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Images and Written Content by Hayley Pottle

“Not everything we see is right, we have to look from a different view.”

This is the takeaway one participant from Global Youth Village took with her after a two-week summer experience in July. One of the greatest strengths of GYV’s unique cultural immersion is the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences in a safe environment.

The Global Youth Village provides an inclusive environment to discuss challenging topics, including faith and religion. Through workshops such as LivingSideBySide® Peacebuilding and Dialogue, as well as other workshops and daily conversations amongst participants, there is an avenue created for people of a variety of religions and faith backgrounds to understand one another’s beliefs by asking questions and being open to hear views that will contrast with another’s perspective.

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In order to create true unity and cohesion in a group, it is essential to find common ground in both the similarities and the differences among beliefs. Participants find a safe and inclusive environment at Global Youth Village to discuss sensitive topics such as their faith backgrounds.

One participant felt that the greatest aspect to GYV is the atmosphere to discuss difficult conversations.

“Everyone respects one another and there is the ability to be spontaneous and also plan out time and conversations together.”

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Bianca from Oakland, California, found that the Global Youth Village prepared her leadership abilities to discuss her own beliefs, “GYV helped me become a leader. The workshops have really helped me to talk about the little things that I thought were irrelevant to be a leader that make all the difference. Such as sitting down and listening to your surroundings and the people around you.”

Bianca also shared, “GYV has taught me leadership skills in when to speak and when to pass ‘the mic’ and listen. I am finding common ground in the universal values and cabin agreements and have found that in different cultures we still have the same mission for people.”

“What I have to say matters at GYV. All the leaders find similarities in all of us.”

“I have learned to think outside of the box and be outside of the box. Here at GYV we are surrounded by woods and within each of the trees there is a core. There are the layers of the tree surrounding the core and people are like that too. We each have surroundings layers that reveal a core,” said Bianca.

Shaima, a participant from Egypt, found that in discussing challenging topics it is essential to accept and understand the person you are engaging with. “I have created new skills in leadership- how to lead many people and am taking that home to my country. How to accept people who are considered “other” and others differences that I will use in all of my life in Egypt and everywhere I will go. Accepting all people will benefit all people.”

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“GYV allowed me to look back and take a step back and see how life has touched everyone.”

Finally, in discussion of sensitive topics such as religion and faith, the greatest importance to this dialogue is to be open to listen to another’s view. Aya from California said she discovered the significance of broadening her perspective and building relationships with those around her. “It is crucial to be open. I soon realized after coming to GYV that the people in my cabin and my workshops are family.”

Finally, Hanan from Virginia found that stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to have a difficult conversation is one of the greatest opportunities for personal growth. “Don’t be shy to try something new and say something. Just do it because you are in a safe environment.”

Global Youth Village creates a safe space for meaningful conversation that translates to all participants in many topics including religion and faith/belief systems.