I have always thought that to change something we need to be mad, violent and explode because all the things our planet suffers from are just too much to handle calmly. I have always wanted to grow up faster. I have creative, effective ideas, but only a few people will consider them. They think I have the energy and the motivation, but “I am too young” to take big responsibilities. I have always thought that your best friends and you should have a lot of similarities and almost the same interests.
Let me tell you about an experience that changed these assumptions at once:
The NOW Journey sounded really appealing to me when I first heard about it. A six-month program to create change NOW? A journey to learn, change and grow? That was just what I was looking for.
The NOW Journey started with the NOW Encounter, an intensive ten-day workshop in the Swiss mountains. I had a realistic objective: I would meet 29 other participants from around the world and experienced mentors. I would learn how to transform my project into reality. But actually, I was taught more than project planning and fundraising!
Outside of the planed sessions, I experienced so many new things: I appreciated the nature around me, survived without WIFI, ate vegan food, cleaned the house every single morning, climbed a hill four times a day to get to the seminar room, tried to fly during an acro-yoga night, watched the stars in the sky for a long time and reflected on everything around me.
The NOW Encounter was also a safe space to talk about things that hurt me and affect me as a world citizen. I started off with complaining and debating whose fault it is, and then started realizing that I do not have time to blame anyone. I should rather face the problems and take actions.
I had to unlearn so many things to be able to accept the different realities in our world, to accept everything I heard from the other participants and to tolerate everyone despite our differences. When I understood the effect the media had on me, I was ashamed of how I used to see the world.
But these are just some of the many learnings and reflections I made during the NOW Encounter. In the beginning of the event, each participant was given a learning diary to reflect on his/her experiences. I started writing in mine every time I got really emotional; writing words from the bottom of my heart. Most of the time, I was surprised by what I wrote, I read it again and I could observe myself changing. That’s when I smiled and continued writing.
My learning diary is of course something very personal. But if I learned something at the NOW Encounter, it is that sharing reflections and experiences can be a powerful tool to learn with and from each other. So, let me share a couple of entries of my learning diary with you:
Notes from my learning diary:
July 30th: The world is so diverse! We tend to see our differences as something that should separate us, viewing the other side bad, wrong and evil. The truth is our differences could create something powerful, lovely and touching. It could create something to impact our communities and to spread awareness. Diversity was, is and will always be a benefit and something to be proud of.
July 31st: I am a Woman, I am an African, I am Arab and I am Muslim. For some people, those are the worst characteristics a human being could have. But what do they actually know about any of these things? What about MY story? Would you like to compare my skills with a man my age? Would you like to see how much African countries have developed? Would like to search the real meaning of “Allah Akbar” besides linking it to terrorism? Would you like to hear the peaceful message of my religion? Or is it just easier to use stereotypes, judgement and hate?
August 1st: Every single story matters. We cannot just talk about another person’s life because we did not experience what he/she did, we could not really feel it or understand it. We should hear every story with its background, motivations and consequences. We are all unique, so are our lives.
August 2nd: There is no such thing as equality. Maybe we should talk more about equity? It just happened that some have more privileges than others; you can call it chance or destiny. We know all the things that we lack, we wish to possess them all our existence, envying those who have them. We should think more of all the things that we do have, all the things we take for granted because nobody has it all. But we can change just how just privileges are distributed. This world needs more solidarity!
August 3rd: I am that loud, peppy girl. They ask me to keep laughing and never lose that. They tell me that the world has a lot to learn from me, to never doubt myself and the power of my smile. How powerful, sincere words could change your life forever. Inclusion, appreciation and acceptance can empower a person and take her/him to the next level.
August 4th: So many years of fights and people are still struggling with discrimination, injustice, feeling vulnerable and useless. There are still people without an opportunity to speak up, express themselves and being who they wanted to be in their society without fear. We could use art more often to make a difference! If they act with violence let’s answer with wisdom. Beautiful, peaceful initiatives are going to open hearts and make souls aware of the problems.
August 5th: We can’t change everything; we can’t blame ourselves for everything wrong around us. If you are not strong and empowered, you could not help anyone! To change the world, start by yourself, learn, change and grow!
August 6th: You could have a deep impact on a few people or change a large group a little bit. It’s your choice what your lever of change is. You are never too young, and never too old. Do what YOU think is right, do what YOU are passionate about. Start small, start now, from where you are, with all your fears, insecurities, doubts, challenges. Start and fight for the things you love, you are able to realize everything you wish! If the road is bumpy and you failed, then failing it is! Take the best of the situation, learn from it and move on. Believe, believe and believe in yourself so you will be able to achieve.
August 7th: As the days went by, one of the facilitators said “There is no coming back”. Once you open your eyes to the reality, you realize you have responsibilities; it does not become a choice anymore. You must share and take action. “Change is hurtful and it is totally worth it” was one of the learnings our group collected today. Changing my habits, my thinking process and stepping out of my comfort zone is not easy. I am trying to start by being more open-minded and flexible.
August 8th: To close the NOW Encounter, each and everyone shared what they have learned during these days. One of the participants said: “maturity has nothing to do with age”, then he looked at me. It meant the whole world to me! Finally, here I was, not too young. Here, I have been seen for who I am and for the actions I take.
During a short period of time, the participants that I thought were strangers became more than best friends, they become a family. I feel so connected to every single one of them.
We left the Encounter and are entering the online phase. We went back to our communities to make our ideas transform from just dreams and planning to implementation and reality. Those NOWers made me eager to take action and work on my project that will focus on youth empowering themselves and other youth around them.
I was the first participant to leave, tears in my eyes; they told me it is just the end of the beginning. If I grew so much during ten days, how would I be at the end of my six months Journey?
Hey, you! Stay tuned, because the first generation of NOWer is going to impress the world with their projects!
Written by Ghizlane, changemaker and NOW Journey participant 2016 from Morocco.