Our latest international programme was a life changer!
Before the report starts I wanted to let you know that, thanks to a few of our donors, any donations to our work you give before the end of May 2016 will be doubled! More to follow at the end of this report.
We held our latest international programme on 21st-28th February at Plas Gwynant Outdoor Education Centre in Snowdonia, Wales, with one extra day in London. Encompass programme staff Sahdia and Lucy were joined by facilitator Helen and our intern Aisha. We managed to put on one of the best programmes to date. Plas Gwynant provided a beautiful venue and exciting activities (and we were blessed with February sunshine), and the flow of the workshop sessions worked really well, taking the participants on a journey of exploration of their own and others’ identities. The Showcase Ceremony, which is an end of programme public event, was an emotional testimony to the transformative power of Encompass to change young people’s lives.
In total 24 young people from five countries came on the programme: 8 from the UK, 4 from Israel, 4 from Palestine, 4 from Indonesia and 4 from the USA, including:
David, 19, USA; this is his first time out of the US. His brother is in the military which has shaped his views and perceptions.
Matan, 21, Israel; a liberal, secular, ex Israeli Defence Force (IDF) intelligence. Matan announced at the start of the week that her philosophy, and reason for coming on the programme, was “to give myself a true opportunity to doubt what I know and what I was raised on.” Afterwards she said “I felt I was able to be open and vulnerable (because of the group dynamics), which is essential in order to doubt yourself.” Matan was one of the big personalities of the group and constantly questioned everything.
As well as the team and confidence building oudoor activities, workshops included the always challenging Where do you stand? Here are some of the comments from participants about this workshop:
• It was challenging, and the most genuine
• The debates allowed people to take a stand with the permission of changing it if convinced
• Covered lots of topics and created great conversation. Developed abilities to understand others’ points of view
• Helped me learn how sure I am of my opinions, and understand much better other participants’ perspectives
• People said their opinions on controversial issues.
• Opened me up to many interesting views.
How the programme changed people:
73% agreed that we talked about issues they wanted to discuss, 77% agreed that they developed their confidence in communicating with new people and all of them agreed they learnt about different perspectives and world views.
When rating their confidence in interacting with people from different cultures, backgrounds and religions before and after the programme, 68% recorded an increase in confidence. 68% recorded an increase in their confidence in their own identity, but the biggest increase (73%) was reported in their confidence in their own ability to make a positive change in their community.
Here is a summary of the changes participants wanted to make in their own lives as a result of the programme:
• “Not to believe everything, but to research to make more informed opinions.”
• “Work on improving relationships with people of different backgrounds to gain an understanding of their views.”
• “Embrace my culture and ethnicity to learn about my personal history.”
• “Work on being more patient in certain situations.”
• “Be more informed about happenings around the world.”
• “Challenge media perceptions with more informed, first hand accounts of global events.”
• “Develop an appreciation for the wider world”
• “Be more open-minded.”
• “To learn the Arabic language.”
• “Develop my critical thinking.”
And changes they want to make in their communities:
• “Work with the Syracuse Women's Leadership Initiative to get more interfaith speakers on campus.”
• “Deliver workshops/ sessions around conflict resolution in schools.”
• “Work with refugees in Syracuse to make transition better.”
• “Actively work to connect university students with the city.”
• “Create interfaith events and interactions.”
• “Conduct a social experiment – Filmed Q&A in my local city centre.”
• “Volunteer in a multicultural school.”
• “Community cohesion football tournament.”
• “Homeless tea and lunch drop-ins.”
As part of the evaluation of the programme, participants were asked to tell us about a stereotype that was challenged. Here are some of the responses:
"The Culture and Identity workshop gave me the opportunity to share and listen to different viewpoints. I can appreciate different struggles and equally address my own. I understand and empathise for the things I take for granted."
"I felt that people from Israel and Palestine were not going to be open to communicating about the struggles and situations, and also thought my opinion would have been invalid. But I was so wrong… people (humans) are amazing, all we need is a chance and a bit of courage to communicate with each other."
"How Christians live their life. Movies showed that they have no moral behaviours or restrictions. However, I met many Christians here; they were all kind, respectful and impressive."
We are not alone in believing that the Encompass international programme is making a difference to young peoples lives. A few of our donors agree so strongly that they have agreed to match any donation you give until the end of May 2016. Please do donate today to make sure that programmes, like our international programme, can continue to make a huge difference to community cohesion and peace in the world.