Building friendships and building peace

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By Tara O’Reilly

On Day 4, Nick ran a thought provoking and passionate workshop on community organizing and development. We discussed the nitty gritty of influencing people – be it your allies or strong opponents. We agreed that building relationships with people is imperative to influence change and create wider activist networks. We practiced one-to-one’s with each other. Jvanna and I plunged right into it and had an intense ten minutes of sharing and exploring our upbringings, our goals, and our passions. From our love of lipstick to our contrasting family life, we were both sure of one thing – no matter who you are or where you are, there is always common ground to be found with another person. One-to-one’s as a community organizing strategy are there to find that common ground and build a relationship on it.

KozaraSometimes activism can get depressing – the perceived failures of our work consume us. Celebrating our successes gets neglected. We get tired. We burn out. Perhaps we even absorb our movement’s failures as personal ones. But even with the toils and troubles of campaigning, we’re never really alone. There are a bunch of us out there, next door and over the Atlantic. That’s where the beauty of this year’s Project on Peacebuilding lies – in the relationships we’ve built together, as activists from all over the world – Bosnia, London, New York, and Copenhagen. Although this was an intensive week in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, we grew together. We bonded over our shared visions, shared emotional experiences like attending the collective funeral, our shared hatred for flies, and love-hate relationship with the singing chickens. We bonded over our new love for Bosnian food – in particular ajvar – and our common values, and interest in peacebuilding in Bosnia. We got to know each other through our chats, doing the washing up, sharing hairdryers in the morning, writing poetry together, sharing stories from school while stargazing, and during the rush to get in the minibus and off to our next workshop.  These mini “one-to-one’s” that we had with each other connected us – from unfamiliar people to friends.

Arriving in Kevljani, I was tired, nervous, and excited for the week ahead. A week later, I’m still excited. I’m excited by all the stories, thoughts, emotions, friendships, and hope that this Project on Peacebuilding has sparked. I’m overwhelmed and inspired. Kevljani is a beautiful place.

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