Allsorts Goes International

May 15th, 2011 by

Allsorts Goes International!

Allsorts recently took part in Active Citizens, an intercultural training programme run by Novas Scarman in partnership with the British Council. The programme aims to develop and support a global network of individuals (Active Citizens) who are learners, actors and influencers in their communities. Allsorts Project Manager Marianne Lemond was one of twenty people selected in Brighton to take part in the programme. A range of community projects were represented on the programme including BME Young People’s Project, Free Brighton Community Radio Station, community allotment Plot 22 and Hungry Monkey children’s cookery project.

 

The programme involved making links with community groups in Pretoria, Freeberg and East London in South Africa in order to encourage long-term intercultural dialogue and shared learning. Marianne was one of ten Brighton Active Citizens lucky enough to get the opportunity to take part in an overseas exchange visit to East London, South Africa, in March this year. The exchange trip involved visiting local social action projects to see what kind of social issues people in East London were facing and how they were trying to address these issues. Projects visited included: a HIV/AIDS hospice, a couple of primary schools, a community library and an environmental organisation. The Brighton Active Citizens were very impressed by the work the East London Active Citizens were doing to address the huge challenges of poverty, HIV/AIDS and illiteracy. The trip culminated in a visit to Nelson Mandela’s Homestead and Museum in Qunu and Mthatha to learn more about the anti-apartheid struggle, an experience that all the Brighton Active Citizens found extremely moving and inspiring.

 

In May, ten Active Citizens from Pretoria, Freeberg and East London visited Brighton for a week. The Brighton Active Citizens put on a jam-packed programme for the visitors. Activities included: an alternative tour of Brighton; visits to local community groups particularly HIV/AIDS support services such as Sussex Beacon and Terrence Higgins Trust; and a trip to the Houses of Parliament where we watched some of the debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords and met representatives from the Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS. It was an intensive week but everyone had a great time. Feedback from the South African Active Citizens was extremely positive: “the programme was great, everyone was so friendly and we slept like kings, it was super. Thank you”; “the visit was wonderful. The people were so friendly, easy to socialise with and very helpful.”

 

Two of the South African Active Citizens, John and Stella, visited Allsorts and met with some of the Allsorts young people. John and Stella told the Allsorts young people about what it was like growing up as gay or bisexual in South Africa and the Allsorts young people shared their experiences of growing up as LGBT young people in the UK. There were a lot of similarities between their experiences particularly with regard to coming out and facing homophobic bullying or abuse at school. The Allsorts young people learnt how in many ways South Africa is ahead of UK in the fight for LGBT rights: for example, it was the first country in the world to constitutionally prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and same-sex marriage (not just civil unions) was legalised in 2006. At the same time though, homophobic hate crime is very common. Particularly disturbing is the phenomenon of ‘corrective’ rape where lesbians have been raped and subjected to severe violence (and sometimes murdered) by men supposedly trying to ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation. John relayed some horrific stories of homophobic abuse that he and his gay and lesbian friends have experienced. John also explained that there weren’t any LGBT support services like Allsorts in East London, his hometown in South Africa. Large cities like Cape Town and Johannesberg had plenty of LGBT bars, clubs and support services but there were no such services in East London. John said he wished that he had had an LGBT youth group like Allsorts when he was growing up.

 

The Allsorts young people found the meeting with the South African Active Citizens very educational. According to Dean and Louie, “it was a good experience because we got to learn how another community deals with LGBTU people. We were really shocked when we heard about some of the things that happened to John when he came out as gay. It gives us a wake-up call about how lucky we are in the UK generally with our living conditions but especially in relation to being LGBT. We are so lucky to have a space like Allsorts to come to.” Overall, the experience of being involved with the Active Citizens programme has been a hugely enlightening and inspiring experience. “It has been an incredible opportunity” said Marianne. “It’s been a privilege to see first-hand the excellent work that community groups in East London, South Africa, are doing to address the issues facing their communities. At Allsorts, we look forward to building on the links we’ve made in South Africa and getting more involved in international issues, particularly the fight for LGBT rights all round the world.”