Unification News for June 2005

Spring Of Service

The five-day pilot project of Service For Peace in Europe, titled "Spring Of Service," was held in four nations: France , Slovenia , Czech Republic and the United Kingdom .

In France , the Spring Of Service (SOS) focused on the theme of interreligious dialogue; in Slovenia on education and service to local public schools; in the Czech Republic on youth interrelations; and in the UK on national volunteerism week

Each project involved a five-day program. In France , the project ran from May 19 to 23 and involved 25 youth full time, with a total of 40 volunteers participating in the different activities. This program produced 1100 hours of service at an estimated value of 15.000 Euros.

The first day was dedicated to an orientation for the core group of 25, representing 11 different nationalities. The educational materials included the SFP PathMakers manual. The different games, video and evaluation helped the group to come together and build a strong team spirit.

On the following day, the volunteers started a service project, in cooperation with an intergovernmental association, at a youth center located in the city of Corbeil-Essons . The volunteers cleaned and landscaped a garden at the youth center.

To have a feeling of the location, the local youth leader guided the group to a local fair where the participants could see the incredible variety of ethnic groups represented in the city, particularly by the people selling their products in this open market.

The local youth also joined with us and offered a barbeque for the group. On the same day, the city mayor, also a senator in the national assembly of France , invited the group to the city hall for a meeting and presentation. We fulfilled the goal of cleaning the area on the following day, Saturday.

On Saturday also we visited a synagogue run by Rabbi Sarfarati, who is also involved in dialogue with other religions. Rabbi Safarati gave a detailed presentation on the Jewish faith and today's situation in Israel and France . The service section of the program closed on Sunday with a visit to the main Mosque in Paris and with an interactive program in the afternoon with the youth from the Christian Coptic church, in the city of Ville of Villejui.

We were introduced to their tradition by a presentation of Father Moussa and later the SOS group played sports and games with the youth group of the church. We were the first international and non Coptic group to relate with them. The day was closed with a banquet at the church and later with the usual SFP daily evaluation.

We had a full day of reflection, and evaluation was set with the entire group plus a visit to a traditional French castle.

At the closing banquet, we invited three religious leaders to represent their faiths: Imam Mamadou, Rabbi Drey and Father Moussa. They fully participated and shared with the group. Each participant received a certificate of appreciation and the program closed with a final evaluation and a strong word of thanks to all.

May 18 - 24, Kladno, Czech Republic

The project in the Czech Republic was organized by Service for Peace together with the International Relief Friendship Foundation under the auspices of the city of Kladno.

We had 31 participants plus four staff members including Bryant Murriel who came from Miami, USA to lead the project. I am sure we embodied the integrated Europe or even the integrated world since we were people from 12 nations: Czech Republic, USA, Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Sweden, France, Malta, Italia, San Marino, and Denmark.

Deputy Meyer came to greet the participants at the begining of the program and at the end, he came to present certificates to them and appreciate their effort and contribution to the city. Our program was full of interactive style games, team building and leadership building games. We also had three lecturers speaking on various topics with discussions after. The director of a local volunteer centre, speaking about voluntarism, lecturer who shared with participants about history and uniqueness of the Romani population and a guest from another NGO working toward connecting people of different ethnical, cultural backrounds.

Among the Czech praticipants there were two students from an orphanage. They said that participating in this project made them start a new life. As a contribution to the city, we painted a fence around a kindergarten. A local newspaper printed an article about our program and two Czech participants will write articles to local and school newspapers in a second town.

Also we performed a cultural program for seniors at a social center in Kladno. The program was called "One world". There were about 20 seniors and they were very moved by this youth and their performance.

We also visited an aqua park, having a lot of fun, and also the museum and a mine exhibition since Kladno is a former mine city. In this way, the participants could have a deeper connection to the area where they were working and staying.

Testimony by Bente Sato

This service project we did in Slovenia lasted for five full days and every day was different in activities and experiences. On the first day, we basically got to know each other, played many games, got to know what the concept and purpose of SFP is and also did goal setting and introduced Core Values. The participants were Hungarian, Slovenian and Croatian.

The second day we were put into teams. In my team, communication was really difficult and within the team there was no one who could translate, so there had to be always someone else translating for us.

For me personally, this situation was quite challenging. Two boys in my team had a different idea of what a team is. They focused more on the work and on their friends than trying to talk to the team members. So as team leader, I really wished there was more unity in the team. I know that most of the other team members tried sincerely to create a nice atmosphere and I'm really grateful for that.

A really good aspect of this SFP was, that we emphasized values a lot. Every day had one Core Value as the theme for the day. We even had a presentation for all the students of this school where each team presented one Core Value in a really inspiring and creative way.

For the first two days, we painted some classrooms and corridors, restored their playground and the surrounding of the school. Sometimes, students who were not participating in the SFP came out of their rooms to help us. Even teachers came to express their gratitude and the headmaster came and took pictures of each one of us.

On another day, we went to the Adrenalin Park where we did crazy stuff like climbing a wall, riding this huge swing, and jumping from a high wooden pole. Sometimes we had the feeling that death was really close doing these crazy things and afterwards, everybody was kind of more alive and really excited. This was an amazing experience and I'd like to do this kind of thing more often.

The next day we spent with some kids in their school. At the beginning of the day, we gave also to them our CV presentation. Then together we painted benches, and cleaned the surroundings of weeds and trash. It was a really nice experience. They made a lot of effort to speak to us. They naturally joined us with our work and were very interested in us personally, I feel. Many came up to me, talked to me, asking many questions about my life, my country. There was one girl I talked with about somehow everything and nothing, really random conversation, but quite good. I could express to a group of kids how I think about relationships between "brothers and sisters", tried to give them a different perspective, something they don't get in their society, and these young children are really open for such things, that was my impression. In a way this was for me the nicest experience, talking to children, who are still more pure in their hearts than the student-type of people we usually approach. Very refreshing. And also for them I think it was a wonderful experience. Some of them said they want do the same thing as we do, serving the community, living for something greater than their own desires. I hope they will remember us, not only us as people but for what we came there, for making a change, for giving them a hand and making them feel special and loved.

And then, on the last day, we had of course, reflections and a graduation "banquet" with pizza and cake. Very yummie. Everybody got a certificate of appreciation for their participation. But at the end of this we were blessed with another nice surprise. The principal came to say goodbye to us and to express her deep gratitude for what we did for her school. She had written a certificate for each one of us by hand, and she even gave one photo to everyone as a memory. I really felt grateful towards this lady. She was so touched by our effort and good will. Even though sometimes it wasn't too easy, I had my little struggles here and there during these days, feeling so much appreciation can make all this fade away and the feeling that stays is. .wonderful? Just simply peace maybe. Ah, that's why it's called Service for Peace? Hm.. maybe not, anyway, when I remember this time, I will definitely feel nicely warm and peaceful inside my heart. It was a precious time and I'd definitely like to do such a thing again!

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