Picture a room full of youth from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Norway. In one corner you can hear Spanish being spoken while in the opposite corner you can see Kenyan dance moves. Imagine the diversity.
As part of the preparations for our 9 months’ exchange to Madagascar we participated at Fredskorpset’s (FK) Youth Camp. FK facilitates mutual exchange of young volunteers between civil society organizations and institutions in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Norway. The objective of the camp was to provide some common preparation on some general and central issues relevant to all participants. Throughout four days we had workshops on topics such as youth leadership, intercultural communication and development issues.
By getting to know the other participants and their varying opinions and experiences, we have been reminded of the importance of looking at our similarities rather than the differences. Because the differences are obvious, right? Growing up in different countries, even opposite parts of the world, makes it likely that we act, see the world and think differently. For instance, in some African countries, when taking the bus, people often end up sitting on a stranger’s lap to make room for everyone. While in Norway we avoid, as far as possible, to sit next to anyone in the bus. Even to the extent that we might sit next to the aisle to hinder anyone from sitting down next to us. This harmless example would most likely not lead to anything else than some misunderstanding when Norwegians travel abroad.
If you focus on the differences you might detect some disagreements. Instead, by looking at the similarities you can create a common ground which could be the foundation for mutual understanding. We believe this will be crucial for our mission in Madagascar as we will be working in a country far away from home, with new people and in an unfamiliar environment.
Our next post will be from Madagascar – Bon Journée !