A human touch…

Everyone is following the news to find out what is happening in their country, everywhere where the virus has reached. EJWP has its own local news correspondents: the participants themselves. With 8 countries participating, our bi-weekly digital-drinks are also social and informative moment. Hedviga our Slovakian lecturer enjoys to have digi- sessions “with great people and with a glass of wine – the best way to avoid feeling the strain while staying at home. Relaxation with added value is guaranteed!”

Our Water Europe ‘correspondent’,  Loic a Frenchman living in Brussels, says “it’s really nice to have the EJWP e-drinks in this time of social distancing, particularly with other young EU professionals to bring our EU citizenship to life”.

For me, these comments really bring out the added value of the programme….

From all different countries, different kind of organizations, different knowledge backgrounds we already feel so connected to each other to feel the need to stay connected also through this crazy time.

Supported by our training cultural communication and our different (cultural) ways of perceiving what is normal and what is not normal behaviour we share our perspectives. We suddenly found ourselves benefiting from that training in ways we didn’t expect. We could definitely see a parallel with what we learned in the cultural communication training. How can someone tell what is real and what is perception biased by media when hearing news from other countries? Hearing the stories from the other sides of the borders, from people directly experiencing the local lockdowns helped create a more accurate, personal and humane picture of the Europe-wide situation. Who would have expected that a training programme on European cooperation would end up a valuable means to deal with a crisis and help us understand the world we are living in?

Each country established its new normal for its citizens. How the situation is perceived, the actions taken and the communication styles of each country differed. All eight participants, Jennifer our trainer and myself (Naomi, director of the EJWP) meet up online every other week ever since we were all confined to different forms of lockdowns, a.k.a. at home. Some of us with young kids, others all by themselves. All in the need of keeping real connections outside the little walls of our homes. A real connection within the European Water community is one of the unique extra’s that come with the programme, our human touch!

Even though we also are tired after a working day at home and not necessarily looking forward to another Zoom meeting, I look forward to our drinks. To feeling connected with the rest of the world on a personal level, but also to keep the conversation going on the content that binds us, as we did last week on innovation in the Water Sector. We invited artist Ap Verheggen to talk about his art and how it can spur innovation in the water sector. He took us outside the imaginative barriers of our own water-worlds and made us believe the unbelievable. One hour of pure connection on the topics we are passionate about. And, of course, at the end we did a round of ‘corona-news’ since the phase 2 set of measures was announced in most countries.

Ingrid, our senior hydrologist from Belgium said about our digi-drinks that, “in a time of insecurity, social distancing, home schooling and no activities to participate in, the EJWP digi-drinks are a well-deserved and needed break in my current daily life. Seeing familiar faces to chat with and discussing the impact of the measures on each other’s’ daily and professional lives helps me in put things in perspective and makes us a closer group, especially now that our real-life gatherings have been postponed. We can only hope to meet each other again soon but in the meantime we keep in touch and keep connected!”

We are in it together. We mirror and analyse our thoughts and behaviours from each other’s perspectives. These deep connections make working together in the future in the European framework so much easier. We are more open to new ideas, new ways of communication, new ways of doing stuff, because we trust each other. Because we work together as human beings, our human touch in creating a water smart society.

Naomi Timmer
Director EJWP

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