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How light writes change: A Photoreportage from camp

I always dream big but I could have never dreamed as big as when the Portuguese NGO FEC invited me to go on this journey. We were very well received by the entire Flemish region of Tielen; we felt immediately at home.

We were so tired when we arrived at the camp but suddenly we were full of energy because we were so excited to be with everyone in that little paradise. We were finally together and even all generations were engaged. 

As we were introducing ourselves, we were passing a ball of wool to each other and we created a beautiful (and orange) network. Finally Giorgio, our main coordinator from CIDSE, asked us what we saw there. We heard several excellent answers: “Relationships! – Connections! – Unity! – Faith! – Power!” I didn’t speak up but I immediately thought: “I see solutions!”

Then we immersed ourselves in the adventure. We got to know so many sustainable projects: from the Transition Movement (it’s amazing how taking advantage of a parking meter can question society) to the free store (fascinating how we can improve our concept of gratuitousness — when we have too much, someone else is missing it) and so many other amazing projects. But above all, for me, the biggest adventure was to discover so many outstanding people.

We all got along so well from the first minute. We all spoke in English among ourselves, but sometimes we had to be creative to talk to the native Belgians and we actually ended up communicating much more deeply with everyone. 

It was one of the most beautiful things in the camp: to see how everyone was so free to express themselves and to think out of the box. We were free to just fully be.

Aren’t we all? [Her shirt says: “Edicion Limitadisima” which means “Super Limited Edition”]

Every talk or discussion I witnessed was always and only about sharing – discovering the other side, another point of view or simply to know a little more. No one wanted to be just right, everyone was truly interested in listening. There was so much freedom and respect in our communication. I think that’s the key to growing together.

I have asked myself so many times how I can change the world and sometimes it is so simple: to be truly present and to serve with care. We were 200 people in the camp organized by Broederlijk Delen, among participants and staff. I wish I could tell you about each and every one of them. The best I can do is to introduce Koen, a kitchen volunteer, who was always working with tremendous dedication (he’s still working in this photo). Always smiling from ear to ear, he actually knew the name of each of us! 

I got to know a lot more about the reality of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of us who were in the two workshops about Congo acknowledged that the Congolese reality is much more fragile and complex than we could have imagined. We can not impose a method, a policy or our ways of living. But listening to Congolese people being so humble really touched me and taught me not to be in a hurry but not to stop until it’s done. This amazing man is one of the founders of La Lucha.

CIDSE organised this incredible camp and they really thought of everything. For example, we had the chance to meet two Climate Trackers. They told us in such a simple way about the United Nations Climate Conferences and how they work. We had a much clearer understanding and now feel so much more comfortable and capable of keeping up with it and doing our own research. I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity 

I must talk about the Pacific Climate Warriors –  guardians, protectors, defenders, caretakers of the Pacific Islands, and so much more than that. Not only did they enchant us every evening but they also are very wise souls: they respect and listen to nature. They are the ones who suffer climate change the most, because of our decisions (from the big continents), and they are the most peaceful and resilient people. They really are the most beautiful fighters. What an inspiration, I am so grateful to be their friend.

I like processes. Analog photography is all about letting the light write: recording on film what the eyes contemplate. It helps me respect the singularity of each moment and to feel how good can be to wait for the result, to assimilate expectation and to allow memories to sink in – photography does not replace memory but it catapults it. That is why I have always my camera with me. And sometimes, I can’t control everything.

These processes reveal to me so much humanity. This journey has been such a big process. It is time to let the light of these days guide us to write history back home. Let’s be the change, live the change and spread the change. 

By Madalena Meneses, FEC

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