Speechless Reconciliation: Cross-Cultural Experiences
In the former Yugoslavian countries, local communities still tend to be divided according to ethnic or religious backgrounds. There are also many marginalised youth living in homes for children without adequate parental care.
We believe that an initial encounter that is coupled with a longer-term continuity of contact between several groups of these youth can be an engine that helps transform the way they live and think about each other, and contribute to a more stable region.
Part 1 – Nine Days of Learning
The program will begin with a 9-day encounter, in early August 2021. It will take place in a peaceful camp-like setting in the Beskydy mountains region of the Czech Republic, where Czechia, Slovakia and Poland border each other. This area was chosen for its significance as a place where disparate cultures interact peacefully.
Groups of teen-age youth – 6 from each of the 6 participating facilities, one in each project country – will spend those days in workshops, getting to know, and know more about, each other: their ethnic, religious, social and political backgrounds, personal histories, feelings, dreams for the future, and more, in order to build understanding between them and to expand their visions of what is possible in their own lives.
This initial gathering will be facilitated by Valery Senichev, a psychologist and personal development specialist, with the assistance of guardians from the participating homes, Rotarians from the various cities/countries in which the homes are located, and by members of RC Prague International.
This project is referred to as Speechless Reconciliation because not all of the participants have a common language. Although translation will be available, the focus will be on 6 groups of young adults from 6 different countries finding common ground and comprehending each other without language in common, through body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and other cues.
Part 2 – A Weekend in Prague
Following their stay on the eastern border of Czechia, our youths will travel to Prague, for a two-day opportunity to explore one of Europe’s most beautiful, open and exciting cities, with the world-famous Honest Guides. Meals will be at Balkan-oriented restaurants, there will be visits to museum that focus on Balkan history, and introductions to members of ADRA and Lastavica, organizations of people from the former Yugoslavia living in the Czech Republic.
Part 3 – Follow-up Contact & Mentoring
During the year following the camp and trip to Prague, a program of continuing contact and mentoring will be in place. Rotarians from the various clubs in the cities in which are participating facilities are located will take on the mantle of individual mentoring, overseen by Karin Genton-L’Epée, a Prague-based business coach with a decade of mentoring experience within several frameworks.
We are also negotiating for a university scholarship opportunity for one child from each country, through the Visegrad Fund. Sponsor support may enhance those opportunities.
This aspect of the project is intended to build critical thinking, empathy, and resistance to fake news and revisionist history, with the intention of creating logical, fact-based global citizens out of our young and still-impressionable young charges.
The long-term vision for the Speechless Reconciliation project is that within three to four years, at least 30 houses for children without adequate parental care, in Balkan and other eastern European countries, will be participating in this program, which will have expanded to include mental and physical games in cooperation with Federace Dětských Domovů in the Czech Republic. It is hoped that the scholarship program will also expand.
The Desired Outcome
The hope and expectation of this project is that an expanding group of disadvantaged 16-18-year-olds will become empowered to create a strong network of understanding and collaboration across several countries, with a vision of peace and cooperation across Balkan and eastern European regions that will lead to a future of long-term stability and an enviable quality of life.