I have been working here as a volunteer staff member since September, 2012. Our office is shared by multiple NGOs whose members come in and out depending on their individual schedules. New York lives up to its reputation as the “melting pot” of the world, with a variety of people in terms of ethnicity, culture, and language represented even in this office. In today’s blog post, I would like to talk about my multi-cultural life at the Peace Boat US office.
Within our own organization for example, Peace Boat US has seven members including our Director, volunteer staff members, and interns. Here are our diverse ethnic background: Syrian-Irish, Filipino, English-Dutch-Scottish-native Indian, African-European-Indigenous (Peru), Chinese (ethnically Chinese and culturally Italian), Jewish, and Japanese. If I add the information of other organizations in this office, there is even more cultural diversity here: French, Korean, Indian, Ethiopian, and British.
Quite often we share lunch and eat together at a round table in the office. For us, it is normal to carry on pleasant, harmonious conversations among Chinese, Korean, and Japanese as we share and enjoy the same food.
When I read and listen to news sources and social media, however, I often encounter unpleasant expressions in political coverage among China, Korea, and Japan. For me, it is clear that they do not spend enough time or effort to truly understand each other. We have many more similarities than differences, don’t we? It is so much easier to share and enjoy the commonalities rather than criticizing our differences, isn’t it?
Last March through July, I was given the opportunity to volunteer as a communication coordinator on the 79th global voyage of Peace Boat. Visiting 22 countries in 102 days, I confirmed that our lunch table is the future of creating global peace through dialogue. Onboard the ship, we held events with youth from the GPPAC network (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict). Night after night we had heated discussions among passengers and International Students from various Asian countries. Over 60 years ago, young men from these countries first met at a battle field without knowing each other, without thinking that they were all someone’s son, father, brother and each of them had a mother, daughters, and sisters waiting for their safe return to their hometowns. The nightly discussions onboard gave us precious opportunities to learn from each other and to find similarities rather than differences. As we say good bye to each other, we all smiled, some were in tears with joy and reiterated that this is the way we build our peaceful future.
Across the street, in the front property of the United Nations, you see a statue of a twisted gun like a tied knot. As an International NGO with consultative status of ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and DPI (Department of Public Information) status, Peace Boat US is working together with the UN in order to educate others on disarmament, peace-building and sustainable development. Are you interested in joining us onboard? We welcome all participants and interested volunteers to contact us via our website at www.peaceboat-us.org
This post was written by Rachel, Peace Boat US Volunteer Staff.