One of the undoubted richness of the VolinHA-HO consortium is the knowledge that each partner has in sending and hosting international volunteers. Creating positive working placements for international volunteers is, indeed, an asset to facilitate the collaboration on the field and to guarantee the ownership of the results in Cooperation development as well as in Humanitarian Aid projects focusing on preparedness, response and in building communities’ resilience to disasters and humanitarian crises.
During the exchanges and meetings we had in the first year of the project, all the partners agreed on how useful would be a Resource pack of tools and tips in order to facilitate international volunteers in entering new cultures and similarly hosting organizations and communities to positively interact with volunteers having a different cultural background. The activity is still on progress and is led by FOCSIV and Comhlamh, which are putting together existing tools, useful materials and bibliography on the issue with the support of all HO and SO partners.
As FOCSIV, we are considering the Resource Pack an invaluable opportunity to think about the aim of international volunteering. We truly believe that international volunteers have a strategic role in guaranteeing sustainability to Humanitarian Aid and Cooperation development projects. They accompany communities in third countries along processes of empowerment, without substituting local human resources and competencies, but overcoming individualism and mutually sharing experiences, abilities and knowledge to create a safe and equal world.
A belief confirmed by the Agenda 2030 for a sustainable development that recognizes «We are setting out together on the path towards sustainable development, devoting ourselves collectively to the pursuit of global development and of “win-win” cooperation which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world». As hosted in a different Country, International volunteers have some responsibilities in facilitating that process, entering new cultural environment on tiptoe, giving value to local resources, knowledge and abilities and understanding local dynamics…
Cultural barriers may however influence the quality of the collaboration (which is yet a challenge in modern times) and may transform volunteers’ efforts and good intentions in obstacles and misunderstandings with local people.
But the question is: are the challenges of the multicultural collaboration only on one side?
I had the chance to talk about the Resource pack on multicultural collaboration with two Italian experts in culture and intercultural related issues and important questions emerged. People of every culture might actually judge those of another culture in such aspects as behavior, religion and language in comparison and think they are right. But if “we are all immune carriers of some form of ethnocentrism that influences not only external elements such as food, clothes, language… but even our way of thinking, solving problems, relating to others and so on”, how can we fruitfully collaborate?
How can we solve the natural level of conflicts that come from our accidental ethnocentrism, if even our way of understanding the world and finding solutions to common problems are determined by it?
Like parallels lines that never meet, our accidental ethnocentrisms prevent Dialogue, make Exchanges among Peoples more difficult and transform Multicultural Collaboration in a challenge within a challenge. Experts think they have found the answer: we need to cause distress to our local cultural categories and find out together new way of thinking, judging and acting as the result of merging different cultures and peoples. In a global society where boundaries are liquid notwithstanding oppositions, cultural perspectives need to merge too.
Every Culture needs to make a step towards the others, running the risk of losing some of its identity to create something new and different where everybody might feel at home. The future is Creole!
It’s up to us to accept that challenge and to start the process… step by step.