Prior to the 11th congress of the WFD in July 2015, the WFDYS selected a new board and their next working meeting would coincide with the next meeting of the WFD board. Belfast UK was selected. I was really excited about this and so over the next two months I made my travel arrangements. I decided that I had only 2 weeks to stay in Belfast because of my work commitments in Sydney. It was going to be a great opportunity to meet new people, network and socialise. I flew with British Airways and as an airline I found them to be not great but not bad – somewhat mediocre, although reasonably cost effective. I flew into Singapore, transferred to London and then finally to Belfast.
It was late October and so people were beginning to celebrate Halloween. I had a few days to myself to look around and compare Belfast to Australia. It is much older than Australia, they drive their cars on the same side of the road as us but Halloween is a bigger event. It was starting to get really cold and so I had to get some warmer clothes. I took lots of photos and was captivated by the old English style of architecture. I was pleasantly surprised at how well kept the city appeared despite the history of the IRA and their battles against British rule.
After a few days our meetings began. The WFD and WFDYS boards held joint meetings. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other and begin to discuss what it would mean to be a WFDYS board member for the next 4 years. The first couple of days included workshops and training on usual protocol like how to represent the WFD and WFDYS, how to respond to questions, human rights issues, the UN CRPD convention and a range of other topics. I gained so much confidence from this learning.
After these couple of days, we had a workshop in the Deaf community but unfortunately I fell sick and could not attend so I missed out on that opportunity to attend and socialise with local Deaf people. In the period leading up to this meeting the British Deaf Association were celebrating their 125th year anniversary. And so there was a reception at city hall with members of the community, government officials and other high profile people from the community.
We sat down to a few other meetings to work out guidelines for the WFDYS and go through a range of documents. We also looked over minutes of previous meetings for context, discussed expectations, and what resources we could use to disseminate throughout our networks.
By the end of a worthwhile week I had gained a lot of confidence, I knew people better and could see how I could work with others. In the last remaining days I should have joined a trip to Dublin but I was still too sick to travel. Luckily I was able to stay with a local friend which was the shot in the arm I needed to recover. As fate would have it, I was given a chance to go on a tour run by a local Deaf man, who took us on a history tour of Belfast. He explained how the city was divided – one side pro-Ireland and the other pro-British. It was a fascinating experience. This change of plans also allowed me to go to the museum of the Titanic. It was awesome to see how the ship was built and look through a replica of part of it. It was a really amazing, interactive experience. I recommend that if you ever go to Belfast please visit the museum. It is easy to understand, the tours are great and there is an awesome simulation type of experience of various rooms and decks.
On the final night we all got together for a dinner before flying home. I had recovered and was ready to come home. The time had been really productive and worthwhile. I had a good chance to reflect on this opportunity and to begin planning for the next meeting in Jordan.