Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Updates Galore!

Hello Hello!

I am sorry for the long absence. Between pushing ahead with the program I am working on and travels of my own, I have barely had time to catch my breath! I'll start by telling you about my recent trip to Paris with a friend.

Prior to moving to DC, I lived in New York for 2 years and I didn't think anything could compare to it. Well, that all changed when we arrived in Paris. The views and architecture alone had me hooked, but what really closed the deal was the chocolate croissants <3<3<3. By the end of our trip I didn't want to leave! Unfortunately, we didn't a chance to do the Eiffel Tower because security around the area was high due to a big European soccer tournament taking place in France at the time. While exploring the city was an awesome experience, what I really enjoyed was having the chance to meet and stay with the family that my friend lived with while working in Paris for a year. The food they prepared for us was out of this world! I think it's safe to say that I packed on a few pounds in the short amount of time that I was there. On my flight back to Belfast I realized that the unveiling of the project that I have put so much time and effort into was only a few days away!

(While in Paris)

I don't believe that I provided you with much background on the project that I have been involved with while I have been in Belfast. Here is a blurb that gives you  a better idea of the event:
On the 21st September 2016, ‘Amazing the Space’, a youth-led peace-building initiative, will bring together over 3,500 pupils at the Eikon Exhibition Centre located at the Maze Long Kesh to Celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace. On the same day an additional 2,000 pupils will have the opportunity to participate in local events at a series of satellite venues throughout Northern Ireland. The Education Authority is keen to encourage all schools to participate in this initiative.

To date, a total of 400 schools have become involved by writing twenty-five word peace pledges. Each school's pledge articulates precisely young people’s vision and commitment towards a more peaceful future. 

Pupils from across Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to attend the event at the Eikon Exhibition centre on 21st September 2016, which celebrates young people’s role within peacebuilding. This event will also have a series of global contributions through the involvement of organisations such as the United Nations, Generation Global and the Global Peace Foundation. 

In short, "Amazing the Space" is an event that looks to show that young people play a crucial role in the peacebuilding process. It also is an opportunity to encourage the young people to more actively engage in their community to do what they can to contribute to furthering peacebuilding efforts across Northern Ireland and across the world. While I am excited for how the "Amazing the Space" initiative could positively impact peacebuilding efforts across Northern Ireland, I am curious to see how the United Kingdom's referendum could effect peace efforts. (The picture on the left is from the Amazing the Space launch event)

Well, that's it for now. July is right around the corner and I am sure in two weeks time I will have many more experiences to share with you. 

Bye bye for now!

P.S. Here is a link to the Amazing the space web page to find out more if interested in learning more about it! http://www.cooperationireland.org/programmes/youth-education-programmes/amazing-the-space/

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Settling In

After the first week of work, I’ve already learned so much. Between sitting in on various meetings regarding the progress of on-going programs and taking in the sites around the city, I’ve realized that Belfast is not the post-conflict city that I initially thought it was. Conflict here is still a reality for many and it is most evident in the peace walls that form an interface area where the segregated Catholic and Protestant communities meet. A question that I foresee coming up throughout my stay in Belfast is: Do these walls, in their current capacity, maintain peace or tension among the communities living on either side of them? To put it another way: Do these walls keep the negative feelings and sentiments towards the other side out, or do they keep them locked in?
My main assignment for the summer is to assist with Co-operation Ireland’s UN International Day of Peace event that will take place on September 21st. While I am currently unable to share many details about the event, I can say that it is an initiative that seeks to show how important it is to get young people engaged in the peace process and that they are vital to peace-building efforts. Moreover, it will be held at a location in Northern Ireland where major events unfolded during the Troubles from the early 1970’s to the early 2000’s.
Aside from my main project assignment, I have been given the opportunity to assist on other projects that look to engage local and marginalized groups with various Belfast communities. These groups range from young people to women to ex-prisoners attempting to reintegrate into society. With all of the opinions, stories and accounts that I have heard from various individuals involved with these projects I have done my best, and will continue to do my best, reflect and challenge what I haven told just as much as actively listen as each account has a place within the larger narrative.
Outside of work I have taken advantage of any and every opportunity I have had so far to explore Belfast and Northern Ireland. Last Sunday I took a Game of Thrones tour around the coast of Northern Ireland to various sites that have been featured in the television show! We visited so many sites that day. We went to the Cushendun Caves, crossed the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Larrybane Chalk Quarry (that’s obviously the location for Renly’s camp in the Stormlands), Ballintoy Harbour aka the Iron Islands, the Giant’s Causeway (not in the show, but a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the Dark Hedges (the road to King’s Landing). And the best part of it all, we got to wear authentic Iron Island attire and carry swords and shields that were actually used on the show. It was probably the happiest I have ever been!
Next week I expect to dive deeper into my assignments at Co-operation Ireland. Additionally, I look to share more of my travels around Belfast, Northern Ireland and around Europe. I want to end this post with a quote that I read last week that I have been thinking about for a while. 

Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead

Walk beside me; Just be my friend

                                                ~Albert Camus

Sunday, May 22, 2016

First Post!

My friends have repeatedly told me that I wouldn't be a great blogger because my writing is too formal. Against their advice and my better judgement I've decided to keep a blog about my experiences while working abroad in Belfast this summer. It is important to mention that this is my first time abroad and as a result, these blog posts will include my reflections and observations related to being out of the US for the first time. So far so good, huh?

I just finished my first year in the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown and it has been nothing but a positive experience so far! Prior to starting in the CR program, I graduated from NYU with a degree in political science. Also, while at NYU I was a resident assistant. It was at the intersection of learning about international politics and mediating and facilitating conversations between/ among undergraduate residents that didn't always live in the land of friendship and harmony that brought me to the CR program.

Within the program I am focusing primarily on the environment and conflict, specifically conflict related to water, but I also have an interest in capacity building and post conflict reconstruction. During my first year I didn't focus much on capacity building and post conflict reconstruction, which is why I am excited to share my observations and reflections related to my experience at Co-operation Ireland over the next 10 weeks.

Co-operation Ireland is an “all-island peace-building charity that, since 1979, has worked to encourage and promote interaction, dialogue and practical collaboration within Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.” I have been extremely lucky to connect with Co-operation Ireland and to have the chance to help out on its United Nations International Day of Peace project. In my next post I will write about the peace project that I have been assigned to as well as what my first full week in Belfast was like.

Until next week!