Bello Belgo and Embajadores Communitarios win Zuiddag/Southday competition!

Fantastic news: the joint project ‘Embajadas Communitarias’ of Bello Belgo and Embajadores Communitarios is the 2012 Zuiddag/Southday competition winner!

After months of intense preparation, the project was selected out of 7 other projects to receive the funds and expertise of the 2012 fundraising campaign of Zuiddag/Southday!

Last year, the Zuiddag campaign raised  money in several hundreds of Flemish schools. A similar effort is expected this year. Moreover, the Zuiddag team has experience with similar projects in the past and will be guiding us along the way with their expertise. This means that the project ‘Embajadas Communitarias’ will have the means to directly support over 7 schools and hundreds of school students for the next 5 years.

We will keep you posted on further progress and hope to stay in touch with many of you to make the zuiddag project a big and lasting success!

Should you want more info on ‘Embajadas Communitarias’, then you can watch our grant winning video on  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T5KfS6K_Uw

More info on Zuiddag (dutch) can be found on http://www.zuiddag.be  

More info on Embajadores Communitarios can be found on https://www.facebook.com/EmbajadoresComunitarios 

Jugamos Footboooool!

After having received  Procom’s teambuilding session last week, it was about time to put this theory into practice. We decided to host a football competition with our kids, with the grateful cooperation of Club Brugge and Ronald Vargas, my favourite team and player!

Many thanks to Mr. Gheysen, the president of the social department of Club Brugge, who took up our project in their unit of  cross-border social projects. This community project , called ‘Allemoale Thope’ (All together), was founded in 2007 with the mission of supporting local and  international social projects that contribute to the integration, development and the improvement of life standards of certain populations that are in need. Club Brugge therefore decided to support the Bello-Belgo project both through financial, logistical and PR-related means.

After drinking tons of water, it was time to say goodbye to our kids. This was our last session with them and saying farewell was not an easy task for us. A big group hug and many handshakes later, the jeep arrived to bring them safely home. They were the reason of our presence. They teached us that NOTHING is impossible.

After the game, it was straight to the next teambuilding event: the Bello-Belgo goodbye bbq to thank all our UCABMUN faculties. While preparing the veggies and making a typical Belgian ‘potatoe-salad’, our Venezuelan counterparts were grilling the puntos, chorizos and morcillas.

Together with some fine Santa Teresa drinks, we ended a very nice barbeque dinner by Venezuelan sunset…

Hasta Luego!

Kin-Chi

Los estudiantes a descubrir sus colores


To perform like ‘eagles’ on our last and most important competition of the year (the ViMUN competition) Bello Belgo prepared some secret power potion for our students from the Barrios: the extended DISC presentation. Last Saturday we presented it to our students and it had a major impact! With their permission, we now also spread the theory amongst our readers…

The theory of ‘Extended DISC’ is simple:  by categorizing people along two axis of behavior, you can understand the way they behave and know how to get along with them.

  • The first axis is the way you express yourself: are you more introverted or extraverted?
  • The second axis is the way you take decisions: are you someone who says what he feels (a feeler) or someone who says what he thinks (a thinker). In other words: do you talk before you think of vice versa?
DISCover the colors

Our kids looked very interested when they heard that, and started asking lots of questions. Being only half of a Spanish speaker, this inquisition of question wasn’t quite easy to handle. Luckily, in those moments, we have our Venezuelan counterparts to save us from our enthusiast students. So continuing the presentation, our lovely colleague Valeria took over.

Knowing what kind of a person is along these axises, we explained to our students, helps you know how to deal with them. If you are yellow (extraverted feelers), you like it that people give you compliments and listen to everything you say. However if you are blue (introverted thinkers), you don’t like too many conversations: just set out the rules and that’ll do.

Our kids glazed from amazement after hearing this theory; they started applying it right away to everyone they saw around them. “You are blue, you follow rules!”, Dorian yelled at Vicleimy. “And you are yellow” Williamna commented to Valeria.

Cable car

After all gotten heavily impressed from this new amazing theory, our kids wanted to give us something back as a “thank you”. So they invited us for a tour over their barrio by ‘metro cable’, a sort of ski lift but then to go from one hill to the other in Caracas.

A ski lift in Caracas, really? Yes, it is true: “this is a metro cable for the people” president Chavez informs us when we get on the lift “and the ultimate goal is to provide every barrio with one. By now, we know that Venezuela is a very polarized country when it comes to politics. But truth be told: this is cable car is an impressive piece of work.

After a joyful ride on the metro cable, overlooking all of the ‘San Agustin del Sur’ neighbourhood, we went home satisfied. What a wonderful weekend again in Caracas!

Peter

Barrios view on the city

El trabajo en equipo: no es facil

Another week has passed by, thus time for another Bello-Belgo update! Last Thursday, another Procom session was scheduled with as subject teambuilding! And this time, it was meant to be a highly interactive session, where the teambuilding skills of our UCABMUN colleagues were tested. Muy interesante!

Michael the Teambuilder

Our presentator of the day, Michael, took off with the theoretical part. According to Tuckman’s stages of group development, every team goes through 5 stages : forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Here, The Simpsons again proved the multi-applicability of this crazy family. Next, it was time to tell a bit more about the 9 different roles of a team. Using the players of FC Barcelona as example, the corresponding characters of each role became more clear.

Then it was time to test our teambuilding-skills: the NASA exercise. Two teams were formed and their task was easy: survive on the moon. Out of a list of 15 items, they had to rank them in terms of their importance. The NASA solution would finally tell them if they would have survived or not (play the game yourself  here!). But the best exercise was left for the final: the ZIN-obelisk. In this exercise, again 2 teams were given a problem-solving game. Each participant received an amount of paper pieces with (ir)relevant information, but only verbal communication was allowed between each other. Fun guaranteed (especially when we told them that a group of 4 genius business-engineers solved the game in only 13 minutes…)! While one group was more calm and quiet in their attempt to solve the game, a lot of noise and sighs were observed at the other side of the room (remembering us of our DISC-presentation that revealed different characters).

Peter the Birthdayboy

After these brain-cracking excercises, it was time for another special moment : lights were dimmed and the cake was brought in the room, feliz cumpleaños Pedro! A couple of drinks later, we all went satisfied back to our casas: the adjourning phase had begon.

Hasta luego!

Kin-Chi

ChaMun – un trabajo bien hecho!

Sunday noon, enjoying the beautiful view on the city and the mountain Avila from the Colegio Champagnat on the hills of Caurimare. It’s the 3th and final day of the “ChaMUN”, the “Champagnat Model of United Nations” and the kids are attending the last committees. These last sessions are rather a formality because the winners have already been decided. In this smaller (than the SiMUN or ViMUN, but not less important) model, the only participating school from the UCABMUN-organization is the Colegio Andy Apericio from the La Vega Barrio. I can tell you: they did a great job they!

Different than the other participants, the kids from La Vega stay over at night because it’s not really safe to travel back to the barrio after 6 in the evening. However this sleep-over gives them the advantage of strengthening the team spirit. Eating together the best hamburguesas de la calle, playing soccer in team, evaluating the topics discussed in their respective committees: it all contributes to the motivation of performing even better for the day ahead.

Within following 3 committees, our delegates debated about for most 17-year-old not common themes:

  • The UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency, not to confuse with the UNHRC, the human rights council) dealt with the fate of Palestinian refugees. The major problems are the living conditions, the unrecognized refugees in Israel and the increasing amount of refugees in neighboring countries.

    In the debate!

  • The members of the General Assembly searched for a common ground on how to fight child prostitution, how to eradicate, to prevent and to sanction child pornography and in general, how to increase the rights of children.
  • The Security Council, finally treated the complicated Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict about the independence of Nagorno Karabakh. Etnic Armenians, the majority of the people in this region seek to join Armenia or to become independent. Azerbaijan however seeks to preserve its national integrity and therefore obstructs this separation.

Pedro & José

In comparison to the SiMUN, some of our kids haven taken major steps forwards. But more important, we have improved our skills as a group. During the conference, almost everybody rose their placard and stood up to talk. The results of a new wind of improvement were clearly present. Angie e.g., who barely dared to talk last SiMUN, got out of her seat and gave a speech to a group of 40 people! Moreover, Arcángel got the First Honorable Mention for his diplomatic skills in the Security Council. And last but not least: Gabriela ended up as Best Delegate in the UNHCR for her overwhelming and tremendous knowledge about the Palestinian situation, outperforming all other participants!

Honorable Mention!

But what would our school do without a strong lead? I have to recognize: one of the other hero’s of the weekend was Carlota, faculty coordinator of Andy Aparicio and on top of that organizer of the whole ChaMUN.  Without her this wonderful weekend wouldn’t have been possible!

Thanks a lot everyone!

For pictures of the weekend, have a look here!

¡Hasta pronto!

Michael

Resolución de Conflicto para aplicarse en Caracas

Hi,

Finally, back in business! Time to catch up with you. A lot of activities passed our agenda last week, e.g. the  academic soft skill activity on ‘Conflict Solving’. Muy interesante!

Michael, our academic coordinator – backed-up with an excellent and well-prepared presentation on the topic  – had invited the nice people of UCABMUN to listen to what he had to say. These intercultural evening sessions are a always a success-format, integrating high-quality educational material, fun exercises, sharing of thoughts, Venezuelan cuisine and many laughs.

This week the session on ‘Conflict Solving’ was aimed to understand how and when conflicts arise. How can you recognize the signs and causes? And what are the possible stages of a conflict? Exercise one: do you know them? These basic concepts led to the higher goal of the session, namely ‘how to be able to handle conflicts’? Understanding the message and methods of conflict resolution is one thing, putting them in practice is off course another. And, we can say, practice might be needed in Venezuela…

Peter presenting the basics

Allow me to draw up the present situation:

Year 2011, the country faces one of the world’s highest homicide rate with two persons murdered every hour! And Caracas itself is unrivaled among large cities in having the highest murder rate (140 per 100.000) in the Americas, only exceeded in the hemisphere by Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez.

Maybe you should ask us how people deal with this security question. As,  indeed, the violence is real. Well, having now lived for more than 1 month in this city – uncommon to foreigners  – and have been told a lot of stories and experiences, we are able to put things in the right perspective. The crime problem in Caracas (and the rest of Venezuela) is much larger and complex than just drug trade, poverty or corrupted police as you might have heard it or thought about. The young people we meet (from the normal middle class) live in constant insecurity and fear. Enough examples to tell; being robbed of a cell phone, being threatened with guns while helping people after a car accident (!), sisters and brothers being kidnapped (!) for money, motorcycles chasing and shooting your car to get your money. The fear of becoming a victim is an issue that strongly effects the communities, quality of life and people’s overall behavior – and no, we do not talk about the slums, but the situation of people like you and myself.

Again, how do you deal with this problem? The voice we hear from many of our Venezuelan friends is  similar: leave the country!  And many – mainly the educated – have already done so. For those who stay  the solution lies in changing the current government, as recent figures have shown that crime rates quadrupled under President Hugo Chavez’  administration.

Campaigning in the streets

In twelve years of ‘Social Revolution’ as the president calls his reign,  the gap between rich and poor has remained large, despite spending on anti-poverty programs.  Did the free programs for the poor made the people less angry or prone to more crime? Is it true that Caracas’s poverty is being caused by ‘capitalism’ and the more privileged people of Venezuela and possibly nourishes feelings of hate and anger among poor individuals? Anyway, the problem of violence and crime is probably far more complex than we can imagine.

What we do know is that having ‘Homicide as the first cause of death for both genders in the age group of 15-29’ is something to react! To put things in perspective: for us the training session on Conflict Solving in the end has a much bigger aim! ‘Broaden the perspective of the barrio-youngsters on how to deal with problems and showing them how to apply them on a community scale’, that is our motivation.

Strong visuals

While driving home, I was thinking later that if some of our barrio-friends would be able to integrate – on whatever scale – our methods of verbal control when approaching problems, it  would make us (and many other) very happy…

For the record: we got home safe, again.

Koen

Carnival en Morrocoy

This week Carnival time had come to the streets of Venezuela! Time for us to enjoy the festivities!

Venezuelans regard carnival about the same way they regard Christmas and Semana Santa (Holy Week – the week before Easter Sunday). During two days of festivals they visit their families and everybody that is out in the streets during this week is subject to being soaked. You can take this literally…

We heard that coastal towns celebrated carnival much more fervently than any other place in the country. So off we went, to the Caribbean coast! Venezuela’s coast is a magnificent stretch of white, sandy beaches and those of Morrocoy are definitely in the top 3. Coincidence or not, but it just happened to be the case that one of the girls from the UCABMUN-organization owned a beach house in Morrocoy. Well Well! In the back of the car passing the ‘Maritime Andes’ I remembered myself what a old wise man once told me: ‘It’s not about what you know, but who you know’…Boom! The Venezuelan classics in the background and the sunset made this first snapshot complete.

Pirates as we are

For your information: the area of Morrocoy is a national park consisting of a shoreline, swamps, coral reefs and little island called “Cayos”. These islands are accessible by private boats or by little boat services. They are just incredible; well, you know the typical tourist magazine image: crystal-white empty beaches with a 150-year old turtle on the left and an empty hammock on the right. For the next few days these islands would be our home. We felt like fish in the sea and could not wait to be on one of those boats to get there.

La Danse II

Somewhere back in the 70’s these Islands got declared National Park in order to protect it from human intervention…Some rest, some soccer-skill practice on the beach, a book to read..on our way to our first Cayo (‘Borracho’), the four of us dreamed, on the rhythm of the waves, about discovering new land and settling in peace for a couple of days. But apparently, some humans already did intervene…As if Christopher Columbus and all his ancestors had stayed on the island over the past 500 years, the amount of people we saw was overwhelming. No one reading a book and no single turtle in a hammock; never underestimate the power of Carnival! Tiempo de fiesta, indeed!

No discovery of new land, but what we did discover was that Venezuelans know how to dance and we’d better know too. Did you know that Venezuela’s dances have been greatly influenced by the traditions and religious beliefs of the three races which constitute Venezuela’s population: White, Indian and Black?

La Danse I

In the following Carnival days we experienced this mix of people and learned some basics of the Latin-American dances like Salsa, Joropo, Meringue and the popular Reggeaton. Groups of man and woman shaking and moving on the tones of the drum: I was wondering if Henri Matisse had this in mind when he painted his famous ‘La Danse’ a century ago. Ideas of hedonism or not, we had a fantastic time and made some good friends. A carnival to never forget.

Con la mano arriba, cintura sola, da media vuelta, sacude duro…

And yes, that book (Tinkers by Paul Harding – you should read it) was for the way home to Caracas…

Hasta la proxima y danza!

Koen

Balanza final: SIMUN ’11

Last Sunday was the last day of SiMUN; time to make an evaluation!

During these 3 days of committee sessions, our students got the chance to measure their selves with their counterparts from private schools. And that proved to be a real challenge!

Passionate speaking by two of UCABMUN-kids

Some of our ‘delegates’ seemed a bit overwhelmed at first, being confronted with the ‘private school kids’: young people dressed in branded clothes, white skin (yes… it’s true!), a backpack filled with universal knowledge… Quite impressive. Viclaimy for example, a very promising girl from our Don Pedro school, didn’t dare to speak during the whole first day. “The others stole all my ideas”, she told us almost in tears. But maybe the fact that she was out of her natural ‘comfort zone’, played the real crucial role?  Surrounded by people she normally never meets, in a place in Caracas she never comes… who wouldn’t feel uncomfortable?

But as the sessions went  by, our students gained more self confidence and decided to go for it. In our ‘Lunar Committee’ for example, our delegates Edward and Victor “kicked some ass”. Representing ‘Scandinavia’ in a futurist committee on ‘how to divide the moon?’, they resolutely took the lead, speaking, negotiating and debating their way to the top of the committee. “In our first year we were overwhelmed by the students from other school too” Victor told me “but we got used to that now and we know we’re worth just as much”

America won an award!

And the hard work paid off in the end: our students won an award and 3 of our students were mentioned during the speech of the committee presidents. “But more important than the prizes”, one of our delegates said, “is the fact that we’ve learned that by working hard, we can make experiences like this happen – an opportunity we didn’t have before.”

For our delegates, as for us, this weekend has been a reward for all the work so far. And more than that, as our Venezuelan coordinator Andres said “we have made a group that is like a second family.”

Peter

UCABMUN kids delegation at SIMUN-conference

SiMUN ’11: repetición general

It’s Friday 9.50 am. Me and the other Bello-Belgo colleagues arrived good on time for the first general repetition for our 48 kids/delegates, the San Ignacio Model United Nations (remembering us the founder of the Jesuits Saint Ignacius of Loyola – like Koen’s high school). For the next three days, the colegio de San Ignacio – one of the most prestigious high schools of Caracas – was transformed into a UN building consisting out of 9 committees.

Fitting the costumes

Welcoming 48 kids was a huge challenge : Providing formal apparel (costumes & dresses), finding 48 mattresses for the night (the principal was so kind to make a couple of classrooms available to sleep over), arranging breakfast/lunch/dinner…it was a logistic nightmare! Luckily Diego – our financial & logistics coordinator- managed to arrange it all.

Before proceeding, let me briefly introduce you the setting of the SiMun ’11. At this event, where debating-, negotiating- and diplomacy skills are being tested, approximately 200 delegates were present in 9 committees. In each committee, each (pair of) delegate(s) represented a country member of the UN to discuss a specific topic. The goal is to find together a consensus on a resolution paper after 3 days, as well as to stand out of your committee in a good manner, so that the Chair of the committee can reward you with a positive evaluation. Below, a short summary of the main committees we were involved in :

International Atomic  Energy Agency (IAEA)

The topic treated was ‘The transport of nuclear material by private corporations”. The delegates were supposed to find an agreement on whether to regulate this transport or to leave it at the governments to choose.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

In this committee, delegates were debating about ‘drug traffic on International Waters’. Questions like ‘how can an efficient surveillance on international waters be achieved’ or ‘can security forces enter another country’s territory to end drug traffics?’.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

In this room, the topic of ‘Indiscriminate fishing in the Antartic circle’ was treated. Here, the delegates had to make proposals to stop the indiscriminate fishing in a certain zone to prevent the consequences on the environment this activity brings with.

UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

‘Human traffic on Internation Waters’, this was the subject treated in the HRC. Questions like ‘How to prevent human traffic from happening’ and ‘How can the UN identify the people affected by this issue’ were mainly treated in this committee.

Together with our colleagues, we were assigned the task of faculty advisor. This meant we had to walk around and visit the different committees to observe and analyze the behavior and actions of our kids, so we could give some advice during two sessions in (4 sessions of 2 hours per day).

Bello Belgo Faculty advisors

The first day was very interesting. Our kids barely dared to raise their placards to get involved in discussions, they felt obviously not in their comfort zone. “How could I ever win a discussion against students from prestigious high schools?”, “How to enter in a debate with such eloquent people?”, “Oh no, my preparation became irrelevant, what to do?”. These were only a few questions of many after the first day of sessions. Consolation and mental encouragement were necessary to keep their motivation high.

One of the kids speeching

The second day, my team decided to give some instructions. Everyone had to write a 3-line summary after each session and one question. In this way, we were able to help and advise them within 2 sessions. Clearly this helped a bit, as some of them eventually raised their placards and said some relevant stuff. But the majority still suffered from a common problem : a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Clearly something we can work on the next few weeks, as the next competition – ViMUN – is scheduled in 2 months starting from today.

Every evening, after the daily sessions, there was time for some relaxation : having dinner together, learn some basic Spanish (indeed, these kids taught us something!), dancing on a weird Conga-song and playing some soccer and basketball (some of them played barefoot on concrete fields!) until we were exhausted. What would the final day bring? Tomorrow more news on that! Watch some first pictures here

Hasta pronto

Kin-Chi

Raising the placards

Satisfaction after a day of debating

Belgas entrenan Venezolanos y viceversa

One of the reasons of the Bello Belgo team’s presence in Caracas is teaching essential communication soft skills to the collaborators and kids of the UCABMUN-project: our academic support. For the high school students these soft skills are very useful in the MUN’s, but even more in their daily life in the barrios. In many cases the reasons of conflict disagreements and fights – and this actually applies to everybody and anywhere in the world – are caused because people have difficulties to understand each other.

During our project-preparation, Procom, a professional communication company from Leuven (Belgium) trained us in training the necessary skills. Then, we adapted these seminars to the world of our sixteen-year-old target group. The subjects of these workshops: coping with people’s behaviour, conflict solving, team building, negotiation, facilitating and presentation skills. Before teaching the kids these soft skills, we had planned to first test the workshops on our colleagues of the UCABMUN and this is what we did last Wednesday.

On the program: the workshop Coping with people’s behaviour or how to focus on recognizing behavior characteristics. The theory goes as follows: characteristics of behavior can be grouped into four major “personality styles”, resulting in 4 types of persons: Blue, Red, Yellow and Green tinted people. The main message we tempted to bring was that if you know how to categorize a person, you are able to improve your relation with him or her.

We had discovered our personal colors ourselves in the past few weeks and were eager to help our Venezuelan partners to do so too. An intelligent exercise had to demonstrate them how; each of them had to join a group representing their color and each group had to make a weapon shield in 10 minutes! Easy task you think? During the drawing, the red group produced the most decibels: their shouting and screaming showed their result driven capacities and the fact that they are bad listeners. On the other corner of the room we saw some ‘blue’ introverted thinkers, being silent and demonstrating perfectionism by completely redesigning a new weapon shield after not being satisfied with the original one. Most important for the yellow team was having fun and being social. Indeed, these people are rather emphatic and sociable persons and this reflected itself in a drawing of hands holding each other…We had a good laugh.

Our Venezuelan partners learned a lot. Being over 20 years old and discovering their real ‘color’ for the first time was an eye-opener for most of them. The big take-away of this workshop was that from now on everybody within the UCABMUN would understand the behaviour of one other. The Bello Belgo guys already had gone through this exercise in the hard way (you don’t want to know how many ‘fights’ we have had so far…). So, with the theory in our minds, all of us should now be perfectly capable of adapting ourselves in our ways of acting: the recipe of a fruitful collaboration. Next step would be to bring this message to the kids!

Surprised by the flow of information and our motivation to exchange knowledge, our Venezuelan friends took the opportunity to surprise us the day later. Thursday night we had planned  a movie-night with one of Belgians most famous movies, ‘Memory of a Killer’ (de zaak Alzheimer). After a course on the history of Belgian movies, they suddenly showed up with some of the best food we had eaten so far: the typical Venezuelan ‘Kebab’, namely Arepas, a dish made of ground corn dough! Really delicious! As for desert, we had the honour to have a taste of the Venezuelan quesillo, a mix of eggs, condensed milk and caramel…mmm.

Buen provecho!

Michael & Koen