“Papa Goliath” Changes
KANANGA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO– Valentin Mitendo, producer of a popular radio drama in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was thrilled to learn he would get the opportunity to meet Claude Bangumba while conducting research in Kananga. Claude was known to his wife and son, jokingly, as “Old Goliath.” Valentin had traveled with the research team to assess how many people had listened to the drama Vivra Verra and how much information they had retained. Valentin already knew that “Old Goliath” was an avid listener and that his life, and the life of his family, had changed because of the drama.
Valentin’s radio drama, Vivra Verra (“Time Will Tell”), is not your average radio show. It is a 156-episode radio serial drama that aired from September 2014 through March 2016 and presented a dramatic interweaving of four storylines designed to inspire people toward improved social and health decisions. The drama is a project of Population Media Center (PMC). PMC is a US nonprofit that has produced more than 35 dramas around the world. These dramas have helped more than 500 million people live healthier lives in more than 50 countries. PMC hires all local writers, producers, and actors, so that all dramas are culturally relevant.
“It was during an interview with a winner [of a Vivra Verra listeners’ contest] that I discovered ‘Old Goliath’,” Valentin says. “On the eve of the awards, we called winners to prepare for the prize-giving ceremony. Despite her enthusiasm, Mireille Bangumba [a female prize winner] told me that she could not come because of personal reasons. I expressed the wish to see her at the small ceremony and she said she would send her husband.”
Mireille was an avid Vivra Verra listener and had answered questions about the characters, plots, and messages correctly to be chosen for a prize. During the conversation, Mireille explained that she would not come to the awards ceremony because she was pregnant and tired – to which Valentin replied by asking if she had heard of prenatal consultations.
“In Vivra Verra you insist on this point with [the characters] Ngala and Koni,” she laughed confidently, “I did my prenatal visits and my husband encouraged me a lot.”
Mireille then explained jokingly to Valentin that her husband had been nick-named “Old Goliath” by her four-year-old son. “Old Goliath” is a negative character in Vivra Verra – an alcoholic with a temper who relies on physical domination to impose his will and prevents his son from going to school.
“My husband was “Old Goliath” before we started listening to your show. Our son nick-named him that because of his aggressiveness. We continue to call him that. But he has changed a lot.”
When Valentin got the chance to meet the real “Old Goliath,” he had some questions for him.
“So your child baptized you Goliath?” asked Valentin.
“As a matter of fact, my child, who is four years old, when he does something he wants but may cause trouble, he says to me, ‘Papa, are you Papa Goliath?’ He said that when one punishes his sons, that is [being a] Papa Goliath.”
Valentin laughed with Claude, feeling gratitude and happiness at this family’s bond. It showed that the lessons have been understood and internalized by Mireille, Claude, and their son. Claude has become more aware, and more in control, of his temper. He confirmed that, of course he encouraged his wife in her prenatal consultations – he doesn’t want to be a widower. This encounter was one more piece of evidence that Vivra Verra was drawing the Bangumba family back night after night with exciting drama, and also imparting important lessons that they shared as a family and that will continue long after broadcast stops.
“It is something we listen to as a family. When I get home and in the evenings we relax with all of the children – we can listen to it before sleeping,” said Claude.
This was just what Valentin was hoping to hear. The research, writers, actors, technicians…everyone had succeeded. Their fictionalized character, “Old Goliath,” a figment of research and imagination, had illuminated aspects of Claude’s character and helped him and his family navigate those negative traits to develop more open, respectful, and equitable relationships.
ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):
Population Media Center is a nonprofit leader in entertainment-education dedicated to global health, women’s empowerment, and the environment. PMC has helped approximately 500 million people live healthier lives in 54 countries since 1998. We are experts in using pop culture for social good—producing drama series for radio, TV, and social media to role model healthy behavior through relatable characters. Local partners, local creative teams, and authentic stories create culturally appropriate national impact. Our integrated approach makes us one of the most cost-effective promoters of the rights of women and girls, human health, and the environment.