RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- From North Macedonia to North Carolina, a delegation of activists from that small eastern European country traveled to Raleigh for lessons on creating change in their country.
"We have seen so much. We visited five states," said Rita Behadini, one of the members of this North Macedonia delegation of activists, advocates and nonprofit leaders at the end of a whirlwind five-state three-week U.S. tour. Their final stop: Raleigh for a meeting with local change-makers at Dock 1053 on Whitaker Mill Road.
"To a degree, it might be a culture shock because we are coming from a very small country," said delegation member Orhan Ceka.
North Macedonia is a tiny landlocked nation in southeast Europe; population: 1.8 million -- not much bigger than Wake County (about 1.2 million).
They came to Raleigh to hear and learn first-hand from Wake County judges, political action groups, activists and congressional representatives on how to effect change in their country.
"There are a lot of things that are very different here. But also similarities. The types of fights for social justice here and similarities with what we do back home," said Ceka.
Southeast Raleigh advocate Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC, recalled for the group that moment in 2016 when she helped negotiate a truce between warring gang factions in the city.
"The biggest thing for the delegation to takeaway is we're all human beings. We can live, work and play together. And we want to have a safe environment for everybody," Powell said.
One recurring theme the Macedonians heard across the country, and here too was about the gun violence crisis.
"It's been interesting to hear this problem of guns and violence because we don't have that back home," Behadini said.
Ceka added, "When we see gun violence here and mass shootings it makes us feel a little uncomfortable."
Action NC's Gloria de los Santos' work as a community organizer also seemed to make an impression.
"Seeing the cooperation between the nonprofits, the government and the businesses has been amazing because we don't actually have that back home," Behadini said.
The delegation's trip was sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the organization International Focus. The City of Raleigh's newly commissioned violence interruption group, Boots on the Ground, assembled the local speakers.