Five Fords Lead Workshops at Nobel Peace Summit
With support from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, five Haverford students journeyed to Mérida, Yucatan, to lead workshops at the Youth Program of the 2019 World Summit of Nobel Laureates.
Soha Saghir ’21 has long dreamed of attending the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, a 20-year old annual gathering of winners of the Nobel Peace Prize to discuss global issues. And thanks to an invitation from the American Friends Service Committee, which won the prize in 1947, and sponsorship from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, the College has sent a delegation of students to the event every year for the past seven years. But the opportunity to lead a workshop at the summit with four other Fords was beyond her wildest hopes.
But that’s exactly what happened last week when Saghir was part of a five-student delegation that not only got to attend this year’s summit in Mérida, Yucatan, but gave two workshops as part of its Leading by Example Youth Program.
"This is something I've wanted to attend for the longest time, and so as soon as I saw [the application], I was super excited about the opportunity and wanted to give the application my best shot,” she said.
Saghir applied with team members Tanisha Bansal ’21 and Noha El Toukhy ’22 to lead a workshop on “Building Bridges Across Intercultural and Interpersonal Differences,” which was selected as one of two teams to attend the Summit. The second team, composed of Victoria Merino ’20 and Farid Azar Leon ’20, created a workshop that used salsa dancing to encourage peacebuilding, reconciliation, and responsible leadership.
"Dancing is a unique learning experience that is emotionally charged given its need for vulnerability, interdependence, trust, forgiveness, and physical closeness,” said Merino. “When we dance, we learn to bring down our personal barriers and to positively engage with our own inner critic who guides our relationship with ourselves and with others. Each dance is influenced by the individuals themselves and then furthermore by the dynamic and relationship that is developed between individuals.”
On Sept. 19, the students embarked on a flight to Mérida for the summit. Over a packed five days of programming, the Fords were surrounded by peacemakers, political activists, and global leaders at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in addition to leading and attending workshops in the Youth Summit.
"Over the course of three days, a total of 60 workshops were done by Nobel Laureates, activists, and students from around the world,” said Saghir. “It was surreal. Standing a few inches away from Shirin Ebadi, my longtime idol, and hearing her speak was a literal dream come true. The five days were enriching and productive in the best way possible. Attending the conference, being in a wonderful and culturally rich city like Mérida, presenting our own workshop, and making such a strong bond with fellow travelers, who were mostly acquaintances before, were all highlights of this trip.”
For all of the participants, this once-in-a-lifetime experience was full of meaningful connections, powerful messages, and important conversations about the world around us.
"It was an incredible experience—it felt like a dream! Most of us still feel dazed by the whole thing,” said Merino. “We didn’t believe that presenting our workshop would actually lead to such incredible connections with other attendees, and we are really thankful to have had such an opportunity. Especially because we were able to take part in the Youth Program and also listen to Nobel Laureates themselves address major global issues during panels and speeches.”
"The summit made me realize that there is a whole world and network of people looking to do things that really make a difference in other people's lives and that is extremely motivating,” she said. “To have been able to step into this network for a couple of days just as an undergraduate makes me realize that there's a lot we can do from Haverford to help.”