Amizade has spent 22 years inspiring over 10,000 empathetic, engaged global citizens through service-learning programs in 12 countries. Recently we focused on ensuring that all people, regardless of income, could access our programs. We are proud of this work, but after November 8th we realized that our entire sector – however effective in creating global citizens – was failing to link local communities. Building on experience with cross-community projects in Northern Ireland, we will bring youth from rural and urban communities together for an intensive and socially active experience.
Our pilot project – Renovating Community Bridges in Western Pennsylvania – will break down network-barriers and provide young people from urban and rural communities the opportunity to explore issues of identity, power, and privilege together. The open dialogue will give students the opportunity to explore their biases, and the biases expressed in media, that often define who they and their communities are. We believe that, by providing a safe space for youth to learn about the diverse cultures around them, and immersing them in one another’s culture, we can transform the way they view the “other” and bridge these networks.
This program will begin with a series of workshops where a small group of young people will explore topics surrounding stereotypes, identity, and poverty. The participants will then spend five days in each community and two days in Washington, DC as way to encourage them to continue to travel, learn, and experience communities beyond their home. Upon return, the participants will bring together the themes of diversity and unity with a community-based event to share what they learned. Research suggests that knowing at least one person that is part of a group different from your own can help facilitate and encourage empathy. The success of this pilot program will allow us to create a model, and set a standard for future cross-cultural dialogue program.