08 jun Bridging the divide team project
On a Thursday morning our group of participants gathered in the little square that makes up most of Ohrid’s little port. Most of them had never met before. It was a small diverse group in terms of religion, ethnicity, gender and age. As the different ethnic groups live very separated from each other in Macedonia, most of these people would, in normal life, not meet each other. Let alone exchange ideas, frustrations and most of all hopes.
Nevertheless, they made their way to the port because they somehow felt that they had a role to play in creating a better Macedonia.
After the introductions they took place in small boats and left for the big lake. Groups of around 8 people discussed for two hours – with a facilitator leading the conversation. Ana, a sensitive and warm young lady was the facilitator of my boat. She gained the trust of all on board by showing real interest in all of us, resulting in open and honest conversations.
The problems the people in Macedonia face are serious. Many are jobless, most have financial worries without prospect on substantial improvement. They all know some people who left the country to live abroad.
However, during the two hour conversation they also showed their connection to Macedonia; moreover, their love for the country. The emotions intensified when the subject changed to the current political situation. Cleary highly engaged people.
All in all, they all face the same kind of challenges and frustrations.
Differences and prejudices between those people disappeared immediately by recognising the same frustrations, hopes and dreams. Bringing them together for only two hours this diverse group became one.
I feel strongly that these small steps towards connection, respect and collaboration are the basis for a bigger step. Small individual changes collectively make a culture change.