26 March, 2010

a cordial welcome at Pluspunt

Yesterday we went on another workfield visit with the international students from social work and what a wonderful visit it became!
Everything had been arranged from the start by a CMV student on an internship there. This was the amazing result of a positive answer to a tentative question from my side: are you willing to receive some international students studying here at our university? and tell them how your internship organisation operates.
All the people at Pluspunt had really done their best to turn the visit into a valuable experience by also inviting some volunteers to talk to us. After Marian had presented a general overview of Pluspunt and the projects they had put in place these last few years, Liesbeth gave an illustration of the way they work in a project with triggers to get communication among the participants going (see visuals).
Then volunteer Magda described in detail how she led participants to take part in a game called the WAVE and Piet demonstrated his storyteller's skills by treating us to a true story that had taken place at the end of the 19th century.
The story that fascinated me most was the one we heard from Magda about how she had become a volunteer for Pluspunt, a truly inspiring story for many, especially when I have our CMV students in mind. Participation, and working on participation issues, is such a central theme within the CMV study programme that collecting stories from people like Magda are bound to give students beneficial insights.
Pluspunt is an organisation that can best be described as an expertise centre for seniors and participation. However, non-Dutch people will easily miss the dual meaning of the word "pluspunt", which is on the one hand an (information and support) point for 55 + people but also translates into "advantage", stressing the fact that being older has its benefits (balancing some of the more negative associations that people often have when it comes to seniors).
And when it was time to say goodbye we even got a friendly surprise in the shape of a packet of chocolate Easter eggs, a cordial end to a heartwarming visit !

Visit to Pluspunt Rotterdam from Jane Traveller on Vimeo.

19 March, 2010

an international flavour to the MUN this year

The 4th Model United Nations in a row is just behind us and again it was a lively educational activity. Model United Nations is a worldwide educational effort to introduce students to the activities of the United Nations through a simulated environment of meetings in which participants take on the roles of country representatives to the UN committees.
This year we had a more social work oriented resolution on the agenda, namely DREAM centres. But an even bigger difference was the fact that for the first time ever we had international students joining the CMV students in the MUN delegations.
As it is in this current semester that we run an international class within our university, we made a switch with another conference and moved the dates from June to March in order to create the opportunity to invite the international students to our UN simulation. And as it turned out, it was again much fun but this time more true to life due to the diversity among the students.
After a short introduction about MUN procedures and an introductory talk about the purpose and ways of lobbying, the student delegates took up the tips as ducks to water. It was especially the Iraqi delegate that got the award for being best at this, we heard at the end of the session.
Other countries that got special attention (and were pleasantly surprised by that) were Poland for being the best team and Kenya for having the best content input in the debate: examples of stimulating additions to the MUN concept that were suggested by our secretary general and policy advisor.
We were fortunate again to have Mirjam de Bruin chairing the session as secretary general together with Maria Ibrahim Hassan as policy advisor: a team that skilfully led the 55 or so students during this conference to experience the workings and decision-making process of the United Nations. The driving factor for choosing to have a MUN for us is that through role-playing in one of the UN organs (in our case the Third Committee, Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs) participants gain a multilateral view of world affairs and develop their public speaking and debating skills, even though it puts a heavy demand on their English language skills.
All in all we can look back on yet another gratifying MUN experience. Here's a visual impression of that experience.