We were invited by two different teachers to hold workshops for their students at the “Bildungsanstalt für Elementarpädagogik 8” in Vienna, Austria. The initial workshop had approximately 17 students and focused on the topic of human rights. For the second workshop, we had 26 students for which we had to prepare a workshop about stereotyping.
The school, without prior knowledge about YFU or student exchange programmes, was quite intrigued to welcome us to enlighten their students about some of the topics we deal with, in an informative and interactive setting. We were a team of three volunteers: Sophia Ortner, an exchange student in Belgium (Wallonia) together Judith Schneider, an exchange student in France, and I, Ayanda. We all participated in a training for new facilitators in October 2017, as part of the CGrow project.
For the first workshop, to investigate the topic of human rights, we chose the Human Rights Tree simulation and it actually went very well. The students really got engaged in the tasks and participated actively as well. Before we even got to the ‘challenge phase’ of the exercise, they had already anticipated counter measures, which gave us the opportunity to modify the activity and, in some cases, setting bigger challenges to really push them to feel the pressure of the exercise. It really worked out well! We had a multifaceted discussion on the different perspectives to approach human rights, and on how they may differ in value depending on cultural background or quality of life.
The second workshop was on stereotypes. We initially started with developing the Labels simulation, where the students also had to plan their own farewell ball. Thereafter, we had the presentations and debriefing and then we delved deeper into how the labels did or did not influence their behavior. We concluded the conversation with personal reflections from the students on labels they had been given, how they had to personally work hard to get rid of those and how that influenced their relationships and general socialising capabilities. Since we had enough time, we then decided to also do a second simulation, called Around the world.
We closed both workshops in a similar manner. Basically, we drew their attention on the reasons why we, as YFU, feel it is important to have discussions on these topics. As former exchange students, and now global citizens, we realise how our perspectives can at times be subjective and we know what it feels like to challenge them. It is also our privilege and responsibility to address and communicate on these and many other topics, as well as to encourage such conversations so that we can promote intercultural understanding in the communities that we live and work in. The world is getting ‘smaller’, with people from different cultures crossing paths every day. This is why we create a better environment for ourselves as citizens if we are open minded towards new people.
Written by Ayanda Siboto, Coloured Glasses Volunteer