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
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
"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.
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."
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."
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.
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
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