Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Actually I wanted to study arts or foreign languages, but it just happened that I went for medicine to help people and to “save the world”. Never losing sight of my love of foreign languages I studied nine besides medical school and later on I did a Master’s degree in human rights. So it ocurred quite naturally that I started to volunteer 17 years ago in the organisation that I am now head of: Ambulatorium Caritas Marienambulanz.
It is a small clinic where people without health insurance or people with difficulties accessing the public health system get medical treatment for free. Amongst our patients are many migrants and refugees. In 2015 we saw the so-called “refugee crisis”, many of the arrivals from back then are nowadays our patients: people from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. With the incoming of so many people from other cultures tensions within Austria have been rising, as well as the challenges in the healthcare sector.
I already bring many people together in my job: volunteers from Austria and many other nations. As I genuinely like people to understand one another as human beings I did the training to be a mediator. And hoping to be able to tackle the issue on an even larger scale – how to live a good life together in Austria – I applied for the Rotary peace fellowship.
And has it helped me into the right direction ? Yes, definitely.
I have had interesting discussions with people from my own continent and elsewhere about “our” and “their” refugee crises. We have enrichingly different views on a national and personal level.
In the classroom we see many different communication styles, but everybody is free to be himself or herself in a safe space. Respect and awareness of the other are the common denominator. Over time, we have gotten to know each other better. When classmates are asking a question now I already know where that question is coming from and why they are interested in that. Isn’t that amazing ? And people throw their viewpoints and questions in there and it maybe isn’t even THE thing that you wanted to know but it’s still interesting and adds to the bigger picture.
Last week we went on the field trip to Krabi to observe the dynamics around a planned coal power plant. We were able to hear views of so many different parties to this real life conflict, from fishermen to the national energy agency – people with different roles, educational levels, socioeconomic backgrounds and with power differences between them. This broad range of stakeholders added so many different layers and issues around this power plant and enabled us to get a glimpse of how complex, complicated and technically challenging a mediation in such a context may be. And all this was taking place in Thailand, in a very different communication culture that we yet had to learn to understand during the process. Culture and language are so important and are often underestimated as I know from my own context.
All this practical learning about communication goes hand in hand with the theory we have studied so far: conflict analysis, and techniques of negotiation amongst others. All together I find it very helpful and it broadens my scope of what I deem possible to achieve in my homecounty.
I came with one idea that I wanted to work on for my conflict analysis paper: how to integrate foreigners in the Austrian healthcare system. It is my own sector, the one that I know best; and I am already working on this topic.
But in the meantime I have added 4 more good ideas to my list. It seems like every week I add another one. I feel very empowered to be able to take matters into my own hands and do something. Although I do not have the time and energy to pursue every single idea myself, I have started to spread and share those ideas with other persons to eventually make it happen. Thank you for that, Rotary Foundation ! And now I am curious about the next 7 weeks, if the idea development scheme stays in place, 7 more good ideas are waiting to be discovered !
Eva Czermak – Austria
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 23