AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE
160 North Fifteenth Street, Philadelphia 2, Pa.
TRIPARTITE WORK AND STUDY PROJECT, 1963
Report prepared by the Summer Projects Abroad Program
The Tripartite Work and Study Project held in the summer of 1963 was the second stage of a three year project organized jointly by the Friends Service Council of Great Britain, the Committee of Youth Organizations of the Soviet Union, and the American Friends Service Committee. A three week work camp, combined with informal and formal discussion sessions, was held near Nalchik, the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, [in] the northern Caucasus mountains of the Soviet Union. It was preceded by several days of sightseeing in Moscow, and followed by a week of travel and hospitality in other cities. In 1962, the first project in this series was held at Bristol, England, where participants helped to build a community center. The concluding project in this series will be held in the summer of 1964 in the United States.
Thirty participants, between the ages of twenty and thirty, made up the project, ten each being appointed by the sponsoring organizations. The project was equally divided between men and women. Through working together on a project of service to the community, and through free and frank exchange of views, participants sought to increase their knowledge of each other's society and ways of life and thought, and to grow in mutual understanding. The Tripartite Work and Study Projects are a part of a larger program of international voluntary work camps carried on in various parts of the world by the Youth Services Division of the American Friends Service Committee.
Work Project. The 1963 work project consisted of the construction of a dormitory building for a holiday camp used by Young Pioneers, an organization for youngsters between six and fourteen years of age. Project participants worked for half of each day digging foundation trenches and filling them with concrete and stones. Later in the project, some brick-laying was included. The work project played an extremely valuable function in initiating personal communication among the participants. As one participant writes in her report, "This was for me a gratifying part of the camp. I enjoyed the sense of bodily fatigue and achievement which follows a period of hard work. It is not easy to describe the intoxicating rhythm of work. A simple line of five or six people spanning the distance from a mound of bricks to the foundation of the building suddenly became a single unit. The process of tossing bricks from one to another depended upon split second timing and concentration, and created an inward rhythm which vitally bound us one to another." Participants felt that some of the most meaningful and informative discussions were initiated and pursued while on the work site.
Planned Discussions. After an early afternoon break for recreation and personal interests, the group gathered again for planned discussions. The theme for this year was "The Aims and Duties of Youth in Contemporary Society and their Role in the Struggle for Better Understanding Between Peoples'". Specific topics discussed included the cultural values of youth, the individual and society, ideology and morality, the nature of art and its relationship to social order, intellectual and cultural freedom, the idea of nonviolence, and the role of youth in achieving a peaceful world. Subjects were usually introduced by a formal presentation by one of the participants, followed by questions and discussion. While planned discussions were helpful in the definition of issues and the realization of similarities and differences, the most spontaneous and meaningful dialogue tended to arise on other occasions, while participants were working or traveling together.
The tone of the discussions was at a high level and was gratifyingly frank and sincere. At the same time, there was scarcely any anger or bitterness, partly due t o the camp atmosphere and the caliber of its members, and partly due to the emphasis on ideas and personal attitudes rather than on political and economic controversies. Also, discussions were not recorded, nor were representatives of the press and other mass media present. As one participant put it, "We attempted to choose topics that would permit searching and analytical presentations of our societies and our differences without leading us into meaningless charges and countercharges. We tried to avoid words which would put an end to discussion, But we never avoided expressing opinions or ideas which pointed out very fundamental differences.''
Community Contacts and Travel. During the three-week work project, there were opportunities for meeting with groups in nearby communities as well as longer trips to visit collective farms, a mining town, and factories. There were also sightseeing trips, particularly into the Caucasus mountains. Following the work periods four days were spent at Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, for extensive sightseeing and hospitality. Here as well as in Moscow there were invitations t o visit private homes, Visits to church services were made in Nalchik (Russian Orthodox) and in Moscow (Baptist), and to the synagogues of Tbilisi and Moscow. An American participant writes: "I would like to comment that everywhere we were received with great warmth and friendship. People seemed so eager to meet American students, to see what they looked like, to hear a word or two about their impressions of the Soviet Union, to hear wishes for peace and mutual understanding. I think our group did a good job in this respect.''
Further Evaluations. An American participant in both the 1962 and 1963 projects stated: "Everyone seemed better prepared than last year. Everyone seemed willing to learn and not just to preach, which happened too frequently last year Important issues were raised earlier (this year). Discussions seemed freer . ...The Soviet participants were willing to try to understand why our Western societies were ordered the way they were. The Soviets seemed less afraid to contradict (each other), to give individual dissenting opinions. …In all, I would say there was a greater sharing of important ideas and opinions among the participants this year than last." A report from two of the Soviet participants states: "The discussions, both official and private, were interesting, important, and on the whole successful, aiding as they did mutual understanding. On the whole it may be said that the work and study project was a success and fulfilled those aims which it had set for itself. All‑important in the success of its work was the spirit of friendship and the striving for mutual understanding and cooperation which were shown by all the participants in this undertaking." Wrote a British participant: "Everyone, I am sure, left the camp with a far more vital realization of how the minds of those in other national groups work, of what is important to them, their aims, ideals and present criticisms. Such a sharing of ideas also leads to a confrontation which challenges set assumptions." One of the American girls reported that "For me the project was a period of great inner stimulation and outward communication. Never have I felt so great a need for constant, conscious and objective evaluation of my own thinking and reactions. I can think of no better experience than one which combines the necessary and urgent task of chipping away at prejudices and mistrusts on the international level, with stimulation and growth on a personal and individual level.”