The Nebulae of Mirrors
For the 6th National Jamboree of Romanian Scouts 2.017, which was held in Cristian, Brasov County, Cercetasii Romaniei welcomed over 1800 participants from both Romania and countries across Europe, but also Taiwan!
This Jamboree's motto was `Change the perspective`. It was a more than appropriate mantra, as we challenged the participants and the 384+ volunteers helping put together this event, to change their points of view and discover ways in which they could improve their communities in a meaningful way, while tackling the main 4 themes of the event: Technology, Sustainability, Global Development and Diversity.
My role in this was, apart from being part of the almost 400 volunteers, to coordinate the Divesity programme area, appropriately called `The Nebulae of Mirrors`. It was the first area ever created around the concept of Diversity, as an important value to growing local and global communities, and even more so, for an event that would cater to such a vast selection of Scout volunteers and not only.
But, to better understand the necessity and the big impact of this small, but daring educational programme, I have to delve a bit into explaining the sociopolitical context of Romania. Romania is still a young country, in my opinion. As a post-communist revolution child, I witnessed my country going through significant changes, but changes that came by extremely slow. The area in which I find myself still having difficulties with is mentalities... there is still a considerable division in Romania between the overly religious paradigm and a country waiting to fling open its borders- culturally, socially and economically. For instance, the concept of Diversity is falsely understood by the majority of people as LGBT propaganda almost, also partly because of the image projected by the Church. Meeting such a strong bias against the LGBTQ+ community, we had to rethink the delivery of the message and not include discussions about sexuality and sexual discrimination- not overtly, at least. Another very pregnant social issue manifesting itself in the mentality of most Romanians is racism towards ethnic minorities, with an emphasis on Roma communities and/ or members that even suggest to belonging to them. Starting from these points, that slightly hint to the tip of the iceberg, Romanians are, as all humans, afraid of the unknown and, therefore, tend to reject the existence of a possibility of understanding. Here is where the challenge began.
The coordinating part required me to create content for the workshops, to conceptualize the entire shape and purpose of the area itself, and attract Scout and external, specialized volunteers to hold workshops for around 300 children and youngsters aged between 10-18 per day, for 4 days. We had around 12 different workshops that were active at the same time, thus making it easier for participants to attend a maximum of 2, according to their topic of interest. The area of subjects discussed ranged from discrimination (mental and physical disabilities, ethnic and racial discrimination, gender roles, religious discrimination, social status, etc) in general and the most common discrimination grounds in our country, to spirituality, nutrition and even a special haven held by a psychotherapist for people needing to discuss about their emotions and about what LOVE actually means. The structure of the workshops was targeted at either practical exercises (role-play, games, debates, stories), discussions or brainstorming on solutions.
The largest feature that all of these educational `pills` had in common was this: bringing and raising awareness to the fact that humans, as a species, are extremely complex and... diverse! There is no individual alike, no story completely the same, only a myriad of possibilities, which in my opinion, represents the pinnacle of the beauty of life. Thus, it was important and still is imperatively so to create an environment and a platform for discussion and sharing- open, safe and inclusive to each and every member of our planet. That is why I wanted and needed people from the exterior, who are advocates and/ or have worked with people from different vulnerable communities, to join our project and speak about their experience. We had the fortune of receiving help from film producers, activists, social entrepreneurs and speakers, who formed my Dream Team of volunteers (counting 17 at one point)!
Since the success of the piloted programme of the Jamboree, for the future, my National Scout Organization has set the introduction of Diversity&Inclusion values into our training of leaders and adult volunteers, but as well as in our pedagogy, as a long-term goal, for which I have taken the responsibility of coordinating and overseeing.Therefore, I consider that the purpose and objectives of our Diversity area succeeded in being wonderfully diverse and welcoming to young people exploring the multiplicity of human experience and in doing so, paved the way for our future development not only as a Scout organization, which will be more aware and more capable of catering to the needs of our Scouts from all walks of life and our local and even more, global communities.