It is said that, ‘We cannot hold a torch to light another's path, without first brightening our own’. I am a firm believer in this, as I feel that most conflicts occur due to a lack of knowledge of another's society, religion or culture. Stereotypes that have been instilled in people for generations cannot be eradicated instantly; however, I believe that the way to a more harmonious society is through educating others and ourselves.
We chose to go to Indonesia not just because it is the birthplace of the Encompass Trust, but also because when we spoke to our Indonesian friends a few issues in Indonesian society came to light. Indonesia is a huge country, made up of many small islands, all of which are different; whether by language, lifestyle or culture. When young people go to university it may be the first time they have ever come in contact with people from other islands. This has often caused misunderstandings, which could potentially lead to conflict.
Here was a unique opportunity to test my facilitation, conflict resolution and peer mediation skills from my time at Encompass and (local conflict resolution charity) Aik Saath, and to share what I had learnt on my Journey of Understanding!
Fundraising for our trip wasn’t easy: we spent what felt like hours in the kitchen, making and baking cakes, curries and salads. There was a sponsored run and a sponsored climb. Special thanks to Aik Saath, the Jack Petchey Foundation, the Slough Rotary Club and Alex Braden for their support. Six months and a LOT of cakes later, we were on the plane to Indonesia!
We were there to run a Summer Programme in conjunction with Encompass Indonesia. The project focused on bringing together a group young people through a combination of workshops, lengthy discussions and team building activities focused on identity and belonging, diversity, community awareness and confidence. Furthermore, the project challenged the prejudices that the young people held against each other and through the training the young people received they have become peer mediators & facilities in their communities.
The programme ran for 5 days (shorter than planned due to Ramadan) and we had 24 young people attend. Malang, where Encompass Indonesia is based, is a bit of a higher education hotspot, so we had participants who had come from all over Indonesia, and had very different cultures, languages, and ways of life.
While we were out there we also hosted a Multicultural Talk show in front of 1500 people at Al Yasini Girls Boarding school which was an experience in itself. We received a very warm welcome from the girls at Al Yasini and we got to learn more about Indonesian culture through our question and answer session at the school.
We were also fortunate enough to have iftar (meal to break the fast) at an orphanage in Malang, were we sang songs and watched an award ceremony. It was all a very humbling and heart-warming experience. However, my fondest memory of the trip has to be the Closing Ceremony for our project. It was amazing to see that all our hard work had paid off and that we had made a real difference in the lives of our participants.
Indonesia is a wonderful country with beautiful, warm-hearted and very hospitable people. I felt very safe in Indonesia and I was amazed at how clean it was. My time in Indonesia has also made me want to make more of an effort to recycle, because they had a simple yet incredible recycling system! Thank you to the Encompass Indonesia team and especially Putri, who hosted us and supported us.
-Aisha Khan, Encompass Journey of Understanding Alumnus 2010