The desire to connect is more powerful . . .

`This is us´, a refugee from Eritrea says after watching `The match of our lives`from the documentary project As You Open Your Eyes.

´This is us; when I was a child, I walked barefoot, like the children in the film´.

It is very quiet in the room in Amsterdam. The air is filled with the intensity of a laser sharp focus when we watch together the film of children in Mauritius -  young boys who unite to pursue their shared dream of winning a soccer match. Where are their parents, we wonder when we don't see them cheering during the match ... 

The majority of the young men and women watching the film are from Eritrea. They fled their home country when they were teenagers, like some of the children in the documentary film.  In the room are also refugees from Yemen, Kurdisthan, Pakistan, Turkey and Syria. 

When the film is finished, we sit in a circle and share our feelings and thoughts. 'It is so beautiful how they helped each other',  a young woman shares with tears in her eyes.

'When you have a dream, you got to go for it, and realize it', Samiel from Kurdisthan says, 'even when you don't succeed the first time.'

Many people are laughing when someone recalls the social worker: 'What is her secret? She keeps smiling, despite setbacks.'   

'She is always happy', someone else responds,  'because the boys make the village more beautiful. The boys pursue their dreams, and they give trust to the adults that they can also realize their dreams' 

To speak in this large circle and then also speaking in Dutch, comes with shyness and giggles for some.  And still.... they stay in the discomfort and listen attentively to each other. The desire to connect helps to overcome moments of embarrassment.

Thank you to David and Jessica, the documentary makers, for touching these young refugees' hearts who are looking for new dreams in a new country . . . 

"Learn about the power of collaboration with SALT", it says on the poster. 

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Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on November 18, 2019 at 1:44am

Click here to find out more about The Circle Way.

The talking sticks on the photo in my post below, are from the Masai in Kenia.

Credit to Jakob Kohlbrenner, Art of Hosting facilitator, for the graphic depiction of the Circle Way in the image at the bottom of my post below.

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on November 18, 2019 at 1:38am

That's a thought provoking question, Rituu. A lot contributed to generating the atmosphere where it was safe to speak. First I have to clarify something about 'sitting in a circle'. The idea of a circle is that there is no rank difference; no one's voice is more important. This principle needs to be demonstrated by the facilitator who opens the circle by 1) not starting with a monologue about one's own views, but by explaining the intention of the circle, and 2) notc ommenting on what people say. 



Secondly, the context is relevant. The attendees in this case are familiar with the community room, the room is part of the apartment building where they have been living since one and a half years. The attendees know several of the community organizers. Some have worked to furnish and decorate the space. Every two weeks there is a community evening that starts with a meal, and then often a screening of a movie. So it is a familiar setting. Everybody in the room knows one or more people, most of them came with their friends and neighbors. This was the first time to have this kind of circle sharing, but it happened within a context where a lot of safety and familiarity had already been established. 

The circle approach the way we did it, is a very particular practice where you use a talking stick or talking piece.

 This (ancient, indigenous) practice, known by many Native American and some African tribes, creates clarity: it is not about agreeing/disagreeing (a 'Western' way of thinking that fosters division and polarity instead of unity), it is not about discussions, it is about sharing with everyone present (not just talking to the teacher/facilitator/manager) personal perspectives. You talk to the center of the circle. Whoever holds the talking piece (we used a pretty but raw stone) is listened to, and everyone can pick up that piece. The principles are: "speak with intent, listen attentively and be mindful of your impact on the whole".

Last but not least, it's the attitude and demeanor of the facilitators, the way they 'hold space': being able to stay calm and trusting when there is a silence, demonstrate that everyone's voice is honored and appreciated, maintain eye contact with everyone, and make sure your tone of voice is inviting, friendly and welcoming.  

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on November 17, 2019 at 7:42pm

Hi Birgitta, vivid description! very nice.  i have a question. What helped you create this safe space? Something beyond sitting in a circle?

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Constellation: who are we

Constellation vidéo, where we journey in less then 2 minutes from space, through nature, to villages, in homes and back while exploring what the Constellation stands for. Thank YOU for being part of it. 

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