“Life-changing is an understatement”

As we gear up for the February Journey of Understanding, we thought now was the time to update you on the November programme. As always, the experience is hard to put into words, and as one of the participants put it, “To say this is a life-changing experience is the biggest understatement.” 

We had 25 participants, from the UK, US, Indonesia, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine and the Samaritan community (who live in Palestine but have Israeli citizenship).  The programme took place in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable, the Lake District in autumn (“fall” for our American readers).

It was the first time we have stayed at Derwentwater Independent Hostel, and their fantastic hospitality played a huge part in making the week a success. For example, several participants were musicians and one of the staff lent the group his personal guitar. Music brings people together and the participants bonded over group singalong sessions as well as by dangling off mountainsides and crawling through tunnels (thanks to the amazing staff at Glaramara Outdoor Centre).

But as well as music and dancing, laughter and friendship, there were difficult and often painful discussions to be had.  Georgia Hardie, one of the British participants, wrote about her experience on the Encompass blog:

Before I went on the Journey of Understanding, I thought there was so much I didn’t know and understand. I was quite daunted to come on the Journey. I’m not very academic and I assumed everyone else would be. I thought I’d be the only one in my boat.

During my time away, I realised that I can explore differences, through the deep discussions I had with all the amazing people I met. I felt comfortable talking about everything, from people and politics to religion and personal issues and I was never made to feel as though my questions were unimportant or silly.

So many nights were spend in deep group and 1-2-1 discussions; trying to learn from one another and often help solve problems too. Even our sessions ran way over most nights, as everyone got so involved and enjoyed them so much. Together, we’ve all learnt so much. I’ve learnt about team building, being more open-minded, supportive and maintaining self-control. I’ve also learnt more about religions, cultures, nationality, and other people’s emotional well-being. Surprisingly, I enjoyed discussing and now know more about governments, politics, wars, conflict, race, stereotypes, and so much more! Needless to say, I’ve learnt a lot! I think I knew some of this stuff before, but the Journey taught me more and lots of perspectives too. I think we assume we’re open-minded, myself included, but in all honesty, I was shocked at my own ignorance.

I’ve witnessed some of the most beautiful scenes; from people genuinely wanting to find solutions for others’ conflicts and battles, to people who barely knew one another holding hands, encouraging and supporting each other to be brave and to carry on. Even in deep and heated debates everyone showed a level of respect and saw each other on a human level. I don’t think I can yet put a summary on this experience…this is the opening to a new beginning.

Read about Georgia and other participants’ experiences on our new Encompass blog:

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