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
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
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.