So, it all started on Sunday 9th February. I arrived at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4, to wait for the international participants who were flying in from Palestine, Israel and Indonesia, and the students from the USA who were studying here in the UK.
I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be, just extremely excited. We were equipped with an Encompass sign and a 5ft Union Jack flag to welcome our new friends after their long flights.
When all the participants finally arrived (and after another short wait), we were on our coach and on our way to the Lake District!
Seven days of team-building and debates
The next seven days consisted of activities to get us working together (team building games, ghyll scrambling, hiking and rock climbing) and workshops that got us talking about community, conflict and identity. We built strong bonds, battled it out in debates about controversial topics, and exchanged experiences at meal times.
For me, it was an emotional rollercoaster.
I’ve always tried to keep myself up to date on what’s going on around the world so I was familiar with the situation between Palestine and Israel, and what’s been happening lately in Indonesia and the USA. Hearing it from the other participants though was sobering.
Some may say I’m too optimistic, or naïve even, because I always hope for the best and so in my mind, whatever wars are going on, they can end. But this new perspective I gained was grounding, and to be honest, I kind of lost hope.
BUT as the days went on and I got to know more of the participants on a one-to-one level, my faith in humanity was gradually restored. It was overwhelming to be surrounded by so many people who were open and patient and had the same morals and values that I had. They made me believe that changes can and will be made.
Reflecting on the experience…
By the time we arrived in London, I had made 23 new friends, and the three days that followed were full of laughter, awkwardness that led to more laughter, and PARTYING!
Unfortunately, I’m reaching a page and so I have to end this blog. But I’d just like to say (without being too cheesy), don’t live your life surrounded by the same kind of people. You’ll have a deeper understanding of things if you hear it from different perspectives.
If you ever have the chance to do something like the programme that I did, DO IT! Lucy, Sahdia and Josh, if you’re reading this, I like Encompass…I like programmes… but I don’t like any of you!
Until next time, beautiful humans…