Bridging Backgrounds – United by Love’s flagship program – empowers high school students with the skills and resources to foster tolerance, strengthen mutual understanding, expand knowledge of human rights in their communities. In the summer of 2017, United by Love ran the pilot version of the program in Macedonia. In 2019, we intend to expand the program in Macedonia and to neighboring countries in Southeastern Europe.
The program has two phases: the learning phase and the activism phase.
- Learning Phase – During the learning phase, participants attend a ten-day training. The training is comprised of human rights education activities, community activism lessons, and talks from local politicians, activists, and academics. Through these activities, participants learn about human rights issues in their communities, discover methods of advocating for positive change, and develop inter-ethnic respect.
- Activism Phase – During the second phase, the activism phase, participants design and implement their own community-based projects related to one of the program’s themes: tolerance, inter-ethnic understanding, and human rights. Throughout the duration of the second phase, participants receive sustained mentorship from specialists on the organizing team. Bridging Backgrounds participants are provided micro-grants of up to $250 to complete these projects. Types of community projects that past program participants have developed and led include the first inter-ethnic youth ping-pong tournament in Skopje and a week-long human rights caravan that brought human rights education to young people in five cities around Macedonia.
Program monitoring and evaluation has demonstrated that Bridging Backgrounds participants gained a significant understanding of human rights and different perspectives on human rights; became more open to ideas that differ from their personal thinking or cultural norms; developed the skills needed to collaborate with other young people of different ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds; and learned how to design and lead community projects and initiatives.
These positive changes result in participants realizing the agency they have in their communities, becoming motivated take action for positive changes in their country, and transforming into life-long active citizens who will work to create a respectful and peaceful Southeastern Europe.
To learn more about this program, please visit the Bridging Backgrounds Program Website.