Bridging Backgrounds is a youth program for that works to foster tolerance, expand mutual understanding, and increase knowledge of human rights among youth in Macedonia. The program is divided into two phases: the learning phase and the activism phase. During the learning phase, participants attend a seven-day conference in Skopje. At the conference, participants participate in human rights education activities, receive community activism training, and hear talks from leaders in the fields of activism, academia, and politics. During the activism phase, participants design and implement their own community-based projects with sustained mentorship from the Bridging Backgrounds organizing team. Participants are eligible for grants up to $250 to facilitate these projects.
Phase I – The Learning Phase
Human Rights Education Activities
The core of the Bridging Backgrounds curriculum surrounds human rights education activities. These activities allow program participants to learn about the fundamental elements of human rights, debates over human rights, and common human rights issues. As part of the human rights education section of the curriculum, participants visit the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia, where participants learn first-hand the disastrous effects of human rights violations in the Macedonian community.
Community Activism Training
In preparation for the participants’ community-based projects in the second phase of the Bridging Backgrounds program, participants receive professional training on how to conduct work in their communities. This training focuses how to conduct community outreach, project development, strategic project implementation, project communication, and project monitoring and evaluation.
Guest Speakers from the Fields of Activism, Academia, and Politics
To provide participants various perspectives on how different public sectors work to foster mutual understanding, increase tolerance, and expand knowledge of human rights, the Bridging Backgrounds program includes numerous talks from leaders in fields that work to ensure that society works for all people. Speakers include youth activists, investigative reporters, political science professors, and diplomats.
Phase II – The Activism Phase
Participants design their own projects from the ground up with limited requirements. As long as the project focuses on one of the themes of Bridging Backgrounds, includes at least twenty people, and is feasible and culturally appropriate, it is good to go. Participants submit project proposals and budgets to the organizing team, receive feedback, modify their proposals and budgets, and then receive approval.
Bridging Backgrounds participants implement their projects with guidance and support from the organizing team. Each participant leads a project that involves at least twenty community members. Projects range from traditional activities that teach members of the community about human rights to community bike rides that work to foster gender balance in sports.
After participants complete their projects, they complete some short reflection pieces to review the success of their projects and how their project impacted them.