Human rights issues since late 60s have expand and obtained new forms – from fight against racial discrimination to combating impunity, poverty, sexual discrimination, armed conflict and violence, lack of democracy and weak institutions etc. The biggest part of the world’s population admits that human rights are inherent to all human beings, notwithstanding of their nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, skin color, language, or any other status. Moreover, the universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international and national law, in spite of this fact still there is a lot of places all around our planet where disrespect and denial of human rights is present.
“Across continents” is a European Voluntary Service (EVS) project funded with the support of the Youth in Action Programme of the European Commission and aimed to mainstream Human Rights (HR) in voluntary work, to promote and protect human rights worldwide and to encourage active participation through volunteering.
The 12 volunteers from Italy, Netherlands, Spain and France are since 2/3 months in Kathmandu (Nepal), Bogotà (Colombia) and Mendoza and Salta (Argentina). They work with local youth and children developing various activities related with human rights, social justice and non-discrimination.
Since volunteers have spend in their host countries almost three months CEIPES asked their first opinion and impressions about the work within different local communities and their life after starting volunteering program.
Five volunteers who are working in Nepal and Argentina shared with us their experience and thoughts. “Across Continents” aims to give to young volunteers as many educational and cultural benefits as possible, though we asked them to point out those which are most important from their point of view.
Volunteers mention personal consciousness growth, development of their cooperation skills, increased capacity of analysis, planning and communication skills, as well as the discovery of a new and rich intercultural dimension. Concerning the people with whom volunteers are working with volunteers point out collaboration, tolerance and solidarity, that all people involved in the project can learn and improve.
Another important aim of the project “Across continents” is to increase youth knowledge and information about the host countries. As the experience of volunteers show, this aim will be reached successfully. Mario Paciola, the Italian volunteer who is working in Salta, Argentina wrote: “I remember the great surprise some guys had in the Colegio San Antonio when I told them that I was there thanks to an international project of cooperation. They didn’t know that it could exist a possibility like that and many of them asked me lots of questions about my country, my experience and my life, trying to understand how that morning my presence in their class was possible, and eventually lots of them expressed the desire to find a way to realize the same choice. It would be nice if tomorrow one of them could have the same chance I had of traveling in other parts of the world through such a project of interchange, as it could be an excellent way to better understand the other cultures and the respective differences, learning how to accept them.”
Experience differs from country to country, each country gives to volunteers a different and important experience. Joryck from France who is working in Nepal remembers: “When I arrive in Nepal everything was new: leave in huge town, polluted environment, and full of people, impregnated of religious things and new food and accommodation. But day by day I learned more and more about this type of life and its real pleasure to go out every day because every day is not the same like one day you work in school another one you work in orphanage and when you are in weekend it’s just beautiful what you can find around Kathmandu.”.
Living in other country volunteers have to learn not only how to live with different physical conditions but also learn how to move in a very diverse social and cultural background, and at the same time reflecting about what their presence can give to the local community. Lisa from Netherlands, who is also working in Nepal shares her opinion “It’s still surprising to see what a cast system, but also religious background and financial ‘background’ can make a difference in the opportunities people have. Even though the cast system is officially not there anymore, this is a very big deal in society and keeps the structure in society always the same. We work in a school for disabled children, where we show the students their possibilities. By making art, music, playing, teaching and talking, we try to let them not see their lacks but their changes and opportunities. In the orphanage we show what respect is, and how the children can play fair without violence. The children are not used to this and I think we inspire them to create a more peaceful, non-violate environment.”This type of exchange of values and believes makes a richer society and ensure its members have a wider view of the world.
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid once said:” “We all know that human rights cannot just be transplanted as external principles into individuals or their communities. Human rights principles must be internalized by each individual, women and men, and must be absorbed and expressed in their own ways and within the positive aspects of their cultural values and beliefs!” Human Rights education volunteering programs are an excellent tool to boost society awareness and get to know closer these values which are shared all around the world with aim to make it better. One volunteer cannot do it by himself, nevertheless it is one step towards humanity which respects, appreciate and takes into consideration people equality and rights notwithstanding of their nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, skin color, language, or any other status. Its not enough, we still have many steps to make, but it always gives hope and makes us to believe that our way is getting shorter.
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