ROTARY WORLD PEACE FELLOW REPORT by g766hd

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									       ROTARY WORLD PEACE FELLOW REPORT
                        REPORT 1: BRADFORD BEGINNINGS
                                RACHEL YORDY



First Impressions and Setting Down Roots:

It is hard to believe that two months have passed since my arrival in Bradford this September;
it feels like home already. I was fortunate to land on my feet: finding a room in a private
residence with other World Peace Fellows from Somaliland, Japan, Palestine and Zambia;
meeting friends that share interests in African languages, politics and development; and
receiving tremendous support from host counselors on both sides of the Atlantic. The
University of Bradford has fully lived up to my expectations and its reputation for Peace
Studies. I am enrolled in courses that truly interest and challenge me with leading professors
in the field. The library offers a great selection of books and journals for my interests in
development, Africa, and peace theory. The
weather may not be ideal, but it’s perfect for
curling up with a book and getting those papers
done. And, after coming from the 40-degree heat
and incessant sun of Egypt, I’m quite happy to
experience cooler weather, take in the ever-
changing clouds in these beautiful Yorkshire
dales (right), and even be caught out in an
occasional downpour. After finding myself a pair
of ‘Wellies’ (i.e. rubber boots to North
Americans) and a local pastry shop I hope I’m
well on my way to local integration.

To maintain balance between theory and practice I also found a part-time job working with
refugees, which is a particular passion of mine. I hope to write a dissertation on livelihood
strategies for refugees in Cairo - particularly single mothers - but am keen to learn as much as
I can about the policies and opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees in both global
north and south. As an advice worker at Bradford Action for Refugees, I’m learning much
about how the sharp wheels of the British bureaucracy turn for those not welcome within the
UK's boundaries, and strive to offer a listening ear or make phone calls to the home office or
                                              a local housing management company to support
                                              those who come through our doors in their day to
                                              day struggles. This weekend a colleague and I
                                              had the opportunity to take a few refugee families
                                              (including this Palestinian family, left) to the
                                              Opera in Leeds. It was amazing how easy it was
                                              to talk sports and school with the 5-10 year olds –
                                              and thrilling to watch their excitement at the
                                              Leeds Christmas lights and Opera House. There’s
                                              something so universal about childhood, and it’s
                                              wonderful to be reminded of the little joys of life,
                                              and that there’s much more to life than school!

Overall, I’ve found things that add richness and meaning to life here, and am happy to be
studying in Bradford.




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Academic Activities and Progress:

As a student in the University’s African Peace Studies MA, I am taking three courses this
semester: “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies”, “Introduction to African Politics” and
“Introduction to Conflict Resolution.” My favourite is undoubtedly African Politics with
Professor Nana Poku, a long-time colleague and friend of Kofi Annan who has incredible
academic perspectives and stories to share from his consulting work with the United Nations
all over the continent. I appreciate Nana’s breadth of knowledge as well as his humility in
articulating where he believes his UN missions have gone wrong, and the limits of his own
knowledge. To see him grappling with the human consequences of his actions, and yet to
maintain a sense of optimism in facing the challenges that continue to thwart development
and peace in Africa is truly inspiring. Prof Poku should be leading a study trip to Uganda next
semester, and I hope to participate in the group.

We have actually finished our first course already – the Introduction to Peace and Conflict
Studies module. For the first six weeks of this course we had two lectures a week because the
theoretical concepts were deemed so central that we needed them at the very beginning of the
degree. I wrote my first paper on the significance of inequalities and environmental
constraints as sources of conflict now and in the future, and how the linkages between these
two factors may lead to an increase in conflict if globalization and global warming continue
unfettered. It was a very challenging paper for me and I learned much while reading and
researching for it. We should receive our marks by the end of the week, and indeed, the
whole group is holding our breaths to see what the grading is like for MAs at Bradford. As
part of the course we also participated in a one-day gender workshop, which was a course
highlight for me. After intercultural and theoretical discussions in the morning, I participated
in a ceasefire negotiation simulation in the afternoon led by a practitioner who co-facilitated
the Bosnia negotiations with the United Nations back in the early 1990s. I often learn best
through experience, and found this to very insightful both in how these negotiations work, as
well as in the explicit (and intentional) absence of gender sensitivity throughout the
simulation.


Involvement with Rotary:

As I related in a recent blog post, I have been profoundly touched by the generosity of
Rotarians in both Canada and England! I have been communicating with John Wahl at my
local Rotary Club in Waterloo since January 2008 and the Fellowship application process was
just beginning. He and the Waterloo club have been incredibly supportive: backing me up
100% as the application went to the district and then international levels, inviting me to attend
and speak at a couple of meetings, and setting me up with a beautiful umbrella and provisions
for the journey over. Through support from Fred Sweeny at the district level I have also had
the honour of meeting Rotarians in Fergus, Simcoe and Cambridge, and deeply respect their
commitment to service initiatives in their communities and around the globe (eradicating
polio, investing in education, mobilizing humanitarian support through shelterbox etc!).

                                On the English side of the pond, I have been blessed with two
                                host counselors offering advice and support in all kinds of
                                amazing and unexpected ways. I was initially partnered with
                                the wonderful Wally Hirst (and his equally lovely wife
                                Margaret – left with Altaf from Class VII). Wally was very
                                generous with his time, answering logistical questions,
                                connecting me with others, viewing potential flats and
                                welcoming me into his world. Then, shortly before I arrived,
                                our group learned that one of our members would be unable to



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join us as a result of linguistic challenges, so I was asked if Marcela Livingston could be my
host counselor instead. Of course I agreed. When she picked me up from the airport (at
4:45am!) that first morning I immediately knew we would get along well. She's a big-hearted
Argentinian artist who has been so welcoming and generous: giving me a place to crash as I
needed, helping to navigate the myriad things required to settled into a new life (registering
for uni, getting a bank account, sorting accommodations, providing me with bedding etc) and
providing emotional support and loads of hugs. In fact, both Marcela and Wally have offered
tremendous emotional and logistical support in dealing with an eye problem that required
specialist attention and then surgery shortly after my arrival. (Wally connected me with an
Ophthalmologist friend while Marcela drove me to
the multiple medical appointments to get the surgery
done). I have really enjoyed spending time with
Marcela on outings and at conferences, and with
Wally and Margaret at Rotary dinners – they’re all
such wonderful, kind-hearted people. Marcela’s love
of Peace Fellows led her to take a whole car-full of us
(right) to the District Conference in Southport and
host our entire group (classes VII and VIII) for an
evening of socializing and reflections after the Rotary
Peace Conference. Amazing!

In terms of participating in Rotary events, I have taken part in all three organized gatherings
to date:

    -   The Leicester ‘Link Weekend’ with Ambassadorial Fellows: September 25-27;
    -   The Yorkshire District Convention in Southport: October 7-9, 2009; and
    -   The Annual Rotary Peace Conference at Bradford: October 30-31, 2009

All three served as opportunities to bond with other Class VIII World Peace Fellows, learn
more about Rotary culture and service both locally and internationally, and connect with
Rotarians from all over the United Kingdom. Highlights from these events included brilliant
presentations by the Department of Peace Studies’ Professor Paul Rogers – perhaps one of the
most eloquent and insightful professors out there – and hearing about the Applied Field
Experiences (AFEs) of Class VII World Peace Fellows during the Bradford Seminar. I also
really appreciated a home-stay weekend with Moira and Howard Bartlett in Leicester and
their kindness and hospitality in showing Yoko (another Class VIII fellow, from Japan) and I
the sights and countryside around Great Glen.

Below are a couple photographs of group members during these three events.




           Rotary World Peace Fellows - Class VIII (missing Mable from Zambia)


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                                                    Left: Rajaa (Israel/Palestine), Goranka
                                                    (Australia/Serbia), Torie (New Zealand), Mable
                                                    (Zambia), and Bryan (Canada) taking a break from
                                                    Morris Dancing during Link Weekend

                                                    Right: Yoko (Japan), Moira, and I in Leicester




Finally, this week I had the opportunity to connect with Marcela’s Rotary Club, Bradford-
Bronte. On November 19th Marcela picked me up at the crack of dawn (well, 7:00am) to
offer “Reflections on a Path of Peace”, a photo-based presentation about my experiences and
inspirations to date. At the suggestion of another club member, Phil, we began my talk with a
short video speech given by Bill Huntley, the visionary behind the World Peace Fellowship
Programme and a moving orator. It contextualized the programme beautifully! Overall I
think things were positively received by Rotarians, and we shared an enjoyable breakfast. I
have to gush a bit - I was quite impressed with the spirit of Marcela’s club. Not only were
they lively and asking sharp questions first thing in the morning, there was a real spirit of
camaraderie and care between members. I hope to connect with them again, perhaps in the
new year.


Successes and challenges as a Rotary World Peace Fellow

I think I’ve spoken about the major successes already – setting down roots, participating
enthusiastically in Rotary functions, and finding meaningful ways to connect with others in
Bradford. On a personal level I am also starting to forge some significant friendships with
other Peace Fellows and classmates from around the world. One of these friends and I are
starting to coordinate regular peace studies movie nights, and I have already traveled with
another.

The challenges I have faced have primarily involved balancing the significant commitments
to Rotary in the first few months of the programme with course work and friendship-building.
Class VII have promised us that the number of activities will lessen and we will be able to
focus more of our energies on our coursework from now on, which, I must admit I am
looking forward to. While we are incredibly grateful for the support of Rotary, and intend to
take our commitments seriously throughout the fellowship, it may be advisable (both
financially and logistically) for the World Peace Fellows to attend only the District
Convention, and forgo Link Weekend in subsequent years. I had fun in Leicester, however I
did not really bond with Ambassadorial Fellows much, or feel I needed the weekend to
understand Rotary International or build relationships with other World Peace Fellows

Let me not end on a heavy note however. One final success for me thus far has been in
starting dialogue with members of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) in Egypt regarding a potential internship with them this summer. I have
applied online, and have also sent a CV and cover letter to a colleague who serves as the



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Medical Focal Point on the Community Team. He has emailed these on my behalf to human
resources staff, with a wonderful recommendation letter, and provided me with additional
contact information to follow up on this in the coming weeks. Because I am quite clear on
where and how I want to focus my AFE I am confident that something will work out, be it
with the UNHCR or in simply conducting field research for my dissertation in Cairo –
perhaps with the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies.




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