Written by Aisha Scanferla, volunteer at the Pinocchio Centre, Italy
The European continent, as well as each of its member states, is a constellation of ethnicities, languages and cultural traditions which, throughout history and still today, make it an extremely rich place with enormous potential. Increasingly, we are realising that the diversity factor is a strength, an element that must be harnessed to strengthen cultural identity, openness towards others and, consequently, progress.
These issues are gaining more and more force on the international scene when it comes to thinking about improving social conditions and inclusion of often disadvantaged minorities. This is a slow path, which requires a lot of awareness-raising work by social actors to reap the benefits.
The question now is how an inclusive attitude that values diversity as a benefit rather than an obstacle can be disseminated and taken root.
Which members of society should be targeted to spread the idea of diversity inclusion as a good social practice? Children, those who, without prejudices and preconceptions, use this notion as a new and interesting filter to learn about the reality around them. Training which, put into practice from an early age, could lead to the normalisation of this attitude, to it becoming a constituent part of a person’s values.
In the framework of the project “VulnerAbilities: from challenges to opportunities”, funded by the Active Citiziens Fund Romania , programme fundedby Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, started on September 1st 2021 and to be completed on February 28th 2023, the Pinocchio’s World Association from Panciu promoted the activity “Many faces, one community” in the schools of the town.
The aim of the initiative was to involve the youngest segment of the society through activities appropriately adapted to children’s age and carried out during school hours. The cycle of workshops, which involved first the older children and then the younger ones, focused on a single objective: raising awareness of tolerance and empathy, building the capacity to empathise in situations where harm is palpable, raising awareness and reducing the risk of discrimination and social exclusion of minorities. Of the proposed activities, the one that resonated the most was “Take a step forward”, where children had the opportunity to simulate real-life situations and realise how great the gap is between those who enjoy resources and those who do not.
For small classes, the association has addressed the theme of diversity as an opportunity and an asset. Through reflective activities on important topics such as appreciating diversity, pride in the characteristics that make us unique, and the emotional consequences of marking inequalities, it was possible to lead the children in rich discussions and exchanges.
An attempt was made to emphasise that each of us is different, but at the same time unequalled, unique and extraordinary. They started by looking at diversity in terms of physical appearance, height, size or braces, and then moved on to reflect on cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.
Each of them told the class why they felt unique: some because of their passions, some because they were born in a different place, some because they could speak a different language and some because they grew up in contact with different religious beliefs.
The appreciation of each participant created a climate of general enthusiasm and awareness of diversity as a privilege and an asset for the class, a small microcosm containing the society of tomorrow.
The project is implemented by Lumea lui Pinocchio Association and benefits from a 50.000 euros grant from Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014 -2021. The content of this material does not necessarily reflect the official position of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org. More details about Active Citizens Fund Romania are available at www.activecitizensfund.ro.”