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28 October 2014

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You are in: Berkshire > Features > People > 'Think about your friends, not the conflict'

Nekane, Ruba, Hanin, Detta and Henry

Nekane, Ruba, Hanin, Detta and Henry

'Think about your friends, not the conflict'

Young people from parts of the world like Lebanon, the Basque area of Spain and Palestine have been in Wokingham on a youth exchange. BBC Radio Berkshire's Henry Kelly spoke to them.

"I never imagined that London is like it is, with small houses."

Nekane, a nursing student from Bilbao, spent a day in London as part of a week-long youth exchange taking place in Wokingham.

She's from the Basque area of Spain and has been brought together with young people from countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and France for the week.

Nekane, from the Basque country

Nekane, from the Basque country

The idea is that everyone gets to talk about citizenship, share each other's experiences, and learn a bit more about people they would never normally meet.

"I've enjoyed it," says Nekane. "We're learning that we must find some common link.

"Both parties must give something. Communication is very important and in the Basque country, communication between the Government and ETA isn't there.

"We always think we have big problems in the Basque country but we know the Palestinians have bigger problems. We're similar in our situations."

Borders and friends

Hanin lives in Ramallah, in Palestine. She's still at school but harbours a desire to study psychology at university. She agrees with Nekane.

"As a group we try to tell other people from different countries how the situation is in Palestine.

"I try to explain how bad our situation is, how we suffer on the check-points. We spent twelve hours on the border when we came here and had a very bad time.

Hanin, from Palestine

Hanin, from Palestine

"We can't go anywhere. You have to pass through three check-points to get to different countries."

Hanin admits she has no Jewish friends and doesn't know any Israelis. She has never, to her knowledge, met an Israeli.

So would she like to? "Well, why not?" She says.

'Closer together'

And Ruba, from Lebanon, reckons the only way to stop that kind of conflict is with more talking.

"The problem in Lebanon is there's a lack of communication and trust between Lebanese parties," says Ruba.

"Now I'm learning to tolerate diversity more and accept people with different backgrounds and perceptions of the world.

"Lebanon is a cocktail of everything in the world and we can make it happen, we can come closer together."

"Palestine and Syria are the closest countries to Lebanon and we don't have the chance to interact together."

Ruba, who lives 30 miles from Beirut

The youth exchange on which Ruba, Nekane and Hanin find themselves is funded by the European Commission, and arranged by the council in Wokingham.

Youth worker Detta Regan told us what the exchange has involved.

"We've done so much. We've had various workshops - this morning the Palestinians did a workshop on security. We've been to London, and we've been canoeing, cycling and team-building.

"Today we've got an arts day. But in between we've had discussions about the areas that make up citizenship, like identity and security."

'Extraordinary' experience

Detta has plenty of experience working alongside young people in areas like Lebanon and Palestine, and says bringing them together is crucial - for British teenagers as much as those travelling from abroad.

Detta Regan

Youth worker Detta Regan

"It's really important that young people learn an understanding of each other. So many people have no idea where these countries are and it's an opportunity to sit and talk about it.

"Then they might not think of Lebanon as a place of conflict, they'll think of the friends they've made there."

As Ruba, who lives around 30 miles from Beirut, observes, travelling to Wokingham is bizarrely the easiest way to meet her near neighbours.

"The whole experience is extraordinary. Palestine and Syria are the closest countries to Lebanon and we don't have the chance to interact together.

"Even having the opportunity to meet our neighbours, along with people from England and the Basque Country... it's the whole experience.

"In Lebanon we love life and like to enjoy our time, but you don't know which car will blow up. It's just irritating to know that there's all this conflict and you don't know when we'll live in peace again."

last updated: 30/07/07

Have Your Say

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Hazem Alagha
well speaking from experience, i am an admirer of Detta Regan's work involving peace in the middle east. to simply assume that she is 'anti-israeli' and 'anti-semetic' is ridiculous and quite insulting. i was involved in this exchange and i felt quite ignorant to other cultures. remember, this exchange was not just about palestine, we had the lovely girls from the Basque Country who some may stereotype as terrorist but seem to be going through a very similar stuggle to those from palestine. the exchange is called UNITED IN DIVERSITY and no where along the way was there any inclination to spreading propoganda. before making such outragous statements, please know exactly what it is you are talking about so you can make an informed opinion.

Jane Saunders
How ridiculous Mark Drukkers comments are. Clearly Detta Regan did not bring together 8 countries for propaganda and hatred. Foolish man. This was clearly a life changing experience for those that took part. If Mark had researched Dettas involvement in peace campaigns over the past years, he would have discovered more about 'Follow the Women' cycle rides promoting peace throughtout the middle east. He would also have found that 6 years ago Wokingham Youth Service held a similar event to this exchange entitled InPEACE in which several countries, including Israel, were brought together for 8 days looking at ways forward for a peaceful future. So again, I say to Mark Drukker, have an opinion yes, but don't show your ignorance by not reasearching what you do not know. How foolish to think that the middle east situation is as clear cut as involving only Palestine and Israel. Well done to Detta and the Wokingham Youth Service for such fantastic efforts, and remember, if you challange the young people that were on the exchange to do one thing different or to realise that they have the power to change situations and challange leaders, then the outcome of the exchange is a positive one.

elaine morton
what an extremely uninformed comment that was from Mr Drukker.He should have done some research before making such outrageous remarks about Ms Regan. If he would like more information please contact me as the co-organiser of this excellent project and then he can get his facts in balance
I am shocked at the comments made by Mr Drukker, has he taken time out to find out about the exchange or just by a sound bite make assumptions about one person involved in the project and to quote Mr Speed Peace will only come with recognition and reconciliation not ignorance.

Mark Drukker
There have been some wonderful schemes recently bringing Israeli and Palestinian children together, such as one in Brighton. Another such group recently visited Uri Geller.These get togethers are normally positive experiences.Unfortunately, the one brought together by Detta Regan seems to be an exercise in propaganda and hatred, rather promoting peace.I recently attended a session in London, where Israelis and Palestinians who had taken part in peace negotiations met again to produce guidelines for future negotiations.Is Detta Regan genuinely in favour of peace, or is she anti-Israel and anti-semitic?

David Speed
What a shame that Israel and Israelis have been ignored. Peace will only come with recognition and reconciliation NOT ignorance.

Paul Blount
As one of the youth workers helping with the exchange, can I thank BBC Radio Berkshire for inviting some of our participants to the studio to share their amazing experience. They thoroughly enjoyed visiting the radio station and I am sure will remember the experience as an important part of communicating the message of the exchange. This project is enormously important in bringing together motivated young people who care about their world and want to make change. The starting point for that process is talking and understanding that, although we are all different, we are united in this diversity. It sometimes seems that the whole world is angry and that if we are ever going to see global peace, we need to give young people of the world the tools to bring about positive change for the future. Well done to everyone involved.

Elaine Morton
This sounds like a wonderful experience for the young people from a these countries and an opportunity for the young people of Wokingham to understand more about the situations their peers live with in all the countries they are hosting. Whoever thought of it certainly had a great idea!

Tim Holmes
I believe that this sort of activity can help with the future. It helps with the understanding of issues, conflicts and problems with the future generations. As well as the people who can make a difference to the problems that we all face currently.

Louise Frost
What a great project, it should get National coverage. Having been in the Middle East I know how wonderful and welcoming the people are, and, how oppressed the people of Palestine. I think we all in the UK take travel abroad for granted, imagine waiting at Dover for 12 hours to get into France. Well done the The Youth Workers and lets just keep kids talking, it might just make a better world.

Noor Al-kattan
Hey, I'm a member of this youth exchange [from the UK] and I would like to thank Detta and Elaine for organising everything with the other youth workers in addition to Wokingham council. Keep up the good work, we plan on hearing more of these events of this kind in the future. I have enjoyed my time so far and learnt alot from this experience.

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