Inspired by the World Day for Cultural Diversity, on May 21, the Bulgarian alumni community organized a webinar entitled What Does Diversity Mean in Today’s world. Diversity is one of the biggest lessons YES and FLEX alumni shared about their experience during the cultural exchange, and the subject is more relevant than ever. Bulgarian Alumni coordinator, Viktoria Panayotova opened the webinar with the words “Diversity is beautiful. Diversity is precious. Diversity is everywhere. To be different is a privilege”. With everything going on in our world nowadays, diversity is what keeps us closer and together.
For the webinar on Diversity two guest speakers were invited. Megan Lysaght is an academic exchange expert in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and for the last five years worked with American Councils as a YES program manager. Ghislaine Akourim (YES ’16 from Morocco) is a storyteller trainer, educational facilitator, and Ashoka Change maker. Thirty YES and FLEX alumni joined the webinar and asked many interesting questions. Both Megan and Ghizlane talked about their stories and experience with great examples and activities that were engaging audience. Megan shared about her experience on diversity and had an interactive approach to the participants and shared that we should care about diversity because of the beauty that it brings to our world and to ourselves and opens our minds. She finished her presentation with a quote from Barak Obama: “Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” Ghizlane shared that her journey in diversity started with her YES year, and she presented as a storyteller to reflect on her experience. She added that being part of the YES program helped her understand who she is, and when she came back to Morocco, she organized events on diversity and inclusion. She realized how much is there to be learned about one’s own country and how to be together without discrimination against others in the country. She talked about four layers of diversity and also the quote that she learned during the YES exchange and now it helps her teach her students about diversity “ Not better not worse just different” and to embrace it in all aspects of their lives.
On questions on concrete situations and diversity in everyday life, our guest speakers answered with great encouragement to take surroundings and cultural context into account but also to expect that there are limitations within. The feedback we got from many participants just confirmed how important is this subject in today’s word.