What does Cultural Sensitivity Mean to You?

Someone asked me this the other day. She is a volunteer for an NGO that seeks to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon through developing their life skills. I think this question is also very relevant if you are a Lebanese citizen living in Lebanon due to the vast amount of refugees who are living in Lebanon at the moment. Do we embrace these cultural differences, regardless of how big or small they are, or do we each go about our every day lives setting these people aside or labeling them as the “other”?

I responded more or less like this…

Cultural sensitivity is the way one reacts to a culture that is different from his or hers. Different cultures embody special qualities and one must keep an open mind when dealing with these cases. Our differences are what make us unique. The first aspect of being culturally sensitive is to be compassionate and understanding of the differences between your culture and others. Nowadays, people are quick to judge any aspect of life that is not similar to theirs. In this case, it is important to stand back and reflect upon these differences. Basically, one must empathize with the other instead of judging.

How can we be culturally sensitive as a volunteer?
In order to implement cultural sensitivity as a volunteer, the volunteer should indulge themselves in the culture they are exposed to and reveal to the people they work with that there are not many things that set them apart. Even though we all have different cultures, this should not push us apart, but rather bring us together in order to learn from each other and advance as people. It is also important to keep in mind every one’s different live experiences and to not judge solely based on what you see on the surface…

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