2 months, 2 very different experiences…

2 months ago I was preparing and planning for the 18th YMCA World Council. How time flies! Now, I am planning and preparing to travel to Nargorno Karabakh (NK). You are excused if you are thinking “I might have to google that one!” It has been a common theme when said where. 

IMG_5823Why am I going to NK? This starts 2 years ago in Istanbul when the YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation Peace Work Institution first met and the story will end in Budapest when we meet to evaluate the journey. NK comes in as a tandem project. When I used to think of tandem, the first image that came to mind was a tandem bike. This is kind of the same sort of thing. On a tandem bike, two or more people need to work together to make sure the bike goes forward otherwise you sort of just fall over. The Tandem projects coming out of the Peace Work Institute are two or more YMCA’s working together to move forward in different regions around different conflict areas. My trip to NK is a study visit to learn about the situation there, the stories of what people have experienced and what the YMCA is doing there to bring about change.

Have you been to `google` NK yet? No? Not to worry, the reason for the study visit is because the majority of people (including myself) have exactly the same response. But how can you know the true story from Wikipedia? NK is a non-recognised country within Azerbaijan, they identify as being Armenian, a Christian country. These are the facts as I have been told. What I expect to see, I don’t know. I know I will learn about what is going on there and hope that I can do it justice here. 


When peace is all about the journey and not the destination; it has got to be in everything that you do. I keep going back to a statement that Lusine, a friend in NK said in Yerevan, Armenia “We are not at war, but it feels like it.” How can I possibly understand what this is like? I don’t think I ever will but a chance to see what is happening and hear others stories at least will give me the opportunity to try.

Two very different experiences; the World Council and a study visit to NK; two very important parts of the work the World YMCA does. One thing they both have in common; Empowering Young People to be the change they want to see in the world.

“Peace begins with a smile” – Mother Theresa

So remember to smile, you don’t know whose day you might brighten by it!

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