When a friend from Voluntariat told me about the training “From small steps to big changes” and asked me if I could participate, I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it. I even ended my trip to Skopje earlier to be able to go. The topic is really close to my heart because I’d like to work with refugees and I did my 10-month EVS in the centre for Roma street kids. I also wanted to learn more about human library because I haven’t heard about it before. It was definitely the right decision. I had an amazing time, I’ve met many extraordinary people and most importantly, I believe I took a lot out of it. The trainers were amazing. They used diverse and interesting learning methods making it easy to follow and stay focused throughout the whole time, although the program was quite intense. They were able to shift many of our perspectives and the human library had an even more powerful effect on us. I definitely want to organize one in my country.
After this experience, I am even more motivated to dedicate my time to make a difference in this world. I personally believe that instead of blaming we should show understanding. There is always a reason why somebody acts in a certain way. Maybe we would have been the same if we had been born in a different culture with a family constantly filling our heads with hostile/negative/fearful beliefs. By attacking or punishing people who are actively practising discrimination we won’t really do much. I think that people need to feel safe in order to open their minds to a different kind of thinking, otherwise they will just go into a defensive mode and continue with their behaviour. I am not saying that it is easy to change somebody’s perspective, but I strongly believe that it is worth it.
I have learned in this training that every act counts. Maybe one person can’t change the whole world, but we can make at least one person happier every single day. Just by showing them they matter. By showing them respect or support. By smiling to a stranger. When we witness discrimination it is easier to just look the other way, but what if it would happen to our loved ones and nobody would be there for them? There is also a butterfly effect. Sometimes we are not even aware of how much we influence others. I loved the story that a trainer shared with us. She organized a workshop about anti-discrimination many years ago. Later on, one of the participants entered politics and started fighting for the cause. In a TV-interview, he mentioned that he was inspired by the workshop he attended in high school and it completely changed his views.
What we all can do is to stop generalizing. When we look at a person we should see a human being and not a bunch of labels and stereotypes. Everyone deserves an opportunity and many times people have amazing and inspiring stories. We can focus on the things that unite us instead of what divide us. At the end, every human being just wants to be happy.
Story written by Maja Mestek, who took part in the training “From Small Steps to Big Changes: Tackling discrimination in everyday life”, co-funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union.