To teach students to be Changemakers, they must be exposed to them, often. After overhearing a rare conversation in Arabic here in Hiroshima, I did what all good global citizens and travelers would: offered them peace.
Asalaamu alaikum (peace be with you), I said.
Wa alaikum salaam (peace be unto you) They responded.
Due to my lack of true Arabic skill, this quickly turned into an English conversation that revealed this small group of men were visiting Hiroshima as part of a United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) delegation. After this discovery, our conversation passionately jumped from entrepreneurship to the Lean Canvas curriculum to peacebuilding techniques and strategies applied in the tribal regions of Iraq. The whole time I sat there thinking, this is what our students need — especially our students from non-western backgrounds. Students need champions that look like them. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the success of the blockbuster hit Black Panther.
Upon the end of this magical traveler moment, I knew I had to make something happen for the THINK Global Students. I needed these groups to connect. In my year traveling globally developing the Changemaker Curriculum, I learned to swing for the fences. So I asked how we can best make this collaboration work by offering opportunities from ideal to pragmatic. The ideal: a full-day workshop where all TGS students would jigsaw around to meet and learn from the entire Iraqi UNITAR cohort. The most pragmatic: a small group of my Islamic students meet for coffee and pick my new friends’ brains for inspiration and experiences in the Islamic world.
The reality became an optional student event aimed at fulfilling the TGS mission. As Gloria Steinem said, “Every social justice movement that I know of has come out of people sitting in small groups, telling their life stories, and discovering that other people have shared similar experiences.” Almost 20 students from our International Baccalaureate Cohort and Changemaker Cohort collectively made the decision to engage in this evening.
Here’s what transpired.
Ali Nahi shared his experiences with transitioning Iraqi oil refineries into the trained hands of Iraqi workers instead of watching profits from his countries precious resources be controlled by multinational corporations.
Hussein Sayed led a dialogue on the importance of finding a champion to help you fulfill the goals of your entrepreneurial endeavor. He is currently working on projects in recently liberated regions in Iraq teaching infrastructure and entrepreneurial development.
Osamah Zaid has worked at the Iraqi Center for Conflict Management and Negotiation Skills (IQCM) IQCM. Osama worked with Mercy Corps across protection, emergency, and conflict management programming. He found exciting and hands-on way to share his wealth of experience in conflict management and peacebuilding.
After the event, TGS student Shamsia expressed, “talking to those guys and hearing about what they have been through and what they are doing inspired me because currently, people in Afghanistan are in the same situation. Talking to them motivated me to believe that no matter how hard life is, we have to push forward and work for the best.”
Shukran Jazeelan (thank you very much) to our guests and arigatou gozaimashita (thank you) to the students and staff of THINK Global that took advantage of this event and engaged in a manner that only TGS students can. Also a huge thanks to the entire staff at Hiroshima’s Peace Cafe for hosting the event, despite the rapid planning!