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Staying open and curious - MEL Europe: Writings on a journey

October 26th, 2020

About MEL Europe

MEL Europe is our exciting international project that offers a series of creative learning opportunities which will further feed into Ubele’s vision of creating a dynamic and expanded cohort of BME social leaders. With increased competencies and the professional skills they will be able to put their new knowledge to practical use in their communities.

Mali Enterprising Leaders Europe (MEL Europe) is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

Recently, two groups of community leaders, change makers, activists have returned from MEL Europe courses in Crete, Greece. The following short blogs will allow you to dive into their experiences and learning journeys as they explored how to build their resilience and mastered Art of Hosting. We’d like to thank our partner, Fractality for hosting us and facilitating our sessions.

Learn more about Building Resilience in Communities and Organisations (Post-COVID) course (25th September - 1st October 2020)

Learn more about Methods of Participatory Design using the Art of Hosting course (3rd-9th October 2020)


Anike Bello

Methods of Participatory Design using the Art of Hosting course participant


My initial interpretation of the course title was solely focused on the practical. I signed up thinking that I would be given access to a step-by-step approach to host, which I could easily apply to future workshops, the course offered so much more than just that. 

“What does it mean to host?”

I wrote this down in my notes on day three, reflecting on the ways in which we as participants hosted each other as we shared our personal stories during group exercises and the ways in which the facilitators hosted the wider group as they introduced different methods to encourage participation. To host is a term which centres around being present, open, and attentive. I saw these values reflected in different instances throughout the course; from challenging conversations about race to collective encouragement to face fears of swimming during our boat trip. 

“The course revealed how hosting is a fluid process that we all participate in, whether that is individually or within a group setting. As human beings we each play hosts to our own thoughts and feelings, as social beings we are also hosts to the different relationships we are part of – what kind of host do you want to be? This is an important question to ask not only with regards to facilitating community engagement but also with regards to cultivating a relationship with self. ”

2020 has been an interesting year so far; this trip was a timely reminder for me to stay open and curious. My week in Crete was inspiring in so many ways and offered me a much-needed boost in fresh perspective and support from fellow change-makers. 

A big thank you to Ubele for this unforgettable experience! 

3.30am on a cold wet miserable morning and on the way to Heathrow. I was glad to be leaving England and could feel the pull of the Cretan sun ahead. COVID had blown away all my freelance work and virtually depleted my savings, yet here I was setting off to a plush hotel on a Greek Island for a training programme - virtually all expenses paid. 

I make a point of stressing this because the value of this places on you is immense. Barriers to participation have been removed. You are being affirmed and invested in. Recognised for the good work that you are doing in the community and paid forward for the work that you will go on to do with the new tools acquired. It’s not a hair advert but you are being told, ‘you are worth it’. 

“When systemic racism is being exposed for all it truly is, it’s encouraging to see forward thinking organisations like Ubele investing in intergenerational activists and change makers within black led organisations.”

The course was beyond inspiring and the bonds that were made amongst participants will create networks of support and grow many collaborative projects.  

We were being taught the Art of Hosting participatory collaborative frameworks. I have already used it to strengthen a funding application. The methods went beyond problem solving to create heart felt tangible outcomes where every voice had a place. 

Thank you for Ubele’s dream that brought this opportunity into fruition!

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Eileen Bellot

Methods of Participatory Design using the Art of Hosting course participant

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When I was offered the chance of attending a conference in Crete, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was extremely excited at the opportunity of been asked to attend, plus there was the added bonus of it been abroad! However, on the other hand I was fairly apprehensive due to the uncertainty around travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

My decision to attend was not an easy one. The fact that this conference was looking at the impact of COVID-19 on BME communities, and I am a CEO of a charity that works with many people from these communities, I felt that in the bigger scheme of things It was only right that I attend.

It was strange to travel on a large plane with so few passengers. The silence was very noticeable. It reminded me of how this silence has taken over the lives of many of the people who use our services. People who were in need of voices to advocate for them!

Overall, I found the course to be very interesting and beneficial to me. As well as taught exercises, there were lots of interactive opportunities. The group were very diverse, in that as well as been from all over the UK, there were many who had little experience of working within the Third sector, to those who were CEO’s of large charities.

“I enjoyed looking at new theories, because as a busy CEO allocating the time to do this type of work is not always possible, so for me it was a treat. I was able to employ my active listening skills to find out more about the roles of others within the group, as well as share about myself and my work. I began to see a new role emerging of mentoring others in the sector, which for some reason is sadly missing.”

I am so appreciative of having the opportunity from Ubele to be a part of this conference, and the experience I gained and friends that were made. The week allowed myself and those I attended with to find some stillness in the chaos of the world around us. 


Joseph Jeffers

Building Resilience in Communities and Organisations (Post-COVID) course participant


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mama sylla

Methods of Participatory Design using the Art of Hosting course participant

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The first time I heard about the UBELE INITIATIVE was in March 2020, just after the pandemic started. Since then, I have been following their weekly webinars and advises about funding that is available for organisations and individuals. I was impressed about their work and the one to one sessions offered to people needing help on how to apply for funding.

One morning of September 2020, as usual I checked my email and what came across was an email from the UBELE about an opportunity for a training in Greece. I skimmed on the email then carried on doing my daily stuff. Few weeks went by and I received another email that the deadline was approaching, I read through and I finally rushed and filled the form and submitted it. Few weeks later, I received an email stating that I was successful and will be going to Greece for 7 days. I felt happy for the fact that I will be away for few days and sad leaving my 3 babies behind.

Finally, on October the 3rd, I travelled to Greece. I was impressed by the weather, the cleanliness, the beauty of Chania and most importantly the group of attendees from different backgrounds that I travelled with.  

“I have attended previous trainings with another organisation, but I felt this one impacted my life professionally and personally. I met change makers that are doing great things for their communities and this empowered me to do more.”

It was wonderful to see people talking about issues happening in our communities, some even considered as taboos (FGM and child marriage for instance) and that gives me hope that things will get better in the future for young girls.

My best memorable moments were working together as a team and sharing ideas, lifting each other the boot trip, some of us did not know how to swim but were encouraged by others to join them, and lastly, we travelled the world through the Botanic Garden in Crete (we explored all kinds of plants, fruits trees from all over the world). The Garden brought back my childhood memories in Guinee when I saw the sugarcane tree and the drum hanged in one of the trees. I felt being home and enjoyed the walk with my friends where we stopped, laughed, and took pictures of each other which was a very special moment.

It was very interesting to learn and understand the Methods of Participatory Design Lab, the Open Space, and the World Café methods. Those processes involved working together in small groups and discussing on how to set up and run each participant’s project, contributing to each other, and learning new things.

“The whole experience made me realise how important it is to come together and work as a team.”

As a chair lady of the charity “LA FRATERNITE GUINEENNE” I will use the knowledge gained to train my team, also share those methods with my partners.

I am thankful to have taken part in the training with the UBELE INITIATIVE, I have learned  more about who they are and what they do, how they empower change makers and most importantly how the give a chance to people who  cannot afford those opportunities. 

If you have not signed up yet to the UBELE INITIATIVE newsletters, please do so. I look forward to the upcoming training opportunities.

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