A puzzle of colours


(Training Courses for Cultural Mediators – 2004)
Organised by: H.E.L.P. Soc. Cooperativa Sociale - Onlus
Provincial Plan 2001, Leg. Decree 286/98
“Actions for integrating immigrant populations”


When I think of this course I think of a puzzle, a coloured puzzle with faces, accents, smiles, sometimes tears – a puzzle formed of people and feelings.
Scattered pieces, which, through dialogue, debate and respect have come together because “the whole is more than the sum of all its parts”.
A “job”, that of integration in the classroom that demanded the synergy of all involved. Where different cultures, traditions and religions met.
A “test bench” that everyone tried out to recognise inside themselves their fears, prejudices and doubts about others, but, above all, a place to discover and put one’s resources to use, to experiment empathy, sensibility and listening as fundamental qualities for the professional figure of Cultural Mediator.
From their essays I have formed a collage of their thoughts:

Elisabetta Selvazzo
(Course Coordinator)

“…History teaches us that there has always been and will always be immigration.
Man’s movement internally and externally has always had the aim of changing and improving his life…
Local and global “external” migration brings cultural differences, exchange of ideas, goods, religion, customs, etc., cultural differences therefore.
The reasons why a person leaves everything and goes away vary for each one, but we are all joined by the fact we are in a new place that geographically is not ours but which, luckily or not, belongs to us, numerous populations have turned a new leaf and gone elsewhere…
Initially they see an image in you, then perhaps a face, after a person (immigrant) seeking survival with thousands of problems, sometimes to be avoided and others to be helped.
This “push and pull”, “yes and no” towards someone different is due to various factors, mainly the lack of effective integration and other policies.
Now things are changing, and the people too…”
Fatima D.

“…For more than two decades Italy has been a land of exile, and risks staying that way if the world conflicts continue. Throughout the world there are more than 200 million people uprooted from their homeland, in the forefront the tens of millions of refugees who are escaping from wars and various social and political disorders. Italy and the rest of Europe will continue to receive a considerable migratory flow. In other words, Italy must open its doors and its heart to welcome and organise these guests …
To gain recognition of the different cultures, assisting mutual understanding is a good thing, even though the meeting of different cultures can be a shock; it is above all a moment of mutual enrichment. We must accept and consider as a wealth those non-European citizens, show them what is good in our culture and civil cohabitation, bring out their social and religious opinions, etc. This way culture becomes a positive exchange which each one carries with them, and when cultures meet we find tolerance and completion.
The professional figure of the mediator should be recognised inside the family, by the individual, in the social structures and in the relative foreign communities.
I have tried to make the figure of the cultural mediator visible and present in all possible ways. This is my will to gently help the introduction of the non-European citizens into their new society…”
Sini N.B.

“…It’s true, anything strange or unknown upsets us and as long as there are no drastic social, economic, political or cultural changes life goes on quietly and calmly. This is the same for all populations and each individual. Each one of us has his beliefs, ideology and behaves in a certain manner, and often changes can cause discomfort, fear and upset.
Everything we have perceived in the past completes our identity, and often even time cannot help us to forget our first experience, which makes it difficult to change our way of thinking. But life is not routine, it is constant change. A proverb says “you can’t go into the same river twice” and this is the same for many populations who are present in Italy today. The migratory flow from various countries with different culture, language and religion creates a new social-cultural situation. These changes are drastic for both sides – both the people who immigrate and the population they immigrate to.”
Lesya S.

“…The first problem the foreigner comes across is being able to make himself understood. Communicate, not only with language, but also with the body and attitudes, the way of life. Understand and be understood in a context of different customs to one’s origins can cause misunderstanding, incoherence and could be the origin of various problems.
Besides giving purely legal information and case study analyses, mediator training also offers a considerable amount of real “sessions” where the trainers invite future mediators to identify themselves in the conflicting situations, to imagine the different feelings and the possible forms to solve the problem, incentivating “creative thinking”, which will be a fundamental ability to be able to carry out their work in the future.
In particular, mediator training involves developing an attitude for negotiation and ability for listening, with a more open attitude as free as possible from prejudice, or at least intimately aware of its cultural and secondary nature.
The mediator must have resolved his or her internal conflicts, to avoid becoming a victim while carrying out the job of professional operator aimed at solving other people’s disputes”.
Maria Elizabeth G.M.


“Mediation is a relatively new and little codified professional field. Therefore, the mediator must define mediation on the basis of his or her experience and that of other colleagues. These are the only consistent and immediately available references.
After the training stage, I feel that in creating a concept of mediation, the meanings that Italian institutions assign to it contribute, which are passed onto to the mediator if the institutions consider the foreigner as someone handicapped or disabled, and therefore only considered in welfare terms. In these cases, institution tends to delegate the job of accepting the foreigner to the mediator, almost as if they wanted nothing to do with them personally.”
Aziza A.C.


“…A cultural mediator can be considered a bridge figure, creating bonds between different persons, but the mediator can also be the one who finds remedies, releasing tension and rounding off sharp edges and disagreements.
There are lots of definitions for cultural mediation and cultural mediators. The training course and previous experience has given me the opportunity to be one of these bridges.
Azra H.


“…We have talked about the figure of the cultural mediator for a long time. The debate arose from the fact that at the moment there is not a standard recognition of the professional figure of cultural mediator, and this creates certain confusion. For example, there are no fixed criteria regarding training courses for mediators; the training we have undergone has confirmed this fact, we have found different ways of interpreting cultural mediation, professional persons with different training and working methods, even though the enthusiasm that they put into their work was constant…
I hope this experience will help us to carry on with the work to have the professional figure of cultural mediator recognised to enable us to establish precise and certain parameters which will permit us to work in the best possible manner …”
María José S.R.


“… During my training period, I had the pleasure of meeting lots of mediators and, through the mediation activities, I had the real pleasure of seeing the inside nature of the persons. I lived my experience with enthusiasm and I have met and got to know other people who I felt had my same desire to help others, give a smile, support and the right indications, in the way we did when we arrived many years ago. For me it is a mission, to give what I have always sought, a friendly, welcoming face who gives me a hand to find my way…
So many stories accompanied me during my training, I gave myself up to their problems and forgot my own, which became unimportant, I went home thanking God for having giving me the essentials to lead a dignified life…”
Birikti T.T.

“…At the end of training I realised that the figure of cultural mediator is very important, and requires numerous qualities and abilities. Sometimes, human life depends on the cultural mediator. We cultural mediators must be very attentive, responsible and aware of this. The words of our Professor Enzo A. Becchetti impressed me, that the only the only thing that counts before God is mercy. We must remember this always…”
Olena K.

“…Experience of an “imperfect” cultural mediator. This choice of title is not accidental, because I really do feel I am an imperfect mediator with regards certain paths and matters concerning intercultural factors, and I feel that I, like many other colleagues, have not extended and developed my famous “toolbox” sufficiently…
We must not just settle for gratification and thanks from the people who need our help, we must try to perfect our role further given that the cultural mediator is increasingly important and complex if we consider our modern society which is increasingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religion…”
Fatima N.


“This essay is not just an epilogue of a training course to become a good professional cultural mediator, but also a step towards realising a personal project that I have had in my heart for a long time, a mission to take part in creating a common social myth with the objective of harmonious co-existence between people who are different in ideology, culture and other artificial barriers that the human race has continued to build right since the beginning of time…”
Joseph M.W.