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Training course „Volunteers as peace agents“

This training was excellent, well-balanced and very inclusive. The group was very interactive and I really liked that the hotel was accessible for wheelchairs.

I loved how different we all are but how we all wit and gave so much to each other.

I learned a few methods to use in a group work, but I also benefited from observing how the organisers managed the whole group and most importantly, how to lead a group to get things done. I also learned a lot of things about myself.

We were a very diverse and open-minded group. It was very nice that there were people of different ages from different countries.

A beautiful experience, different than the others that I had.

Venue: Vienna, Austria | Date: 25.5. – 29.5.19 | Organizer: Grenzenlos – interkultureller Austausch

Partners involved: HUJ – Voluntary Service of Armenia; Center Women and Modern World Azerbaijan; LYVS Belarus; The Starry Start of Talents Foundation, Bulgaria; EstYES, Estonia; Solidarite Jeunesses, France; Institute for Cultural Relations Policy, Hungary; ICIJA, Germany; SCAMBIEUROPEI, Italy; URI_Mena, Jordan; Leaders of life, Jordan; Hayya Binna, Lebanon; Salfit Development Association, Palestine; SOPRO, Portugal; MLADI ISTRAZIVACI SRBIJE, Serbia; Društvo Mladi Evropejci, Slovenia; COCAT, Spain; NECI, Spain; Farhat Hached Institute for Research and Democracy, Tunisia; Yellow House, UK; ALTERNATIVE-V, Ukraine.

Aims and Objectives were:

  • To promote peace and fight against hate speeches
  •  To promote peace work within international volunteering projects
  • To get inspired on how we can keep a peaceful society:
    • What can voluntary organisations and youth workers do?
    • How can volunteers become or remain peace messengers?
    • How can voluntary organizations reduce stereotypes of their volunteers instead of increasing them?
  • To get to know to different approaches in preparing, mentoring and evaluating voluntary projects in order to support your volunteers to act as peace agents
  • To have fruitful debates and learn about peace work among young people from all over Europe and Mediterranean countries

Grenzenlos is running international projects and exchanges since nearly 70 years. In the last years we dedicated our trainings to the topics of civil courage, human rights, inclusion and now peace. We define ourselves as a peace organization and we are an official peace messenger through our network ICYE (www.icye.org).

Grenzenlos board of managers decided that Peace will be the theme for the 2018/2019 international activities: In a first step Grenzenlos coordinated an Erasmus+ seminar on “volunteering as a tool for peace?” where we reflected on the meaning of peace within European volunteering organizations nowadays and its relation to international volunteering. This training course was built up on the content developed in the first seminar and focused on how voluntary organizations can support their volunteers to become peace messengers and agents for peace.

Within the training course we extended the exchange and understanding of peace work and included voluntary organizations from partner and MEDA countries. Due to the huge response we worked with a big group of participants which allowed us to be more visible. The training was part of a bigger strategy on promoting peace and the contribution of volunteering to it and a follow-up activity on the Erasmus+ Seminar “Volunteering as a tool for pace?”.

Grenzenlos has an inclusion focus within all our projects. Therefore, this training was planned to make it accessible for participants with physical and mental disabilities. As we offered this opportunity also in the previous trainings but did not have a lot of participants with this profile we were this time stricter and made more efforts already in the preparation phase to ensure that the inclusion does not just end with a beautiful idea but will actually take place! In this sense we reserved four places for participants with disabilities.

During the training course, important questions were raised, such as what peace in a personal and organisational perspective is, what is to be a volunteer in a personal and organisational perspective, which tools, methods, ideas, and processes do we use that can be considered peace-work, among many others. These questions served as a baseline to can help the organisations to change, adapt or continue their activities.

Throughout the training we discovered that the concept of peace holds many meanings, and that its understanding evolves and adapts, and is particular to each individual, community, nation, etc.  Peace in this sense is not only the absence of war, but an imperfect concept that includes many aspects, from spiritual ones such as the experience of peace in daily life, moral ones such as the need of acting in accordance to the rules created, modern ones such as the search for understanding the relations among ourselves, and post-moderns ones such as the questioning of these different concepts.

Trainers and support team

Carlos Gauna Vargas, Marja Koren, Elena Tanase, Zhang Man, Marie Pfaffl, Adam Baker, Miruna Nedela