Travelling Trainers: From Istanbul to Iceland

The Travelling Trainers Scheme allows EFIL Member Organisations to request the participation of a trainer from the EFIL European Pool of Trainers (EPOT) to take part in national training or volunteer meetings. To encourage exchanges of expertise, interesting methodologies, ideas and concepts, EFIL funds a limited number of the Travelling Trainers per year. EFIL pays for the travel but does not cover the other expenses such as preparation, accommodation, etc. which is covered by the AFS organisation hosting the event.

Member organisations are invited to contact the EFIL Secretariat for more information.

Last month, Omer Ongun (EPOT member  and Organisational Development Coordinator of  AFS Turkey) attended Landsfundur AFS  – AFS Iceland national Training Weekend  – as a Travelling Trainer. EFILife asked him to tell us about his experience.

Omer

How prepared can you be when you are travelling to an island nation of 330,000 inhabitants from a city with a population of over 20 million? Iceland is special and it is even more charming, fascinating and mystical if you are travelling from Istanbul, Turkey. Yet, for me, the travelling trainer experience was not only an organisational and educational sharing but also a personal transformation facilitated by the hospitality and generosity of Icelandic AFSers.

I have been in the AFS family for over 13 years with countless hats, each offering incredible experiences, from volunteering to staff roles. I am currently directing the Organisational Development and Education Department at Türk Kültür Vakfı which is the main partner organisation for AFS Intercultural Programs in Turkey and a founding member of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL). However, it is my absolute passion going back to volunteering and “working in the field.” Last month offered me another great privilege to work with volunteers and staff across Iceland in Landsfundur AFS. Over 20 volunteers and staff of all ages across the island came together for a national gathering to discuss their priorities, strategies and action plans for the near future as well as to celebrate their hard work and commitment to make AFS Intercultural Programs possible and accessible in such a tiny nation compare to the rest of the world.

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Marin (Organisational Development Coordinator and ICL Responsible of AFS Iceland), Cátia (EVS intern from Portugal) and myself planned sessions, worked on our goals and the logistics of the programme a few weeks before the gathering. We were able to put together an agenda that was hopefully engaging, thought-provoking and fun. I was personally honoured to spend the weekend with the participants on refocusing our efforts towards “thinking beyond” in AFS rather than sticking to the everyday practices and operations in exchange programmes. AFS Iceland is very clear and keen on working more actively with communities, schools and external organisations in order to extend their impact and become an acknowledged educational organisation.

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Our venue was in a region of Iceland in which Laxdæla saga belongs to. Sagas are stories mostly about ancient Nordic and Germanic history, about early Viking voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, about migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families. They were written in the Old Norse language, mainly in Iceland (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saga). Laxdæla saga remains popular and appreciated for its poetic beauty and pathetic sentiment and it is considered to have an unusual feminine narration. After all, it might not be a coincidence to be thinking beyond the conventional paths in our organisation in a location that might be home to an unusual saga written possibly by a woman.

I wish, from the bottom of my heart, that EFIL continues to offer travelling trainer opportunities to the members of the EPOT (European Pool of Trainers). Such opportunities help us build a stronger, well connected and sharing community across Europe. Trainers gain cross cultural experiences, practice their training skills and share their wisdom and work with other members of the community. Most of us are restless learners; we seek more development and growth through creating learning opportunities. My experience in Iceland has offered me another one of those unforgettable learning and sharing opportunities!

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Text by Omer ongun

Photos by AFS Iceland