After fruitful conversations in Amman in 2021, a second meeting takes place in Denmark bringing together Ambassadors for Dialogue from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Denmark.
By Elisabeth Vang Jørgensen
It’s three o’clock in the afternoon on a clear, warm spring day and young students rush out from their High School Øregård in Hellerup, Denmark. In between the usual sight of the Danish students, Arabic and English voices can be heard. Twenty Ambassadors for Dialogue from Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt and Denmark are also leaving the school after having conducted four workshops for approximately sixty of the young students.
Loud laughter and excited shouts are filling the streets as the ambassadors share their experiences of facilitating workshops at Øregård on their way back to Central Copenhagen.
Ahmed Taha, 22-year-old medical student from Tunisia, was excited to shed light on the human rights situation outside of Denmark. “I actually think we reached our desired outcomes, even though it’s always hard to measure in a project like this. We wanted the students to know more about the Human Rights situation in Tunisia, while simultaneously creating a space where they could freely express themselves,” he says. “When I read their feedback after the session, I felt like we obtained that.”
Ahmed is one of 31 ambassadors gathered in Denmark for their second international seminar. The Ambassadors for Dialogue project has been running since 2009 with chapters in Denmark, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan. The aim is to create mutual understanding among youth by developing their skills in dialogue, workshop design and facilitation. This seminar started out with three training days where the ambassadors learned new facilitation tools. The activities included working together as a team by focusing on trust, feedback, and active listening. Later the ambassadors were divided in groups and assigned to facilitate dialogue workshops in Danish high schools.
Ahmed explains how he used the tools when facilitating at the high school. “It’s challenging to co-facilitate, especially when you’re five people together who all come from different backgrounds, and all have different opinions on how to do things. That means you really must sit down and listen and be open to all the suggestions,” he says.
27-year-old Julie Storgaard Helledie, a participant from Denmark working in a Save the Children Denmark says: “Even though some of us have facilitated many dialogue workshops before, I’m sure everyone has learned a lot – especially when it comes to working in teams. The fact that we know exactly what the participants in our workshop go through, is a strength all of us share. We have been in their place before, sometimes feeling how dialogue is difficult and overwhelming, while other times eye-opening and wonderful. I’m sure these experiences make us better facilitators.”
Peter Nabil, a 24-year-old student of physical therapy from Egypt, also reflected on the workshop saying “When we’re doing a workshop in Egypt about intercultural differences and how to deal with them, we imagine these differences. But attending a seminar like this made me actually experience them – they’re right in front of me at all times.”
Reflecting upon the workshop he just facilitated he says: “I asked the participants questions that would be challenging in the Arab World, but for them, it was very easy to agree upon. This was such a surprise and a completely new experience for me.”
Growing up in the governate of Qena in Upper Egypt, but later moving to Cairo, he had observed the differences among people’s customs and habits and found it fascinating. In 2020 he applied to become one of the international ambassadors. “When I got the acceptance call, I was so happy and couldn’t believe that I was finally joining the program. I was so excited because AFD provides you with that safe space where you can have these interesting talks, explore your different cultures, and just be honest; things I always wanted to do,” he asserts.
Julie also reflected on how the project impacted her. “The fundamental idea of dialogue is something I use in almost all aspects of my life. Trying to really understand and not just judge the other person is something useful when it comes to both work- and personal relationships.”
After this seminar with the international group, all the participants will go back to their home countries to implement what they’ve experienced. “At first I wanted to learn how to do dialogue – to listen and try to understand others rather than convincing and uniting everybody’s opinion,” Ahmed says. “Now, I feel like I’m able to share and promote this culture.”
Peter was also excited for the future emphasizing the strong relationships “As a group of Tunisians, Jordanians, Danes, and Egyptians, we really built strong connections and bonds between us, which I think will last for years.”