It occurred to me that I might document our student trip in The Corrymeela Diaries, a blog I wrote from June-September 2011 while I was a volunteer with The Corrymeela Communiy in Northern Ireland. I haven’t written in it since my return. In the first month after my last entry, the blog had in total about 2,000 hits. To date, it’s up to 13,000. I have no idea who is still reading it ... it’s kind of like I have released it into the blog-sphere and it has a life of its own. But I know there are a lot of folks interested in how and what we are doing for the next 10 days, and this is the best way I know how to keep them up to date.
As I began to collect my thoughts about where to start, I realized that my return to Northern Ireland is exactly 17 months to the day from when I left on September 21, 2011. As the plane rose above the George Best City airport in Belfast that day, I wondered how long it would be before my return. I knew in my heart it was never a question of “if”, but “when.”
I actually returned to Belfast much sooner than I thought I would, exactly a year ago, when I accompanied the Saint Mary’s university trip as a guest, hoping to explore how I might plan a similar yet distinct Dalhousie student trip. So, after months of planning, fundraising, educating ourselves and team building, here we are. The first picture is (from left) Sam, me, Ariane, Sarah, Alana, Alayna, Avery, and Emma at the Halifax airport Thursday evening. The second picture, our day 1 dinner last night at Robinsons in Belfast, includes Caitlyn (at the end of the table), who traveled to Belfast a week early to attend a family wedding.
The official name of our group is the Dalhousie Northern Ireland Dialogue for Peace Study Trip ... which is of course an incredibly long name to say each time we introduce ourselves. Even the acronym DaNIDiPS, which I used in organizing my mounds of paper around this trip, hardly fit on a little filing sticky. But long though it is, it does accurately explain what we are about. Each word is important.
We are here to explore theories and practices of peacemaking in Northern Ireland, particularly as they relate to high school youth. In preparation for the trip, we have researched basic conflict resolution theory, facilitated workshops on peace and conflict with high school youth in Halifax, and done some research on the contexts of peace and conflict in Nova Scotia, Canada and Northern Ireland.
During our time here we will meet with folks working for peace both in Belfast and in Corrymeela. We will travel to Corrymeela on Monday morning to spend three days learning about their long history of peacemaking. When we return to Belfast on Wednesday, we’ll get ready for two days of facilitating workshops in a Belfast high school, facilitated by Bernardo’s Children’s Charities.
And, no doubt there will be a Guinness or two in the evenings ... stay tuned for details of our adventure!