By Jenny Rainey, Mpower Project Worker - YMCA Ireland
Roots and Reconciliation is a YMCA Europe project created to bring together/empower young leaders across different socio-political and cultural divides. From the 16th- 21st September I attended the Roots study on Peace, E-activism and Campaigning. In total 35 people from 17 countries attended. This was an amazing week packed with learning and laughter in the European Youth Centre Budapest, a long way from my place of work, Lisburn YMCA, in the north of Ireland. It was inspiring to see what is happening with YMCA organisations across Europe. The key phrase for the week was to “Be the peace you want”.
The purpose of the week was to learn about peace work and using digital media in this process. I personally was interested to learn about methodologies influencing the foundations of peace work, such as the “Do no harm” approach led by Vardan Hambardzumyan (Executive Secretary at YMCA Europe). I also learnt about how campaigners engage with the Council of Europe to promote human rights. Other sessions covered the psychology of social media/ branding by Palmer Hestley, the Communications Manager of Branding of YMCA England and Wales. This session was exciting and I loved the examples of the best video adverts for well-known brands and experimenting with our own ideas. There were useful tips for design and best practice for campaigns. It was easy to keep engaged with the content of the sessions as I took part in activities related to the topics.
There were so many tips and suggestions, I can’t communicate through this short piece of writing! There are two moments however, which will stay with me and taught me the most.
- Reflecting on the history of the YMCA logo.
- The experience of creating a cross cultural campaign.
If you ask someone who works in a YMCA what their logo is, they will probably tell you about a red triangle symbolising physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. However, I learnt that the “roots” of YMCA as a whole are in the first logo, which was created in 1881 at the 9th World Council. This was an emblem to reflect the hope that people in the movement across different countries would be “one”. This sentiment stood out to me as we worked together on cross cultural campaigns.
For our last activity, we individually identified a key challenge for young people in our community and I wrote down “mental health”. Afterwards, we formed into teams with participants who had identified similar challenges. We were then given the task of creating a campaign. As we started the process it became apparent that each of us had a different idea of mental health, shaped by external factors in our country. Eventually, we gave up on the process of planning and trying to give our different opinions on what mental health is and merely started to share personal experiences. In sharing what mental health looked like in our countries right down to our families, we saw the bigger picture and the commonalities were obvious. From that point, it was easier to communicate about ideas for a campaign.
On the International Day of Peace we will posted up pictures online. Anastasia who was in my group, works for YMCA in Russia. She posted a picture of a children’s park with what I felt was a beautiful thought that a “playground is a place where kids are playing, laughing and enjoying their time together regardless skin colour, religion, culture.” To me, the simplicity of peace is what we all long for but the reality of finding one voice in our dialogue is not so simple. Conversations we had throughout the week went deep and wide but in the end it was the desire to make this phrase, “Be the peace you want” a reality that motivated us.
From my week in Budapest I take home memories of international karaoke even more entertaining than Eurovision. I most enjoyed conversations at night by the golden lights of Budapest with intelligent and kind people. I look forward to seeing the future work of Roots and the on-going dialogue with my friends around Europe. I have so much to take back to YMCA Ireland and I am thankful for the opportunity to YMCA Europe. It was insightful to be re-rooted in the history and heart of YMCA.