JCI London member George Hadad recounts his experience taking part in our international project with JCI Tartus:
It was a Thursday evening when my phone buzzed – a text from my friend Hanan saying “would you like to join…?” with a link to an event titled “E-Culture Campsite Part 1: Intercultural Communication”. Frankly, the title caught my attention, and I thought to myself, let me check what was that about.
There were a couple of very meaningful and interesting goals about the session in the description section, but there was one goal / aim in specific that really appealed to me and resonated with me, that was: “Increase knowledge about our world to help debunk misconceptions and stereotypes”. Given that I’m a big believer in the fact that if one wants to know about any culture, one should speak and engage withthe culture’sown people, and that is often done bytravelling and meeting with the locals, but due to the current health emergency / situation, I thought it would be great to have the opportunity to meet with the locals from different cultures via that online session, in other words, it could enable usto hear it ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ from the comfort of our sofas!
At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everything seemed and felt good about the event, so without giving it a second thought, I registered!
The E-culture Campsite was a collaboration between JCI London and JCI Tartus (a coastal city in Syria), and both teams did a great job in preparing and delivering that session.
We were lucky to have Hanan Keswani (Events Director – JCI London) as the coordinator who did an amazing job at running the project smoothly alongside a colleague – Mahmoud, from JCI Tartus.
Chantelle Nylander – Quartey (President – JCI London) started us off with an insightful and interesting presentation about JCI as an international organisation and its noble vision and mission about providing development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change in their communities and around the world.
This was followed by a very engaging (and competitive) game which was a quiz that included questions about the British and Syrian cultures and some about JCI in general. I have got to say, the amount of preparation put into that quiz was very noticeable, and theknowledge it provided to the audience was fascinating. I was glad to be in the top of the leaderboard (no showing-off!). This was a very natural and friendly way to break the ice and to set the scene for the next part of the session which was breakout rooms for discussing different topics.
In that part of the session, people were given a topic and were allocated to different breakout rooms (thanks to the magic of Zoom!) to start the discussion and then nominated a person to speak for each group and summarise the ideas they talked about to the other groups. Topics ranged from how people great each other, to food, music and dancing, all the way to clothes / outfits. This triggered lots of funny stories – I got to know that if you were at a French friend’s house and they offered you orange juice, then it is probably time to go!
There was apparently a similar thing in Tartus, where if the host offered you tea, then you should start thinking aboutmaking a move soon, but if they prepared a pot of maté (a caffeine-rich infused drink), then prepare to stay till late!
I really enjoyed that part so much as it made me realise that we only know a little about people and cultures, and the more we discuss things in a friendly relaxed way, the greater the knowledge and the outcome we get, and the bigger/deeper the friendships we can build.
That session ended so quickly because I was having lots of fun and we finished it by wishing each other a good night in different languages. This made me sign up to the second session of the Campsite and was very eager to join yet another great interactive session about “Careers & the JCI Experience” which was led by Lavu Njobvu (Training Director – JCI London) alongside a JCI colleague – Lor. The session had a similar format with more focus on careers and how people can excel in their professional journeys and how their JCI experiences could help them become more ambitious and encourage them to aim and reach high goals. There were interesting points around creating safe spaces for dialogue and discussion about concepts related to youths’ personal life and their industries, in addition to ideas on how to build an extensive network with people from different backgrounds. I must say that I gained a lot from these two sessions; those evenings were well spent!
Both of those events were very encouraging and were a reminder of how great it is to meet new people (albeit online), and how rich and different -yet very close- cultures are, and the vast things they have in common.The sessions also really made me understand and know more about JCI and made me aware of the core values that make JCI a reputable organisation whose members are proud to be a part of.I felt that I was really aligned with those values aboutempowering young people and professionals to create positive change within their communities which, in return, will have a wider impact on our cities and countries. And here I am, couple of weeks later, a proud new member of JCI London’s who is joining this journey with people who share common values and passion and hope towards developing themselves and improving their communities and give back to them, along with experiencing and bringing new cultures closer together.
I do believe that by joining JCI London, I will continue to develop the growth mindset that is key to making us better versions of ourselves and to bringing the best out of us. In particular, I’m keen about the active citizen framework which clearly outlines the wayin which JCI members can become responsible leaders within and for their communities.
I’m very excited about the coming year, and I’m grateful to Hanan, Chantelle, Emmanuel and the wider JCI London team for introducing me to this organisation and for welcoming me onboard and making me embrace the motto of ‘Thinking Forward’.
This post was written by Chantelle Nylander - Quartey