serious things about life with them which made me very happy (especially because I study philosophy) and gave me a new view on life in general. It was about differences in culture, issues of emigration, religions, ethnicities, the war in Burundi, education, the politics of Belgium, poverty and other problems in Burundi and many of things in addition, but especially of the discrimination which was the central point of the forum.

Although there are some problems with the organization because of budget shortfalls (the political crisis in Belgium and the Dutch decision at the last stroke) the forum went very well. The organizers showed their ability to adapt to the situation. In the morning there was work at the construction site in a small village where ten brick houses were built with the local masons and the village population. In the afternoon there were activities with young people, sports, workshops (eg dancing and pottery) and conferences on discrimination, which were prepared and exhibited by young people. And during the evenings we had other activities. In addition the young people were divided into three teams to take turns in the kitchen. It was interesting to see the adaptation to this work for those with a macho character that is still common in Burundi. As a result, these activities have created a strong link between young people of different nationalities. (Burundians, Belgians, Congolese and Canadians).

About the construction of houses, I am not totally satisfied. Because the people in this village did not have homes properly and no means at all, it was a very good idea to build houses for them.

But I still have questions like this: if the people there are to fight every day to have the extreme minimum to survive, to have something to eat, when many times they do not succeed, would it their greatest concern to have good brick houses?

I know that this criticism is a little easy on my part, because I do not have a better solution myself in this case, and I forgot to mention the history of the current water that we are in drags to put in the village. I mean, it's more of a symbolic act of the North-South help that's been done in this village, especially because the media has done a lot of publicity on this project.

Anyway I am very happy to have participated in the forum, and for me the strongest points are the contact between the young people and their awareness and the symbolic signal of commitment North-South that we made with building houses for the people of this village. Urakoze cane!

Tim Neels