On October 8th, 2017, 25 youth participants gathered at the University of Washington to explore some of the differences that can divide us. More importantly, participants and facilitators worked together to strategize how we can overcome difference and step out of our comfort zone to get to know others that we encounter in our daily lives.
The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS) and OneWorld Now! (OWN) brought activities and wisdom from their experiences working with diverse youth, joining Kids4Peace Seattle to organize this workshop, which drew youth from around the Greater Seattle area.
As the middle and high school participants gathered they had the opportunity to engage in different activities. From exploring the different religious traditions to being introduced to the many ways to say “hello” around the world, participants began actively thinking about the things that divide us, and their own reactions to these things. The participants became conscious about differences in age, culture, gender, and more, before moving into deeper learning about languages with OWN and cultural differences with FIUTS.
Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a person in a language they understand, that goes to their head. If you talk to a person in their language, that goes to their heart.” As youth began their breakout session with OWN, participants got the hang of phrases in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and French, learning a variety of survival phrases like “Hi, Bye, Yes, No, Thank You, Where is the Bathroom, etc”. Not only did they learn to communicate by speaking, they learned how to communicate with their actions.
This exploration of language introduced the youth to challenges they may face when meeting different people. As this session came to a close, youth reflected on the importance of language as a means of connecting with people across language barriers, and began to build empathy and deeper understanding as they encounters others in the future.
The breakout session with FIUTS began by assigning a few people in the group a specific behavior. Because some of these behaviors were a little bit silly, this immediately broke the ice and began a deep discussion on what it is like when your actions, specifically the ones rooted in your culture, are misunderstood by those around you. Using the analogy of an iceberg, youth explored the 20 percent of culture that is visible above the surface, and the other 80 percent hidden under the water. The fact that you may only see a small part of a person requires the often difficult work of digging deeper to become aware of the things that make them unique.
As the event came to a close, whether it meant telling a friend about what they had learned, writing a story for their school newspaper, or posting on social media some of their takeaways (#dialogueacrossdifference), all of the participants were challenged to find a way to take action in the coming week!
Just as we asked all of our youth participants, how can you be inspired to engage in conversation with someone who is different than you?
Written by: Viktorina, Kids4Peace Seattle Communications Intern