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Barcelona International AIDS conference

Volunteers Training Program: Awareness and Action for Diversity, Human Rights, and Tolerance


The Foundation champions the protection and the promotion of human rights within intercultural settings.  Designing a course on intercultural issues and human rights for the Barcelona International AIDS conference was a great opportunity to bring these values forward. 


The training course and the accompanying trainerís guide were developed to prepare 1,500 conference volunteers for this international experience.  The concept of this training is that participants can then leave and begin learning more about these issues on their own and in their volunteer groups.  This course represents a start for the volunteers to become sensitized and open to the concept of intercultural exchange.

The course introduces key concepts in cross-cultural issues and cultural awareness and therefore is based on generalizations about human behavior, values, beliefs, etc.  The intent of the course was not to provide culture specific elements but to provide an overview of the main cultures of the world.  However, specific cultural examples are given when appropriate. Participants may join the course expecting a preparation on how to deal with other cultures on practical levels, or expect a comprehensive list of cultural mistakes to be avoided in order to manage concrete situations.   Unfortunately, this cannot be done in a course dealing with intercultural issues in general whereas the study of a specific culture would allow, to some extent, such an approach.

Again, the course does not intend to provide all the answers to all the questions related to intercultural issues.  On the other hand, the materials provided seek to encourage and stimulate curiosity, reflection and critical thinking around the themes of culture, values, tolerance, and peace within the context of human rights.  It can be very demanding to have a critical look at oneís own culture.  Yet participants must consider that understanding another culture requires an understanding of oneís own culture first.   Sensitization to Human Rights can only be accomplished if participants acquire a solid understanding of culture, thereby understanding why cultural differences exist.  A simple lecture on Human Rights cannot achieve this.

Why does cultural introspection promote the understanding of Human Rights? Teaching cultural awareness is an opportunity to study religions, traditions, convictions, values, beliefs in an objective and non-judgmental manner.  It is an opportunity to question stereotypes and other biases about other cultures and promote mutual respect.  

Participants should be encouraged to draw on their experiences in interacting with other cultures, for instance to analyze the knowledge they may have acquired as travelers.  The course seeks to emphasize how exposure to different cultures provides a basis for tolerance and non-discrimination.

This training doesnít limit itself to preparing the volunteers for the conference but to spark their interest in intercultural issues in the long-term.  Traveling for instance, can take on a new dimension now.  Beyond sight-seeing, students can develop and sustain an interest for other cultures, especially by meeting and interacting with local inhabitants of the places they visit.  They can also continue their learning locally by getting involved in helping minority groups or communities, regularly visit cultural centers, watch foreign movies, learn foreign languages, etc.  There are many options available to them if they are interested.

The course will provide participants with some basic factual knowledge of intercultural issues.  Participants will also draw on their personal experiences.  Exercises and participatory approaches intend to stimulate critical thinking and reflection.  A post-course exercise will give participants an opportunity to experience cultural interaction during the course of a day.  This will provide them a basis from which to write out their feelings, thoughts and analyses.   

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