My name is Simona and as part of Lithuanian national team I had a chance to participate in a training course called “Living Library for Dialogue”, organized by Trajertory NGO. Even though it was one week lasted experience, I am pretty sure that I will always recall it as very meaningful, inspiring and empowering time of my life. Training course was organized in a in a very peaceful, calm, nature surrounded venue near small Estonian town called Otepää. For comparison we spent some valuable time in the second biggest Estonian city Tartu too. As situation in small towns and my own home city in Lithuania is pretty much the same, during training course activities it was very interesting to see these places with the eyes of participants who had arrived from very different environment. I learned that so many things we take for granted, or that potatoes diet, which I find pretty natural can be a bit disturbing for others (smily face).
First thoughts coming in my mind after getting familiar with a title of the training course were related with books, reading, sharing knowledge and experiences with other individuals, by making some kind of dialogue. My expectations towards this experience were not too far away from the reality, but luckily I got even more than I expected! Next to the title of the training course was mentioned mysterious key term “Euro-Med” which at first was not that easy to figure out. Luckily very soon I got to know that the participants with which I was planning to “make a dialog and read books” for a whole week together are coming not only from European Union countries, which I feel more or less familiar with but also from far far away places like Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Turkey. That for sure made me even more excited about this all experience! There is no doubt that I was looking forward meeting Italian, Estonian, Spanish and other Lithuanian participants as well, especially when it turned out that there was not that much book reading in a way I understood it. Books were people, not some printed or virtual materials! Every single individual happened to be full of stories, experiences and feelings, which was kind of clear for me even before taking part in this training course. BUT it turned out that when it is intentionally organized “Living Library” session in which everyone knows its part and specific role, all those stories, experiences and feelings come out and reach the target in a much more natural, organic and efficient way.
Don’t get me wrong, we were not sitting and “reading” each other for a whole week. All program of the training course was planned in a way that we would achieve enough knowledge, understanding, theoretical and practical background in order to prepare “Living Library” session first of all between ourselves – participants and latter we could spread this concept with our own communities. During the preparation days we were drawing “Flowers of Identity”, played very competitive card games in a “Cultural Casino”, tried to find a group in which we belong while having different shaped stickers on our foreheads, listened a bedtime story about people, who were born with certain colour sunglasses and took part in many more playful activities. No matter how “unserious” these activities looked like in a beginning, by using these non-formal methods of learning we got an opportunity to get to know better ourselves and observe others, without judging, to discuss sensitive topics such as prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination etc. After every activity we figured out more and more hidden information about our learned behaviour, cultural patterns, influences each of us inhabit from our surroundings. By facing these uncomfortable facts about ourselves in a playful way we were able to rethink and maybe even change our actions easier, without judging in a more conscious way.
During this training course I learned that organizational part of a simple session of “Living Library” is not such an easy process how it seemed to be. It requires a lot off preparation, thinking, planning and sensitivity especially towards the consequences both for a “book” person, who is willing to share the most sensitive feelings and stories and for a “reader” person who might not be ready to receive new information without his personal judgment, prejudice and other destructive feelings. Even though before organizing the session I had a chance to spend some time with the participants of the training course while having my breakfast, lunch, dinner or during my free time, surprisingly I did not get to know them that well, how it happened in just 15 minutes of the “Living Library” session. That gave me an insight about how important it is to make platforms like this where the main goal of participants would be just sharing, active listening, learning from each other, asking questions and getting answers, while knowing that all stories matter – it gives hope, lessons, makes this world a better place with more empathy and better understanding. I feel very thankful for everyone who made this experience happen and hope that many “Living Library” sessions will be organized in different corners of our planet which will lead to the most positive outcomes for all of us.