My fellow participants love the human library, so do I. Yet, for me, it was not merely the event on 4/11 in Sofia, but the whole training itself. The organisers/trainers (CVS-Bulgaria, Nat, Kat and Shirin) and the other 31 participants from 12 countries are all storytellers who have inspired me with their experience, knowledge, expertise and insights. Listening to them was such a delight.
A few shared with me their personal experience as migrants; some told me about their aspiration to make the world a better place; and all impressed me with their passion in voluntary work. The issues of human rights and forced migration are philosophical, political and at times controversial, intertwining social, cultural, legal and economic factors. Our amazing trainers managed to articulate the key terminology and facilitate discussion among us, so that we could grasp the gist of the topics. Through case studies, group discussion, guest talk and field visits, we explored different contexts of human rights/forced migration and came up with ideas and projects to tackle the issues. I have always struggled to put what I have learnt at school into practice.
This down-to-earth training was perfectly organised to fill the gap of theories and actual work. Furthermore, Nat and Kat have demonstrated the desirable qualities of a good trainer. They are patient, passionate and empathetic. I see them as my role models and I hope I could also be an inspiring trainer when I conduct my own workshops or trainings.
I was especially enlightened by the field visits to local and international NGOs in Bulgaria. In the morning of Day 5 (5/11), some of us visited the Centre for Legal Aid “Voice in Bulgaria”, an NGO providing general and legal aid and advice to asylum seekers and refugees. I learnt that the “success rate” in litigation is low and advocacy is difficult, thanks to hate speech, state-controlled media and a right-wing government. I could sense the frustration in her voice but she also struck me as a determined individual with a never-give-up attitude. Another volunteer said to us, “You don’t need to be a big NGO to make a difference.” It was definitely an encouragement for me. Whenever people tell me “you have to be the change you want to be”, I hesitate how. Who do I think I am? Yet, the devoted volunteers of this NGO and all my fellow participants have motivated me to get out of my comfort zone. Start small, think clearly, network with like-minded people and act. It’s not easy to walk alone, but as many of my fellows have noted, together we can make a difference.
On the last day of the training, we were asked to pick a picture or two that described our feelings. I picked “The problem does not resolve itself” as a reminder for myself. I can still remember on the first night I landed in Sofia, before the training started, I was asked, “how do you end up here?” It does not matter how I ended up in the lovely campsite of Dolni Lozen, but how I will “end up” with the knowledge and experience of this training.
Written by Leslie NG Shuk Shan, photo by Shirin Hodzeva