Big Hope 2: Stories That Move, and “All You Need is Love”

   

As a newbie to the UK, I was filled with so much excitement when we were en route to land. When we arrived, I heard the accents of our lovely student greeters and immediately fell in love. There’s something about experiencing a new culture that makes me feel so alive. Being in an entirely new setting always brings me back to the feelings of being a child. Wandering around in awe as everything around me is so fresh and unfamiliar. For example, today we went to the Lake Districts as my day trip. We were driving in the biggest bus down the tiniest roads, and I would look to my left and see what seemed like painting after painting. Where I grew up, all I saw was flat land and boring buildings. Here, there were deep valleys, mass greenery, and waterfalls that reminded me of how crazy cool of a Creator we have. A quick food-for-thought, witnessing the Lake Districts provoked the notion to never set limitations on any dreams and/or aspirations. God made the biggest and most imaginative things come to life, and through Him, we’re able to do that too.

Along with all the beauty, I just had so much fun. Today especially, the company made the long bus rides and overall experience so memorable. I spent a great amount of time with two students from China. We exchanged slang, language, and dance moves, but we also spent time discussing experiences with race and stereotypes. We talked about the difference of being Asian living in America and Asian living in Asia. It was, in an odd way, comforting and exciting for me, because I don’t often get the chance to have those kinds of genuine conversations especially in the States. We were able to connect in such an immediate and purely joyful manner, all because we both made the decision to travel and be intentional in getting to know one another.

Generally speaking, those kinds of intentional discussions are what made this trip so enjoyable and fruitful for me. My favorite part has simply been meeting people I would’ve never met otherwise, and learn from their diverse experiences and outlooks on the world. In particular, I loved my learning track and the people I worked with. I was in Stories That Move which sheds light on the realities of discrimination. Our team decided to use stories as a way to give people a platform to speak up about their experiences and what they want our society to do to combat such prejudices. We collectively believed that personal stories was the most powerful way in communicating the importance of ending discrimination. As a part of our project we went to the Slavery Museum in Liverpool to interview people who may have stories of their own they’d like to share. We had a successful trip and came back with their experiences, both direct and indirect, regarding stereotypes and unjust judgments. Along with their stories, we took portraits of them to give a face to their voice. We then did the same procedure with our own narratives and experiences. Finally, we made a Facebook page to give people the platform to share their stories, and we got our first story by someone yesterday! This project was incredibly encouraging because not only did it shed importance on the life of each individual, but it reminded me of the importance of mine. I was reminded that my story and voice has a place, and should be used in order to empower the present generation, and those to come.

I’d say the anthem of this week was “All You Need is Love”, as it was performed in the opening and closing ceremonies, the final concert, and hummed among others while walking from session to session. It’s safe to say this will be stuck in my head for weeks. The meaning of this song reigned true among many of those I met in this Big Hope 2 conference. Whether it was through laughter, inclusion, or purposeful conversation, I’ll always be grateful to those who shared their love with me this past week. No matter how cliché, overused, and  undermined the word “love” sounds to many, it’ll always be a profound and effective one to me. It was love that was behind many of the conversations had where people shared bits of their lives with one another. It was love behind people’s intentionality and desire to be present. It was love behind people’s passions to see this world become a better place. Love was the driving force of what made this conference come together in all the good ways that it did. See, I think people have forgotten about the power that comes when choosing to simply love. In this conference, the goals discussed such as world peace, equality, freedom, and human rights are only going to reign victorious when people choose to foster the radical and profound act of love. When we do that we’ll see a people who look at one’s identity before racial stereotypes. We’ll see people be first responders in places of violence and oppression. We’ll see a world that actually values selflessness and compassion, when we take love seriously.

 

— By Jillian Chang

Big Hope 2: Global Citizenship

The Big Hope 2 has been one of the best experiences of my life so far! I loved coming together with passionate and fun-loving people from all over the world to discuss global issues in the city of Liverpool. I felt so alive, motivated, and inspired during the whole week and my heart was fuller than it had been in a long time. This conference reaffirmed my beliefs and passion for cultures and global challenges. The speeches and discussions inspired me to be an active global citizen and to work for the common good, but my favorite thing was my learning track. Everyone got to choose a learning track, which was like a mini project, from 27 different options. I chose “Global Citizenship, Education, and Faith” and got to work on that one during the week.

The track was led by six Italian professors who were all eager to work with our group and share about their culture. Our group was probably the biggest one at the conference with around 25 students from different countries. I was fascinated by all the diversity represented in our classroom from language to skin color to religion to gender and more. Below you can see a video of our group saying “hello/good morning” in our native languages!

We focused on defining the concept of global citizenship based on our experiences and ideas. First, we all showed pictures and videos from our countries that were related to our idea of global citizenship. Then, we wrote down the themes represented in our pictures like family, faith, music, food, nature, and others. I enjoyed seeing how no matter where we were from, we all valued the same things even if it was to a different extent. It reminded me that our common humanity unites us despite our differences.

One of the days, we went down to the city center together and had a blast! We first went to a museum, and then we got a walking tour of the city. We were amazed by the beauty and history of the city and took advantage of it by taking lots of pictures together. It was such a fun day and it brought us closer together.

The other days we worked on a project to show to the rest of the groups in the conference. Since we were a big group, we made four projects which included a presentation with a video, two songs, comics, and a handmade symbol. I worked on the presentation and had a lot of fun putting everything together and combining all our ideas. I was also glad to help as a translator for the group coordinator who only spoke Italian and Spanish. We finished our projects on time and presented them to the rest of the people at the conference, and we even got to perform a song at the closing concert!

Looking back, I am so grateful I chose that learning track, but most of all, I’m thankful for the people who were in it. I learned a lot from them and now I have new friends in different countries! We befriended each other on social media to keep up with our lives; yet, I really hope I get to see them in person again. My main takeaway from the learning track and the conference in general was that our common humanity should go over nationality and anything else that distinguishes us from each other. We are all global citizens and our race is humanity. This does not mean we should abandon our other identities. It means we should recognize that we are also members of the world community; therefore, we all share the same global identity and are responsible for our community. For the years to come, I aspire to be an active citizen wherever I am, celebrating diversity and seeking solutions to global issues at a local and global scale. You can do that too!

— By Biana Reyes Alvarenga

Bianca is third person in this photo, left to right

 

Big Hope 2: Women in Leadership

The Women In Leadership discussion panel was impassioned, thought provoking, multi-layered, and empowering. I do not recall how many times I found myself saying “wow”, while nodding my head in agreement and clapping. The women on the panel were incredibly intelligent, experienced, relatable, and funny. I left the discussion feeling ready to take on the world. Thank you, Angela Samata, Dr. Abhaya Gurumurthy, Professor Cindy Hamilton, and Professor Lesley Regan for being role models to us during this convention, as well as to thousands of women globally.

Each speaker took on a different role/topic to discuss, with the help of their differing backgrounds to enrich and guide the way. Angela Samata, the chair of the survivors of the bereaved by suicide organization, discussed with us on a  professional level about the means she went through to create her organization, which started with just her and two others, but she was also very personal and open with us. She became a widow at age 32 with two kids who were at ages 3 and 13 at the time. They are now 18 and 29. Before attending this discussion panel I did not know that around 6,500 people commit suicide in the UK per year, so obviously organizations like hers are needed and greatly appreciated. Three key points she left with us were: 1) She achieved nothing alone. She said that you are only a leader if people want to follow you. Because she was able to cultivate the proper qualities of leadership, she was able to gather around her the right people needed to achieve their collective goals. During this talk she also said, “don’t assume all women are for you. [Sisterhood] doesn’t automatically exist.” 2) Don’t be afraid to say thank you. This is something we can all put into practice on a day to day basis. 3) Write down personal achievements in order to defeat “imposter syndrome”. This means doing whatever it takes to shut down feelings of inadequacy and answering questions like “Why am I here?” with “Because I deserve to be!”

The second speaker on the panel was Dr. Abhaya Gurumurthy, assistant professor at Christ University Bangalore. She was also later one of three teachers in my Storytelling, Identity, and Community learning track class. When introducing herself Dr. Gurumurthy shared a few stories of women around the world who “accidentally” became leaders, empowering themselves as well as other women to get things done and making positive impact for entire communities. One story she told us was of a woman named Mariama living in Guatemala. A Coca-Cola company had moved into Mariama’s town and ended up exploiting their resources like water. So, Mariama, a widow around the age of 15, took a group of women to the front doors of the factory holding water jugs in protest. This small act was able to shut down the factory and bring back resources for the community. With this story and others, Dr. Gurumurthy was able to show us how women are usually those who would take up social justice problems dealing with things like natural resources, education, alcohol abuse and misuse, driving etc. Women are always creating ways to help, even if they do not intentionally seek out to become leaders.

A third speaker was Cindy Hamilton, a retired professor from Liverpool Hope University. She is currently working with Dr. Gurumurthy by making documentaries themed “Empowering Women, Articulating Women”. Professor Hamilton gave us several tips on what makes a leader. Some of what she said includes: seeing vision and possibilities and then being able to articulate them, looking at the talents around you, activating them and using them towards a common goal, not commanding authority, and working with others and relying on others because they want a better future. Ms. Hamilton also brought up that there are different styles of leadership that do not need to keep us in a box simply because we are female. She talked about a way of leading that was “not exactly a feminist way of leading, but a way that was not patriarchal”.

The last woman on the discussion panel platform was Professor Lesley Regan. She teaches at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and is also head of the NHS trust at St Mary’s Hospital. With her medical background, Professor Regan kindly taught us a little bit about what she did ranging from helping women through miscarriage, abortion, still births, etc. She was very intelligent, bold and opinionated saying things that needed to be said like, “if you make them [abortions] difficult to access they just go underground. They don’t go away and then women die”. She worked to make sure that women around the world not only received disease intervention, but also the knowledge on how to live healthy lifestyles so they could take care of themselves. Her talk with us included many topics she’s dealt with like the gender imbalance in medicine. She had three main key points — three groups of people to have alongside your journey. The first being mentors, male and female. The second being people who believe in you and inspire you. Lastly, Professor Regan said it was important to have challengers. These people are not there to belittle you or make things difficult, but instead to motivate you to do better and achieve more. I found Professor Regan to be quite funny and one memorable quote was “never waste a good crisis, which is usually on a Friday afternoon after lunch… Always turn it around”.

— By Ernesta Cole

Big Hope 2: A Whole New Perspective

As each student pulled themselves away from their beds and into the dining hall this morning they were greeted by an array of tired smiles. It has become clear from body language and conversations that most delegates are filled with the quiet contentment of a job well done. This has been a difficult week. A purposeful, driven, and enriching week which will not soon be forgotten, but difficult nonetheless. The root of the difficulty, at least personally, has been considering everything in a broader context outside of that which comes naturally in my native culture. This has been manifested in discussions about poverty, racial discrimination, political disarray, and unnecessary deaths, as well as remembering to ask for the nearest toilet rather than restroom. At no point in this week has it been possible to consider solely my own culture as a white, heterosexual, Christian male from the United States because the world looks so different for anyone who does not fit into those same categories.

I was reminded this week how profoundly impactful the United States is to the rest of the world. Economic, religious, cultural, political, and scientific changes in the United States are echoed across the globe. From layoffs occurring in India as a result of the Recession, to churches being burned in Pakistan as a result of tweets written by a Florida pastor, I was directly reminded of the world’s interconnectedness. That is not to say that the U.S. is the cause of the world’s problems; in fact, it would seem that this is far from the truth. Delegates and speakers from countries around the world told me about the problems, corruption, or prejudices which occur on a daily basis in their home countries. As I listened to their stories I could hear the same desperate frustration in their voices that I hear from Americans discussing hot-button topics such as immigration, racism, and gun rights where the consensus is that something needs to change while the perfect answer to these problems seem to be a long way off and quite difficult to see.

The realization of the extent of the problems first struck me after three days into my learning track where we discussed problems in the education system and what must be done so that the best education can be given to all students. As we sat in our small classroom, it finally dawned on me that there was no answer the professors leading the session were expecting. The material we covered could not be simply dropped into a multiple choice question were the right answer could be given by filling in a bubble dot. Rather, this is a question facing humanity as a whole, and in a room filled with professors, graduate students, teachers, and myself, all that was clear was that no universal answer to this question seems to exist.

I hope to not misrepresent the Big Hope 2, however; because despite the sad stories and the global issues, this conference was anything but disheartening as the theme of the conference reflected the name of the institute: Hope. As I listened to the keynote speakers and panelists during the discussions I could not help but be impressed by their credentials. I heard from Baronesses, Right Honors, Reverends, Excellencies, Sirs, Colonels, Fathers, Professors, and more. These distinguished individuals took the time out of their surely busy schedules to address us and to encourage our compassion, leadership, and most of all, willingness to create change for the better in our own communities. For most of the conference I fell into the trap of simply listening with awe and admiration at these individuals, regarding what they have done in their pasts and amazing in their own sense; however, the final speaker changed this thought process entirely. Sir Christopher Stone reminded all of the delegates that it is the young who have the greatest ability to change the world today. The speakers at the Big Hope 2 were great individuals with good hearts who want the best for everyone but it will be our generation who will be inheriting those positions and we still have time to live our lives just as richly as our speakers lived theirs.

This conference did not end with the answer for ending war or hunger or pain. In a world so broken by sin it is hard to imagine a place where such problems could be ended entirely, yet hope remains. It remains in the belief that people across the world are much more similar than they are different. It remains in the understanding that a smile and laughter are universal languages. And it remains in the fact that we all want more love in the world. As the Big Hope 2 ended tonight and the delegates flooded into the campus student space this point became even more clear. Individuals across geographical, religious, racial, political, and economic background joined together in a night of singing and dancing from music from across the globe and the friendships that were formed at this conference simply blossomed. In this moment, the problems of the world did not go away but any barriers between delegates did. I suppose that’s what this conference was hoping to accomplish albeit on a global scale, and while I know that when I go back home I will undoubtedly be reminded of how broken this world is, I can still retain the memory of tonight where perhaps God allowed us delegates a quick peek at how He envisioned community.

By Bradley Dixon

 

Big Hope 2: Little Things Matter

When I was told to write a blog post about the Big Hope 2 Conference I decided to wait longer. Why? Because I thought maybe there is going to be something very huge that is going to change my experience and that I will never forget — something similar to meeting the President of your country, your favorite singer or even signing a contract. You know THAT FEELING! The days went by so fast and as I am sitting here I realise that the things that touched me and changed the way I see things were the little things.

My first experience was with an incredible woman named Angela Samata. She is a BAFTA Award winner and her story is so life-changing. After she shared her story, I decided to linger and eventually I had the chance to speak to her. We instantly connected. After exchanging our contacts, I was hopeful that she would keep her promise of staying in touch with me. When I was about to leave and talking with my friend outside of the ‘VIP’ place  for guests, she decided to come out and interrupt my conversation with a friend to invite us to her table. It might be nothing to some, but I was touched. In that very moment I saw humility, love and honesty. It’s only been a few days but she emailed me already. She kept her word and I like it; but I’m also here wondering: how can a person who has been through so much have such a beautiful and warm heart?

Another experience was when everyone left me at Liverpool Hope University alone. Somehow that day I did not feel too well, and everyone was in the mood to go downtown. So after taking a nap, everybody had disappeared. Talk about being hurt? Honey, that was betrayal at the highest level. LOL! So I decided to have fun on my own. Guess what? I read a book. Huh! While I was reading, one of the speakers from our discussion forums decided to come speak to me. In my head, everything was spinning. Why would he talk to me? To my surprise he just wanted to know about Rwanda. We had a conversation and I knew it was an opportunity to get connections. It is not every day that you get the chance to speak to a multi-millionaire from Nigeria. We exchanged contacts and he was very humble the entire time. People are actually not who we think they are. There is always a person beneath the position and the power. Everyone is human and no man is more important than the other. He showed me that.

Lastly, one of the greatest highlights has been getting to know Hope College students. It’s crazy how just a change in an environment can make people come closer and make people know one another better. I discovered personalities, laughs, smiles, cries, vulnerabilities, and the list goes on. That was my favorite part.  And it’s all these little things to me that mattered on this trip. I felt like for once I have people I know and am safe with away from home. Shout out to all of them!

 

By Brenda Indekwe

Big Hope 2: Friday – Education Session

We had multiple speakers come in on Friday to give us some fruit for thought, like Phil Jennings the General secretary of the UNI Global union. He quoted Nelson Mandela by saying “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” His talk was followed by a discussion on the topic of education, where I got to listen to seven impressive people talk about their views on this topic.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

I believe education is the key to peace because it is the greatest tool we have for stopping strife and resolving almost every issue currently plaguing the world. I think to truly understand and respect one another we need the will to take the first step and experience the different cultures that are present all around us. I think overall I am having a great time broadening my views on current issues in the world and experiencing all sorts of different cultures and perspectives, and I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to do this.

 

By Kenneth Munyuza

Big Hope 2: First Day Thoughts

Hey, everyone! Quick life update: I’m spending this next week in Liverpool, England, at a global leadership conference called The Big Hope 2! 400 students have traveled from all over the world to attend these leadership seminars together! I was given this opportunity through my Social Work academic advisor, Dr. Feaster, and am traveling with 20 awesome students from Hope! I couldn’t be more excited for what I’ll learn in the coming days and thought I would share a bit about our first day here. What I’ve learned today has already challenged me to think deeper about how to be a better leader, and overall, a better person!
While there weren’t any seminars today, there were a few comments made during our opening ceremonies that I took note of…

A quote was shared from Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensberry— “I believe in the sun even when I cannot see it, and I believe in love even when I cannot feel it. Love isn’t feeling, it’s DOING.”

Rev. Michael Lapsley stated that, “every story needs a listener.” Also, “whether religious or not, we are all simply trying to figure out WHY we’re here.”

And His Excellency Karma Ura said, “half a tree isn’t visible, it’s underground. Half a person isn’t visible — you cannot fully understand them unless you see their roots.”

As someone who wants to work with people, I LOVED hearing this messages this afternoon. It motivated me to have an open mind to new friends, new discussions, and even new food! I’m happy that some of my closest friends are a part of this group, but I’m also eager to see what new friendships develop after this conference!

 

By Madelyn Mikitka