A moment in time to raise awareness
Falling under the projects for outreach following the Festival in March 2006, the BB CGM decided to hold workshops on the topics rated highest by the attendees of the festival. The first workshop was held on the 21st of July 2006 at the Main Hall, British Council, Colombo for school children from the region. This was a 3-hour programme for the students to understand HIV/AIDS, the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, the effects of the virus and to understand the value of awareness and acceptance.
Having held this workshop before, the BB CGM was aware this was going to be an unforgettable experience for many participants. We had seen the activist we invited weave his magic so well…
This time was no different. From the word go, he was all poised to take center stage and soon enough, his audience was caught up, enthralled and they participated so eagerly, asking questions, answering his, volunteering, and taking pleasure in the group activities taking place. There was a general air of happy activity unmarred by the presence of their respective teachers. Each wanted to learn and understand about these socially stigmatized “diseases” and they were energetic in their participation.
The charismatic HIV/AIDS Activist who conducted the workshop guided the participants effortlessly to broadening their horizons beyond their previous expectations and they were abetted by the teachers, who, interestingly, also had some questions to be answered.
The afternoon wore on, and the Main Hall of the British Council was busy as a beehive. Everyone was sure of the “workshop” and what to expect. But the participants were in for a surprise…
In the midst of their feverish activity, bringing them to a sudden halt, they were suddenly, stealthily and skillfully pushed into true acceptance of HIV/AIDS people as opposed to mere mouth acceptance; thus creating a reverberating silence in the Hall, where each participant battled with personal views and prejudices and newfound understanding and acceptance. They came to think deeply about their instilled fears, to question them and to look for answers. They had been given a new and real reason to accept HIV/AIDS positive humans.
At the end of the session, all the participants lined up to shake hands with the Activist and to talk to him, to express their solidarity with his cause. The feeling in the room was so strong at the time and there was not a single person who wished to leave without talking to him. His impact on them was apparent on each upturned face and awe struck but smiling countenance.
For the organizers, it was encouraging to see how, even with slightly weak participation at the beginning of the workshop due to being unsure of what to expect from such a workshop, the students ultimately came forward to test theories, and question past beliefs. Proving the effectiveness of the workshop, it was evident these young people wished to try and change the views buried deep in their society.
This workshop was what Beyond Borders is: It tests limits and shatters them. And it is a good reminder for all of us to truly go Beyond our accepted Borders.