Bruno Tarazón Soler, EVS member in Crossing Borders in Copenhagen.

Let me introduce myself. I am Bruno, a 25 years old Spanish-French student in International Law, passionate about Mother Earth and its offerings. I arrived in Copenhagen about a month ago, which means that I am still a ‘rookie’ in this part of the world that is so unknown to me. During these first couple of weeks I listened and I observed. It was like to throw myself into the procession of cultural immersion in a new country and now I can share my first impressions of Denmark, known as one of the ‘happiest’ countries in the world. One of the peculiarities that caught my attention during the first couple of days was a recycling machine in supermarkets in which used bottles can be exchanged for money. Someone explained, that there are people who do it to earn some money, but there is one more thing the initiative does – it pays back to ‘Pachamama’, our planet for being so. Or should I say the planet on which we live rather than “our planet”? I mean Mother Earth, just like our partner, loves us and shares her best secrets but it doesn’t belong to anyone and we should never take her for granted. This part of the Planet is cold and winds are harsh, but the air that blows is clean and full of hope, hope for a better future, the ‘winds of change’. Nevertheless, the workshop which I got an opportunity to­­ attend on the 9th of October in Askov Efterskole did not focus on sustainability or climate change but on one of the other problems which requires raising awareness among young people as well – the issues of migrants and refugees and the different challenges associated with them. To describe the event in one word, Awesome! Being a member of the Crossing Borders team through European Volunteer Service, my participation in the workshop gave me a chance to first of all observe and learn how my colleagues contribute to igniting a spark in minds of future, the youth. Danish youth seems well aware of importance of sustainability in today’s mistreated world but they should not forgo the empathy towards its fellow being who are suffering from one of the biggest refugee crisis in our days, even if it is taking place far from where they live. This motivated me, even more, to be a part of the atelier. In Spain, for instance, there already exists “A wall” which is so much in news nowadays, dividing the humans of the Planet (in Melilla), as if we were separating two parts of the same body. And the wall is not just metaphoric. Still in the 21st century it divides people from two different continents (in Melilla) that nonetheless contain the same elements: families, children and gazes. I also lived in Sicily for a year, where in the island of Lampedusa almost two hundred thousand individuals each year are disembarked on the watch of relentless EU. During the workshop, I could hear opinions of the students that shocked me: “we don’t want the refugees here” or “don’t come in Denmark”. However, I also saw some of them looking at the problem with maturity and commitment. For this reason, I will continue being part of these kind of experiences: to empower the latter to bring about the change, from within themselves, their colleagues, their family and then the country. I think that I am in the perfect country to do this, not only because of Denmark’s distance from the problem and thus a bigger need that arises to draw the attention to it but also the proximity with which the teachers can teach here, thanks to the non-formal space that the Danish educational system gives, which is truly an inspiration to other countries.   Big thank you to Crossing Borders for letting me to be a part of the project! Bruno Tarazón Soler, student of International Law en Universitat de València and EVS member in Crossing Borders in Copenhagen.

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Politics in Japan Series #2. The history and culture surrounding politics in Japanese democracy.

-#2: The history and culture surrounding politics in Japanese democracy. Written by Michiyo Terasaki, Crossing Borders National Coordinator for Japan. Japanese democracy began gradually during the Meiji period (1868-1912) when Japan was struggling diplomatically with foreign countries and needed to be recognized as democratic. There were some civil movements during those years, but the democracy back then was based on imperial sovereignty, and full voting rights for men and women first came in 1947, after WWⅡ, and brought by the United States, meaning it is an imported custom from overseas, applied by government in a top-down way, and not something which citizens won through struggle like in many western countries. Japan is very good at adapting and enjoying imported culture from overseas, in its own way, so we celebrate Christmas with a fancy illuminated tree and city, chicken and cake even though most Japanese people are not Christian, and you can also enjoy food from almost all over the world in Tokyo, with some Japanese-taste adjustment. But in terms of democracy, we haven’t been able to build our own, which means we haven’t changed the way of following one authority, and although the right to resist exists, it is not widely exercised. For example, if you think about the fact that the Japanese main party (the LDP, Liberal Democratic Party) has been dominating for more than the 50 years since WW2 (there are only a few exceptions: 1993-6 and 2009-12). In a way, you might be able to say that LDP dominancy in the parliament has been working for Japan in an economical sense so far, but since Japan has been facing the “Lost-decades” of economic decline for almost 30 years now, people have started to realize that Japan needs to change. But a multi-party system in Japan will not come easily. Looking at the recent case in 2009, whereby the second biggest party, DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan), became a major party and the balance of power between LDP and DPJ finally changed. It has been widely acknowledged for a long time that one of the reasons that the Japanese government can’t make major policy changes is due to the excessive strength of bureaucracy, and DPJ ran a big campaign to change this and got a lot of support. But what happened was that the DPJ didn’t have enough experience and skill to implement new policy, and unfortunately due to a lack of cooperation by bureaucrats this ended in a lot of confusion. This incident meant that Japanese citizens experienced trauma and disappointment in voting for a main opposition party. When LDP came back into power in 2012, they responded to the issue of the power that bureaucrats had by setting up the Cabinet Personnel Management Agency, so now the top bureaucrats are essentially selected by the government. This strengthened LDP’s hold on power a lot more. As you can see, Japanese democracy is still in the phase of power-struggle, and is far from a stable and healthy parliamentary government. Political apathy is rife amongst Japanese citizens, and confusion is one of the principal reasons for this. Political apathy has been a particularly serious issue in Japan among young people; statistics[1] show that the voting rate for people in their 20’s, for the upper house election last July, was 32.8%. That election was the first time that the voting age was lowered from 20 to 18, with the government widely campaigning for young people to take part in the election. But why didn’t they go to vote? One of the reasons could be that they don’t have much opportunity to have political conversations at home, at school and among friends, so there is little interest in forming opinions. Therefore, it is hard for them to believe that their one vote might have power and influence. Another explanation could be that young people are practical, in that they don’t act unless they are sure what they can get.  In fact, some statistics show[2] that about 60% of young people feel they don’t have any power within the political decision-making process. The reason Japanese people do not have the custom of talking about politics at home (or in general) could be, I think, related to the fact that Japanese democracy is something “imported”; a concept from overseas, and not something citizens fought for over many years. It has therefore not reached the level of all citizens, especially at home. Moreover, originally Japan is a hierarchical culture and society, so speaking up with your opinion towards the society or authority is not considered as a traditional or polite thing to do. There still are some demonstrations, but the number itself and participants are limited, and lower compare with other countries. Moreover, the term “Political activist” in Japan sounds dangerous (at least to me) and gives off ideas of ultra-right/left wing driving propaganda trucks with a lot of noise, but is generally, not common or familiar to most people. Japanese people become interested in politics usually when they are adults, and government policies start to affect their lives to some extent, such as in social welfare and tax. But in most of the cases their interest and knowledge are limited, and the media plays an important role in affecting them. [1] http://www.soumu.go.jp/senkyo/senkyo_s/news/sonota/nendaibetu/ [2] http://www8.cao.go.jp/youth/english/survey/2013/pdf/part2-2.pdf

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Dive into the NGO world & the life of an Expat: Masato

  Dive into the NGO world & the life of an expat: Masato Today, we want to introduce you to Masato from Japan. Masato has just started as an intern at Crossing Borders (CB) and was previously a CB student at the Krogerup Højskole in Humlebæk. The CB course at the Krogerup school is a course designed exclusively for international students, providing them with knowledge on different global issues. The Krogerup Højskole is a school based on non-formal education where there are no exams and a lot of visits so that there is a practical side as well as the learning. The students live together, eat together, clean together… you name it, they do everything together as a community. We asked him, among other things, about his experience in this school and the motivation behind his internship at Crossing Borders. Hope you enjoy! ?    ・Have you always been interested in the NGO world or did you just take the opportunity that was offered to you at Crossing Borders? Through my study abroad, I thought that I wanted to experience more practical things in the environment where many different nationalities and backgrounds are crossing, also I wanted to contribute to Crossing Borders, which I can do from my experience learning in CB international course at Krogerup Højskole. I can say that my life has actually been connected to the NGO world. When I was 7 years old, my parents have donated money to UN Women, which is a body of the UN, to contribute to the promotion of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and education. My father worked at a company, meanwhile, he was also working in that organization as a secretary general. I think we don’t often have many opportunities to meet foreigners in Japan, so I really appreciate to be blessed with an environment where I can meet many people who are from outside of Japan, especially from Africa. Then, I was interested in what is happening not only in Japan but also in the world. Influenced by that environment perhaps, after I went to Soka university in Tokyo, I was interested in working abroad in the field of education, so I decided to do a Japanese language and cultural volunteering for 1 month in Indonesia via an NGO. Through that, I gained 2 things that I experienced and I had more confidence. Firstly, I was able to adapt to a new environment, which is totally opposite to mine, thanks to my strengths such as open-mindedness, curiosity, and “soaking-up-power”. Indonesia is known as the world’s 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Religion, food, the way of socializing, and infrastructure are completely different from Japan. The place where I was sent was in the countryside, so there were not any internet connection or hospital, and black out often happens. Because of these conditions probably, their life is very slow and relaxing, also they don’t care about small things, and cherish the time spent with their family. By contrast, in Tokyo where I grew up, life goes on without a break, and people fray their nerves because they care too much about details. In addition, they were forced to work until midnight instead of staying with their children at home. That is why I really liked the Indonesian way of life. Although the environment and the people are totally different, I engaged with any community I encountered with my strong “open-mindedness”. However, the beginning was not so easy, and I was really struggling to talk with them because I could use neither English nor Japanese. Before, I was explained by NGO staff that I would be able to communicate with them in English, and especially in Japanese, because I was supposed to have a host family with a Japanese language teacher. However, this difficulty made me realize how important speaking local languages is to build trust, so I learned Indonesian and Javanese (local language in Indonesia) through ordinary conversation. As a result, I was able to build a trust relationship with more than 600 people, such as the host family, teachers, students, NGO staff, and even chefs at the store where we often went. Owing to this, our team-work worked very smoothly. Secondly, I learned skills and attitudes to implement a project from the start to the end by myself. Some of the things I learned were how to find out problems by listening to the voice of those who are working, how to suggest ideas creatively, and how to implement and improve them. For example, nowadays, more than 600 students are studying Japanese because many Japanese companies have been spreading to the Indonesian market. Also, Japanese sub-culture has gained tremendous popularity. However, when paying careful attention to what is going on inside the classes, we find out that learning Japanese is based on reading and writing, the students don’t have any opportunity to speak with native speakers. Therefore, I suggested doing a workshop which is not only focused on reading and writing but also on listening and speaking, and on Japanese culture such as traditional dances and Origami (folding paper). In addition, we discussed things which can be improved. Thus, I have been working with NGOs in different aspects, so I would like to use this experience and contribute to the CB team more! ・As you have some experience in the NGO world, would you consider working with another NGO or volunteering again for example? Honestly, I would say I’m debating whether I should work in NGOs or companies right now. On the one hand, the NGO world is really fascinating for me as I have a mission which is to create an environment for children of the world to be able to achieve their self-actualization. CB and other NGOs’ visions correspond exactly to my life goal. NGOs’ purpose mainly revolves around finding solutions to social problems, so their activities relatively require effectiveness (at least in my opinion). Thus, given my goal, I

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Dive into the NGO world & the life of an Expat: Lucile

Dive into the NGO world & the life of an expat: Lucile This week’s testimony is from Lucile, a French student currently doing an internship in a Mexican NGO. It’s her second time in Mexico, where she went for a year when she was 16. So far, this is perhaps the best example of what our blog series aims at: talking the truth about living abroad and working in an NGO. In-deed, although she loved and is still loving Mexico, Lucile lived in Northern Ireland and didn’t enjoy her time there so much. She also shares her views on Mexico, including the harsh class differences and the many topics you can’t talk about. But no more teasing, here’s the interview, hope you enjoy it!     Why did you want to do an internship in the NGO sector? I wanted to experience something different from everything I was already used to. I’m working with an NGO for community development projects, and I wanted to discover how to help and mostly to exchange with people who live, think and speak differently. I think they have a lot to teach us. I also wanted to know how it is possible to concretely help people. There is a lot of unfairness in this world that sounds impossible to solve, and there are only empty speeches to give us hope. So I wanted to know how I could concretely act, even at a small scale. I wanted to have another perspective, and my point of view is already evolving, even though I haven’t started working with the community yet. How do you like it so far? Impressions? Any downsides? At the moment, we’re still getting prepared to intervene in the community – we are preparing a literacy campaign along with other projects on the side.  For example, I decided to work on a course of oral and body expression so I haven’t really achieved anything “concrete” yet but I’m learning a lot and I love that. We learn a lot about communities, indigenes, human rights, philosophy, pedagogy, education, and contrasts in Mexico as well as in Latin America and the world. I learn a lot at the NGO and also in my everyday life in the city. I’m learning how to organize many things such as events for fundraisings, meetings, conferences and so on. I like having those responsibilities. There is one downside – well I don’t really know if it’s a drawback per se – : it is so captivating that I spend a lot more time, outside of work, reading and searching about those topics. I love what I do but, yes, it takes most of my spare time and I’m not doing as many things for myself as I would. But when people count on you, you can’t afford a second chance, you can’t be wrong. Do you want to work in an NGO in the future or do you have other projects? I’d like to work in intercultural relations. Because culture is what builds our individual and collective identity and this is what everything is about. So, at the moment, I’m working here because I wanted to see something else and working with NGOs was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I don’t really know if I’d like to keep working in NGOs later. I don’t know if I am strong enough, but I’ll see. I think I’ll try to conciliate both. I’d like to make culture accessible to everyone, maybe. It’s really vague still. In which countries have you lived? For how long? I was born in France. I have already lived one year in Mexico for a cultural exchange (with Rotary International). Then I lived 5 months in Northern Ireland for an Erasmus exchange and now I’m back in Mexico for a few months. What did you struggle with the most when you moved abroad? Did you ever have issues because of the difference of culture? When I moved to Mexico, I was 16. It was the first time I went out of my comfort zone and I left everyone and everything I had known and was used to. It was a great, great, great experience that I’ll never regret, and surprisingly I didn’t struggle at all with the culture shock. I didn’t speak Spanish at all but I didn’t have a choice so I learnt in about 3 weeks. Language was not a problem. I had some homesick moments at the beginning of course, before understanding that time flies and I had to enjoy it. What I struggled the most with; however, was the conservative side of a lot of Mexican people. I had to give up for one year a part of my principles: yes, there is machism in Mexico; no, you can’t talk about abortion so freely; yes, there is a lot of discrimination and class prejudice. This is probably what I struggled the most with and I’m still struggling a lot with this, and even more than before. Four years after, my vision has totally changed. Mexico City is great but it’s difficult. And it’s difficult to accept the fact that you live here while most people survive here. So yes, abandoning some of my ideals, living with the guilt of being lucky, this is difficult. But my exchange year remains the greatest memory I have and apart from that, everything was perfect. When I moved to Northern Ireland, it was totally different. I simply didn’t like the culture there, I thought people were superficial and what happened was that my French identity grew and grew and grew as I figured how lucky I was to live in France and to be French. I really did have homesick moments there. Or rather moments when I really wanted to go away, not necessarily home but away. I saw great landscapes and I made Erasmus friends but that’s all the good that happened. What happened is that I was confronted

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Narrative Identity: Being Your Own Author of Second Chance

Narrative Identity: Being Your Own Author of Second Chance As human beings, we perceive life stories differently, regardless of its nature.  Everyday experiences shape the way we see the world, the way we see others, and the way we see ourselves. In major life events especially, this perception is accelerated, creating a dramatic process of formation of narrative identity. Narrative Identity as defined by McLean and Pasupath (2014, p. 1846) is an identity that is developed from “the ability to integrate the past and present into a life story.” Narrative identity development is a known research method to analyse how one’s life changes construct their identity overtime. This particular field of study becomes increasingly important when researchers recognise its value, especially when studying individuals who are faced with significant challenges or trauma in their lives. When we as individuals often encounter difficulties, and unfortunately more often than we want, trauma (both physically and mentally). These dramatic events disrupt our everyday-life cohesive patterns that we constantly (and unconsciously) build. However, there may just be a light at the end of the tunnel. Looking from a positive perspective, the silver linings of these trauma can be more useful than we think. As scholar Jennifer L. Pals suggests, “difficult emotional experiences also may be understood as providing the potential for a second chance to construct narrative identity, an opportunity to reconstruct oneself in an improved, healthier, and transformed manner that opens up new possibilities for the quality, meaning, and trajectory of one’s life.” (Pals 2006, p. 102). This means that, even though experiencing emotional and physical pain can potentially change the course of our lives, we still have the possibility to become our own authors of second chance. Survivors of deathly physical injuries often feel that they are ‘given’ a second chance. While the belief of the existence of a ‘higher power’ at play is habitually necessary for some, people’s reaction to having a difficult past differs from one to another. Some find it exceptionally hard to recover, especially those who are recovering from depression and severe anxiety, that they often give up on trying to be positive at all. However, there are many cases where people living with disabilities have high level of spirit that they manage to oversee their physical disadvantages and have a more appreciative attitude towards little things in life. Researchers Foslund, Jansson, Lundblad, and Soderberg (2017) conducted a research on survivors of Out-of-Hospital Cariac Arrest (OHCA), and found that their research subjects had adopted a positive outlook on life after the unfortunate events of their lives. It is important to realise that despite what life throws at us, we are still the authors of our own life stories. As long as we are still alive, our life chapters are still being written, and how you want your life to be, is completely up to you. Indeed, a second chance is the way we, ourselves, perceive what is happening in our lives. By producing our own second chance, we take control and adapt a more positive way of seeing the world. The article is written by Sienny Thio .She is crossing borders national coordinator for Indonesia.  Reference List Ann-Sofie Foslund, Jan-Håkan Jansson, Dan Lundblad, Siv Soderberg (2017) A Second Chance at Life: People’s Lived Experiences of Surviving Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest, Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences. Jennifer L. Pals (2006) Authoring a Second Chance in Life: Emotion and Transformational Processing Within Narrative Identity, Research in Human Development, 3:2-3, 102. Kate C. McLean & Monisha Pasupath (2014) Narrative Identity, Encyclopaedia of Adolescence, 1846-1847.

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Dive into the NGO world & the life of an Expat: Mathilde

For this article, we are going to introduce you to Mathilde. Although she does not have experience in the NGO world, she is a French girl currently living and working in England, so we thought her story was interesting. Plus, her testimony could be some kind of reassurance for some people who might find themselves in a similar situation. Anyhow, we hope you will enjoy this article! Let us know in the comments what you think! It’s no secret that today’s society “pushes” people into a certain path: once you are done with high school, you either go to university if you want a high-qualification job or learn a more “manual” job in order to start working. Mathilde, as most people, went to university. However, after the second year of her bachelor and with not so encouraging results and teachers, she was tired of it. University costs money and obviously, there is no point continuing doing something expensive which you feel is leading you nowhere. I am sure a lot of people have similar thoughts and inner-struggles: “I am not enjoying university, but this is what I am supposed to do”, “my parents will never agree with me dropping out of university” or again “what can I do without any university degree?”. Mathilde was lucky enough to have a job opportunity in England at the exact moment when she felt like she was done with university. So, she just took this opportunity. There is no point being scared, if you have a great opportunity and a chance of being happier with your life, you just go for it! She did a degree of European studies in English, because, like everybody in this degree, she mostly wanted to become fluent in English. So, having the opportunity to work in England was perfect for her: she could quit university, start working and making her own money, and in the meantime, improve her English and practice it everyday. She had every advantage in taking this job really!     In fact, she had already tried to find a job abroad, but with no result. She spent a month or two in Edinburg, location of the Fringe Festival, which attracts plenty of people, but everything was organised far before the summer. So, unfortunately, she did not work in this festival, but she ended up volunteering there at the Foodies Festival, which was a great experience, exhausting but amazing.     When asked if she chose the UK for any particular reason, apart from the chance to improve her English, she explained that she just took the opportunity that was offered to her. The geographical proximity between the UK and France was an important factor as well. “It is easier to move in a country not far from France. I think if the opportunity was in the United States or Australia, I would have thought twice before doing it. If something happens and I have to go back to France, it is less than two hours of flight and one hundred pounds”, she explained. Focusing more on her life in England, we wondered if she struggled fitting in in a post-Brexit UK. She explained it would be a bit complicated the day they will officially be out of the EU. “But technically I have moved in the UK before they triggered Article 50, so I will normally not have real struggle to stay here.” Even for people who are reluctant to settle in the UK now out of fear of Brexit, remember that it is difficult to know exactly when and how drastic Brexit will be. If you are contributing to the British economy, the government will probably not throw thousands of EU citizens away.     Mathilde has actually decided to be living in England on the long term. She has done all of the administrative necessities to be able to stay and she pointed out that, if she went through this annoying procedure, it is not to stay only a couple of years. Besides, “I am not going back until my English is perfect and as you may see I have a lot of work to do”, she joked.     We asked her whether she thought it was easier, as a young person, to find a job in the UK or in France. Indeed, France is known for having a high unemployment rate amongst young people in particular, even for those with high qualifications. “I am mixed between the fact that you can find a job anywhere if you are ready to do any job, and the struggle to find a good job.” But, all in all, she believes that in both countries it is all about being at the right place at the right time. Also about working, we wanted to know what she would say to someone who thinks having a university degree is necessary to find a decent job nowadays. She stated that it was hard to say because it depends, it depends on what someone wants to do or on its relationship to studies for instance. “But let’s be honest”, she added, “when you have no qualification, you will probably start a job from the beginning/the lower rank and then will gain experience, in contradiction with someone who has a PhD and will be more likely to start with a more advanced work.” But again, she qualified her statement, saying that someone with a PhD in math and finds a job in a restaurant, will not be a chef from the start. Now focusing on the whole living abroad experience, we started by asking her how hard it had been for her to move alone to a new country and start from scratch. For her, it has not been that hard, it was mainly, once again, dealing with administration. Adminstration in England is no different than the French one, which means paperwork, calls, appointments etc. “You just have to take care of all of that by yourself, as if you moved

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Dive into the NGO world & the life of an Expat: Andrew

Dive into the NGO world & the life of an Expat: Andrew For this first interview we met Andrew Julius Bende, who is an International Program Coordinator at Crossing Borders. From his background in Uganda to his work in Denmark, we have tried to trace his history, his path in the NGO world and his struggles. He’s the first of our series of blog posts focusing on People Working in NGOs, hope you’ll learn a lot from him, and the following ones 🙂 ! Don’t forget to join our newsletter, you can also become a member of Crossing Borders if you want, or just leave a comment which would be very much appreciated! Can you tell us what is it like to work in an NGO? When I started working in NGOs, I thought it was the coolest thing that I could do. Because you get to meet so many people going around, and they were the greatest guys, like those working at OXFAM. I think I was 19 / 20 years old, I was finishing university and I was already planning to start an NGO. But now, after 12 years of working with different NGOs… It’s still cool, it’s still a great thing, but it is so much responsibility at the same time. You can’t overestimate the necessity of doing work like this. On a daily basis, you have to deal with some of the toughest social issues, or at least in my job as I have to as I’m dealing with migration, integration, working with young people on political participation, on gender equality or inequality in different policy areas. It becomes such a tough job to do, but you also think about the necessity of that work, but on the other side you see how difficult it is to break into some circles: funders are cutting our funding, the public is becoming more and more doubtful of the work done in NGOs, businesses are growing stronger and say that the work done by NGOs is irrelevant. So working with a non-governmental organisation is a great job, is a great thing to do, but it gets tougher and tougher. What was the first NGO you worked in? The first NGO I worked in was my own NGO. I started an NGO back in 2001, and it was motivated by… I lost both of my parents because of HIV. When I was 9, we knew that my father was affected by HIV and he was dying of it, but they kept it as a secret for a long time, and he passed away when I was 12. We knew then that my mother was sick, and she lived with the disease for another 7 years. Throughout these 7 years, my family, my relatives, and my uncles and aunts took my mother to shrines because they thought it was witchcraft. So they went to witch doctors to help her, they went to other people, they tried all kind of things, herbs, medicines, and it just didn’t work. After my mum passed away, I went to university, and got a government scholarship. When I started my Master’s degree, I studied a lot on how Ugandan peasants react and participate in the political life of the country, and I’ve encountered so many people believing that HIV was witchcraft more than a disease you had “control over”, it was something coming from evil spirits. So I’ve created my own NGO in 2001, registered it in 2004, and I’ve stayed there until 2009 when I left for Denmark. The NGO is still based in Uganda, but it works on a small scale with rural communities, and the whole idea of it is to mobilise communities to stand up for themselves, and act at their scale. I think it’s better if it works at a small scale. When I came to Denmark we tried to get some big funding from huge organisations, but the more money people had, the less they were focused on the small people. How was it to start your own NGO? It was exciting, I was young, I was ambitious, I was curious, but I also had just lost my parents to this disease, and I really wanted to make a change. It was a way for me to hit back on HIV, it was like saying “You took away my parents, I’m going to fight you”, so I was really determined to do this. It was exciting, it was purposeful, and I was naïve also at the same time, so it was not much of a strategic and logical process. If you’d ask me to start an NGO now, I would spend more time on planning things. I didn’t plan it at that time, I just opened doors of other NGOs, put a computer in my office, and started writing things down. When I read some of the proposals I did back then I realise “Oh that’s why I didn’t get the money” *laughter*. But I didn’t care because I was driven by this energy to do things, and the willing to have revenge on the disease which took away my parents. When I started working with the local people and see these local women who would have been the age of my mother, and I was sitting there, teaching them about HIV and life skills, and I was looking at their faces and I thought : “They are my moms” you know? I think that my work in NGOs was the best time of my career, and there was no problem with money, the thing was : “I want to go out and do something!”. What kind of advice would you give to your younger self now that you have more experience? The NGO landscape has changed. It’s good to do good things, and have passion and the will to do things, but it’s important to be strategic. There are so many NGOs doing the work that I was

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New series on the blog: “Dive into the NGO world & the life of an expat!”

First things first, an introduction seems necessary. The Danish NGO Crossing Borders has started this new series of posts because their staff – i.e us- knows how hard it can be to find a permanent job in the NGO sector and to live out of it. Plus, there is a lack of information on how to achieve that. That’s why we wanted to compile testimonies from people working in NGOs, including how they got there, their advices… Working in an NGO also often means travelling and moving abroad. So, we also thought it could be interesting to hear the stories of people who had to “cross borders”. There are a lot of travel blogs out here, showing dreamy landscapes, leading one to think that travelling and moving is easy. But, as you may know, there are always downsides that people don’t really talk about, simply because bloggers’ aim is to make people dream. But, we think it’s interesting to hear the full story, so that you know that struggling is also part of the process of moving abroad, and is a path to achieving success. So, expect to find interviews and portraits of people from all around the world, of different age, with different backgrounds and ambitions. And hopefully, it can give you a more objective point of view on living abroad and how working in an NGO really is. Written by Alexandre Telliez and Chloé Ladeira, Crossing Borders’ interns and National Coordinators for France

New series on the blog: “Dive into the NGO world & the life of an expat!” Read More »

Inclusion, Democracy and Sunshine at Folkemøde 2017

Every year, the Danish political festival Folkemøde attracts people from all over the country on the lovely island of Bornholm. This year, Crossing Borders was lucky enough to share a tent with the organisation RIKO. From the 15th to the 18th of June, the CB team went to Bornholm and enjoyed life at the sunshine island. Our tent was located ideally, right next to the TV2 News studio, allowing several people to come by and great exposure for Crossing Borders. The tent was full of flyers and newsletter subscription forms for those who were interested. The Crossing Borders’ team was always ready to answer questions. Every day, several events took place in the tent. Some of them were held by RIKO and others by Crossing Borders. The ones held by Crossing Borders were events on Identity and Integration – with the participation of Bwalya Sørensen, and Peaceful Elections and Youth Resistance for Democracy – presented by Andrew Julius Bende and Milcah Abasabyona. Both events were successful and attracted a good crowd with interesting questions and comments. Bwalya Sørensen made her event very interactive as she encouraged the audience to share their stories and their opinions on the topic. This way, we got to hear, among others, the stories of a Brazilian girl who, thanks to the history of her country, considered herself as from all over the world and of a Danish man who spent three years in Zambia and now considers himself as 10% Zambian.   The speakers for the event on Peaceful Elections and Youth Resistance were both from Uganda. Therefore, they talked about their country of origin and about the situation in said country. They explained, for instance, that young people often did not see a point in voting as the outcome did not reflect what they voted. They are not very open on the subject. However, one of the solutions that was put forward was to organise sports events for instance and take 20 minutes out of this event to talk about voting. This way, people are more inclined to start a discussion. Of course, a lot more was discussed during both events. The Crossing Borders’ team could also enjoy some free time to have a walk around and go to other events. The general atmosphere of this festival was very positive. As a foreigner, the whole concept of this festival looked like a great idea. It is not something that exists in many countries, or in any other country for that matter. Seeing all the political parties and different organisations from Denmark gather for a weekend in the sole purpose to inform people and make all the information available for them was very inspiring. Walking around, it was easy to discover organisations we did not know about and which we found interesting. And what’s more, everybody was on the same level, there did not really seem to be any social differences. This can make people less intimidated by politics. People might realise that politics and national issues are more accessible than they thought it was. There is always a way to act even at the smallest scale, which people might not always be aware of. Overall, it was a great and successful weekend for Crossing Borders. We enjoyed bringing our work to Bornholm and hope we will have some new members as a result. We will definitely come back next year. There are already discussions about Folkemøde 2018, with the idea of sharing a tent with more organisations. See you next year! Article written by Chloé Ladeira – Crossing Borders Intern, and national coordinator  for France.

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