Andy here from YMCA Ireland blogging from Strasbourg at the YMCA Peace Work Institute seminar. At the YMCA Prague festival I was briefly introduced to the leader of this project – Vardan, and next thing I knew I was signed up! Honestly, I’ve been really excited about this week long seminar for months and it’s great to be here. Young people from a whole host of post and continuing conflict contexts, sharing their experiences, explaining what the YMCA is doing in response, and envisioning partnerships to build upon YMCA peace-work initiatives, it’s powerful!
This morning Darryn and I shared with the participants about the context of conflict in Northern Ireland, the current situation, and some of the community relations work YMCA Ireland is engaged in. I used a quote I heard from when I was at uni – ‘Some of the best community relations work is done around pool tables.’ The principle behind this statement is the power of dialogue; how values can be challenged and tested and re-thought and new ways of thinking tried out through conversation. This afternoon I had one of those powerful conversations as I chatted with Dorina, National General Secretary of Kosovo. It was incredible hearing her personal story and the impact of the war years on her and the people close to her during the war years in her region. Moments like this are very special to me.
Of course, it’s not all intense conversations, there’s plenty of banter being had. The European Youth Centre in Strasbourg where we are meeting is a brilliant space, not least because of it’s table football, table tennis and pool table! I’ve engaged in some pretty intense table-tennis games with Adi to find out who is the better youth worker, I don’t want to boast but it’s not looking too good for the former Englishman. And tonight was the wonderful world of YMCA inter-cultural evenings, the Guinness went down about as well as the Balkan Boze, a greyish gunge type drink that I discovered tastes as bad as it looks!
I’m looking forward to what the rest of the week holds and some of the conversations in store with such a diverse group of people!
Author: Andy Hamilton