Volunteers’ Voices 1/2019: Connections through Communicating

Editorial: In Search of Intercultural Learning

The goal of Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland is to promote intercultural learning. In order to meet the goal, volunteers in Finland and around the world work as parts of local communities and live with local families. The theory behind is that interaction increases intercultural understanding.

If you have volunteered with Maailmanvaihto, hosted an international volunteer or offered a volunteer work placement, shared understanding however might not be the only thing you remember. Instead, memories include misunderstandings, facing language barrier, conflicts and frustration. Interaction became arguing, avoiding, influencing others’ opinions or battling for who’s rules to follow.

A few years back, I discovered the secret of constructive interaction that had been discovered by a bunch of researchers, societal influencers and ordinary people way before me. The name of the secret was dialogue and increase of understanding lied in its core.

Kai Alhanen (2017), a writer and philosopher, defines dialogue as curios examination of differences in meaning, deep listening and experience-based talk. Some critical conditions are sufficient time and equality of interactors.
Exploring dialogue further showed me that the principles are very simple but the practice, oh so difficult! Listen, ask, respect and share experiences – sure I can do these! In real life everyday haste and routines more often tend to gain the upper hand. It is more effortless to follow first impressions and interpretations than actively examine differences in meaning.

Efforts towards dialogue are nevertheless worthwhile. Each of us remembers a conversation after which there was a strong sensation of discovery, being heard and knowing the other person a little better. The feeling was empowering and accompanied by a touch of new understanding! Through the same magic, dialogical encounters may open a door to intercultural learning.

The MaailmanVaihtoa issue in your hands deals with interaction in the context of international volunteering – enjoy and seek out new points of views!

Suvi Niemelä
M.A (Intercultural Communication)
Board Member of Maailmanvaihto 2016–2018

In this issue

Pääkirjoitus: Kulttuurien välistä oppimista etsimässä 4
Kutsu kevätkokoukseen 6
Ajankohtaista 7
Min dag i Ecuador 11
Tule mukaan toimintaan 14
Perheenjäsen toiselta puolelta maailmaa 15
Terveisiä maailmalta! Greetings from abroad! 16
Vapaaehtoistyöntekijä opettaa ymmärtämään ja arvostamaan erilaisuutta 18
Tapahtumakalenteri 31
THEME ARTICLES:
Jokainen meistä voi olla sillanrakentaja 20
Yksilöitä, kohtaamaisia ja kansalliskuvia – mitä odottaa vapaaehtoisvuodelta ulkomailla? 22
Towards meaningful meetings in volunteering 25
Communication can clear the gap between generations 29