The Society has supported Connecting Cultures since its inception. Its initial participants were from Saudi Arabia and the UK; now they are from various Middle Eastern countries and from the UK. There is more on their website www.connectingcultures.co.uk.
Established in 2004, Connecting Cultures is a unique educational initiative that promotes face to face dialogue with young people from the western and Arab world via short wilderness journeys. The aim of this dialogue is to celebrate cultural diversity, break down stereotypes, identify shared values and in so doing promote understanding and help reduce the polarisation of cultures. Based in the Sultanate of Oman, Connecting Cultures works in partnership with governmental, corporate and charitable sectors. It is endorsed by UNESCO and works to support the key aims of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations. DHL are the main corporate sponsors of the Connecting Cultures programme.
Connecting Cultures Arctic Explorer and Parents Comments
Connecting Cultures, an organisation established by Windlesham teacher Mark Evans to promote cultural awareness and understanding between young people, in the UK and Saudi Arabia, through challenging wilderness journeys, has recently sent a group of young people to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle. The Society contributed financially to this venture. Here are some of the comments made by participants and others.
What did you learn about yourself and others during the expedition?
The expedition was exciting and if anyone goes on it they will learn a lot about themselves, about how to be patient and about other people. Initially I was afraid of various things, but soon learnt that I was capable of dealing with most situations. I am now aware of and like nature more than before, can make good relationships with British people who often had the wrong information about my country. The best part of this expedition was sitting around the fire exchanging information about our cultures.
Abdullah Al Shalhoub, King Faisal School, Riyadh
I’ve discovered that I can live and travel in the Arctic, and have found out a lot about my stamina and that I am capable of going further than I thought. I’ve also learnt that I can easily make friends; something which I’m sure will be useful in later life. I’ve learnt about Saudi Arabian culture and Islam and that my new friends are some of the nicest people you could meet, and when push comes to shove they can do whatever they set their minds to.
Dickon Cole, Windlesham House School, West Sussex
I have learnt that I am capable of more than I thought. I can walk long distances, build shelters and have overcome things that frightened me. I have found out what my capabilities are, and the whole experience of sharing this adventure with other people has been of benefit to my body and mind, and has taught me the value of teamwork.
Sultan Al Qahtani, King Faisal School
That I take lot of things for granted at home! I have found that I can push myself further than I thought. I found the boys from Saudi Arabia fascinating, and admired how they adapted to the many things that they had never done before. The highlight of the trip was the visit to the glacier, and meeting people from a different culture.
Tommy Fitzalan Howard, Windlesham House School, West Sussex
The last two weeks have taught me many things. I was scared of many things, but now I am brave. I can really do anything if I want to, and can tolerate hunger and thirst. To anyone who is thinking about going on a connecting cultures expedition I would say go . it is exciting, it will change you and build your confidence. The best things I have learnt about are teamwork and the beauty of the Arctic.
Mohammed Al Saleh, Kingdom School Riyadh
I have found out that I can climb mountains and walk long distances with a rucksack, that I am able to sleep on rocks without tents, and have learnt how to build shelters from both wood and rocks. I met new people from different nationalities who taught me new things and who have become my friends. If they have the chance I would advise anyone to come on what is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Mohammed Al Rajhi, King Faisal School Riyadh
With our son safely back home, we want to express our gratitude for all your efforts to make this trip possible. This was such a GREAT experience for Ben! I hope he now has a different perspective on life, more appreciative of the conveniences we tend to take for granted. He is definitely more fit upon his return. It looks like he’s lost some weight, although the scale doesn’t show a weight loss. He returned with a lovely tan face, which makes him look very healthy. We admire your courage, taking on the responsibility of looking after these sheltered, pampered, Saudi boys. I appreciated following the day to day news via “Connecting Cultures”. It was a comfort, knowing everyone was safe.
Thank you so much for creating such a memorable trip for our son!
Mr. and Mrs. Saleh Al–Shamekh, Riyadh