In December 2016 The Butterfly Effect training took place in Italy – a training about raising awareness of the refugee crisis. Adele were there with Xchange Scotland and she wrote this article! Thank you for sharing your experience with us Adele! 🙂
The Butterfly Effect training course was set in a beautiful ecological house/workshop in Cerquosino Morrano, Orvieto (TR). It was also our home for the week, with fabulous Italian cuisine served three times daily from some of the loveliest, most welcoming people I have had the pleasure to meet. Fellow participants came from seven different countries: Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey, Italy, France and Hungary besides the UK. The common language spoken was English.
On arrival at the house in Cerquosino we were asked to leave our belongings in a corner and were then blindfolded and led into another room. There were no words during the process. To begin with I became quite alarmed and my imagination began to run wild, but very quickly I relaxed as I was gently guided to the room which was set up with paints and paper for us to use. This was a fantastic opening exercise in my opinion which introduced the theme nicely. It reminded me that people who flee their homes are very much at the mercy of others. It gave me a tiny insight into the fears that refugees must experience as they are led into unfamiliar situations.
The learning approach was non-formal and each of the seven days training was structured and designed to be interactive so we could share and explore various issues related to racism and hate speech. A typical day would begin at 9am and finish at 7.30 pm, with two 30 minute coffee breaks and a two hour lunch break. At the beginning of every new session we would all participate in an energising activity designed to invigorate our minds; this would take place both indoors and outdoors, and was an aspect of the training I loved as it blew off the cobwebs before beginning the more serious issues. Following on from energisers we would be divided into groups for activities that included using expressive and artistic traits to show for example:
- How migration is actualised via the laws, media, education, employment and discrimination pertaining to participant’s home land. Each of the above headings were written on a big poster size piece of paper and in groups of 6 we went around each heading and discussed e.g. laws in our own countries. The facilitators wrote down each new piece of information and when all the groups had visited each of the headings we discussed it as a large group. It was interesting to note how many of the countries had similar laws and media representations etc, although there were variations.
- The positive/negative aspects linked to migration. We were divided into groups and had to present one negative and one positive aspect of migration in a living picture.
- Other activities encouraged open mindedness and made us pay attention to each other using trust and clear communication, thus making it a safe environment to feel free to contribute to discussions.
- This last point was an essential point when it came to devising our group workshop. This activity used lots of brainstorming/discussion, creativity and teamwork set against a time limit.
- There was a huge emphasis on being mindful also, and reminders of how more beneficial it is when helping others not to forget about being kind to ourselves too.
All the activities allowed for brainstorming within and between groups and enabled realistic ways to find solutions to problems. I particularly liked the opportunity for feedback at the end of activities. To round of the day we would be split into different groups each time to reflect on the day’s events and what we liked or didn’t like. I believe discussion is where great ideas are borne from.
It was my first time being involved in non-formal education and I think it is a very good way of facilitating and devising tools to combat issues which are sensitive and involve vulnerable people.
The facilitators put a lot of thought and effort into delivering the training and by doing so kept it varied, interesting and fun, in spite of the subject being very serious and at times morose. What I loved about the whole week was that I felt safe to express myself exactly as I wanted and never felt I should conform to any other opinion besides my own. In spite of me being a lot older than many of the participants I never felt any differences were made because of my age. In fact I learned so much from my younger counterparts. It was another example of how diversity can benefit everyone.
I discovered many things about myself in the time spent in Cerquosino that I was unaware of. One of which is that despite travelling to many countries of the years I talk way too fast for some non-native English speakers to grasp. This is great lesson to learn as it has taught me that if people don’t understand me, often they will pretend to so as not to appear ignorant or silly, which is not conducive to empowering individuals. Another aspect is that I can feel comfortable interacting and being involved. I don’t need to always be shy or nervous if I am around like minded people, regardless of nationality, experience or qualifications. I liked the realisation that in the correct environment people can and will flourish. All they need is opportunity.