18 July 2018

In the week that Prince William visited Palestine on the first official royal tour, local charity YMCA Sutton Coldfield were busy hosting their own peace programme as part of a cultural youth exchange to the Royal town of Sutton Coldfield with 15 young Palestinians.

The group, aged 18 to 25, arrived from Bethlehem on the 22nd June and for most of them, it was the first time they had ever been to another country. Many of the group had never even left Bethlehem before, making the visit a phenomenal achievement against the challenging backdrop of the ongoing geographic situation in Palestine.

This visit, funded by Erasmus plus and Ecorys UK was the reciprocal youth exchange to last year’s YMCA trip to Palestine in June 2017 aimed at bringing people from the UK and Palestine together and creating “agents of peace” to promote harmony and challenge stereotypes in an informal learning environment.

As well as a visit to Parliament, highlights of the trip included sampling the diverse cuisine of Birmingham including fish and chips, curry, a traditional Sunday home cooked roast and a “cheeky Nando’s” with the curry at Simla in Boldmere being the firm favourite among guests!

With creative workshops and cultural discussions and debates, the trip represented a unique once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for the group from Bethlehem Bible College and was also an opportunity for the YMCA to proudly showcase the diversity in Sutton Coldfield.

The group, along with the British contingent of young people from Sutton Coldfield also performed a song together to the local community at St Peter’s Church, Maney, Sutton Coldfield. The piece, written by the participants in Arabic and English, was designed to promote inclusivity; one of the core values of the YMCA Sutton Coldfield.

Sinead Frith, International Projects Manager, who organised the exchange in partnership with the German YMCA said: “I’m immensely proud of the project and what it’s trying to achieve. Under difficult circumstances, we’ve brought together a group of people from very different backgrounds to challenge cultural stereotypes and promote peace.”

“What is both amazing and exciting is that despite the many cultural differences between the UK and Palestine, there are so many similarities and shared interests amongst the 2 groups of people. In the end, regardless of race, religion or culture, we share the same fundamental values”.

If anyone is interested in finding more about the YMCA Sutton Coldfield’s international projects and its continued work in Palestine, please contact Sinead Frith or Clive Yates on 0121 354 5614.