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After returning from my most recent trip to our sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) I am thrilled to report on two major components of our Journey to Scale; the training centre at Maison Dorcas and the on target completion of our first stand alone studio in rural DRC.

Running in concert with the Healing in Harmony programming at Maison Dorcas, our training centre has proved itself to be successful and is now fully operational. Janvier, our first assistant, has become a skilled producer in his own right demonstrating proof of concept for the training center, and we are happy to report that he will be taking his skills to rural DRC as the producer at our new studio in Mulamba.

Mulamba Healing in Harmony Site/Mulamba, rural DRC, photo credit: Darcy Ataman

Located in one of Panzi Hospital’s One Stop Centers approximately 2 hours from Bukavu the Mulamba studio provided us and our partners with two major pivot points. When we started out on this Journey to Scale, one of our major goals was to open a studio in a rural area of the DRC. To reach people that don’t have access to services meant that we had to consider some logistical – and safety related – challenges. One of the biggest factors in the success of the Healing in Harmony program is the anonymity of our artists. Standing up as a survivor can draw unwanted attention and can lead to stigmatization and targeted/reprisal violence. Moving to a rural area presents a challenge to this anonymity as the presence of the studio building itself – not to mention the equipment inside it – draws undesired attention. We needed to consider how the building would be perceived in the community and ensure that noise emission was as minimal as possible.

Inspecting our Solar Capacity/Mulamba, rural DRC, photo credit: Darcy Ataman

Through consultation with our local DRC staff and related associates/stakeholders such as our program psychologist, program producer, administrator, advocacy/dissemination officer, past participants(cleared by our psychologist), local peers working in other NGO’s and a number of radio station dj’s and program directors we were able to mitigate the risks in several ways.

Firstly, in order to maximize the anonymity of our artists it was agreed that any public performances will take place in neighbouring communities – and never directly in the artists community. By taking the ‘artist on tour’ approach we greatly reduce the chances of our artists being identified in their home communities.

Secondly in order to have our studio blend into the already established rural field hospital we decided it best to build a stand alone building through new raised funds. This allowed us to use the natural surroundings to our advantage, and avoided taxing an already crowded space. By building our own site, we were able to incorporate established banana trees into the design – this natural buffer prevents sound from travelling and renders a pristine and professional recording. Furthermore instead of taking up space within the hospital we are able to provide a garden space that surrounds the building and allows our artists to be inspired by their surroundings.

Mulamba Studio Inauguration with Key Staff/Mulamba, rural DRC, photo credit: Darcy Ataman

By working closely with our local partners and implementing their suggestions we are optimistic that the rural launch of Healing in Harmony will be as successful as the original site at Maison Dorcas. Our next steps will be hiring a psychologist in June, conducting training for the new team in July, and field testing in August. Until then we couldn’t be prouder of our team for remaining on target and completing a fully solar powered studio that is ready to house and foster the development of new artists advocates.

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