Every moment is an experience – Jake Roberts
Have you ever thought about sharing your culture with others? You might be living in your native country or never traveled far from home. Or perhaps you are traveling, studying, working or living in another country. Whatever the case may be, there are plenty of opportunities for you to share a little bit with others. I know that most of us have very limited free time, but giving a little of what we know to someone else has unlimited benefits. It’s not that we do this for the benefits; it’s just that the benefits inevitably follow. Can you think of times when you volunteered in some way? How did that impact others? How did you feel afterwards?
In fact, you might think you don’t have anything to offer, but I bet if you thought a little and then read these 20 possibilities, you could come up with something. Lots of things. So many ideas. You might have trouble choosing. Don’t worry. That’s a good thing.
Let me share one story with you. When I lived in Korea and taught at an international language school where students learned English as well as other core content areas, I would pass Yonsei University every day. There was a small brick building with a sign that read “Yonsei Rehabilitation School”. I was always curious about that building, so one day I stopped in and met the director, Mrs.Park. I have a degree in education, so I asked Mrs. Park if she needed help. I ended up coming to the school each Saturday to assist the teachers with lessons, recreational activities, helping the students learn English, etc. And I took my third graders from Seoul Foreign School to that school to perform a few Korean folktales at Christmas time. My students made holiday gifts and wrapped them to give to the children. Although my students were learning English, I worked with some of the bilingual high school students and we learned the folktales in Korean. It was a fun, educational, and rewarding day for both the Yonsei students and my students.
I arranged for Mrs. Park to attend the same university I had graduated from so she could see how the integration of special needs students is implemented in educational settings in Canada. She attended one summer of classes at Lakehead in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Before she left, I helped her to learn English-speaking skills that she would most likely use and she also learned English online. During that time, children with special needs in Korea were not mainstreamed into regular school settings. What she gained from coming to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada helped her change some of the educational philosophies in Korea, which has impacted the lives of so many children and families.
Let’s look at some ways that can you share your culture with others:
- Volunteer to teach a language class or share your culture at a school (elementary/middle or high school) or university. You can call a principal or head of a language department at any school to see if you can share some facets of your language or culture. Often, there are international awareness days that you could present at, after school language classes, or other avenues to share historical/political/social aspects of your country.
- Give a presentation at the library about your country or travels. Contact the head librarian about possibilities to set an evening or Saturday presentation. Discuss various audiences and tailor your presentation to that group. Maybe it is a senior citizen travel group or a children’s bilingual book circle, etc.
- Teach a skill from your culture (craft, cooking, game, etc.). Are there places in your community to share a craft like an art fair or a game day at a park or recreational center? Can you offer a cooking class in a foods class at the high school or college level, or maybe in the evening through a local store or restaurant? Can you share a popular game or sport during recess at a school or at the end of the year for an all school game day or maybe help out at an established camp or program that centers around your particular skill (soccer, Taekwondo, embroidery, etc.)?
- Help out at an International Food DayMany churches, senior citizen centers and schools have a food day focusing on one or many different cultures. Is your help needed in preparing a food, translating a recipe, or serving?
- Translate at a health clinic, hospital, court case, school, if needed. Does your community have people with limited language skills so you can help translate when they may need a certain service? Perhaps you could be called in cases of emergencies for medical reasons. There may be people who speak a language other than English and your services might be appreciated at a court of law in translating for the victim of any number of offenses. There are many opportunities to help translate at schools: open houses, parent/teacher conferences, explaining handbooks/assignments, etc.
- Organize a play group. Do you have young children or do you have a background in education/teaching or working with children? Do you have an interest in children? You could offer some type of organized play group somewhere in the city (a park, youth center, etc.)
- Display culture at a museum or library. Often times, there are different museums or libraries that have ongoing displays about a particular subject or collection. Do you have something to share or to add?
- Organize discussion groups or conversation groups for older students or adults. There may be others in the community who want to discuss foreign politics or practice conversing in your language. Can you find such a group or start a group by contacting history/political science teachers at the high school/college level or by calling the library or literacy centers?
- Help to coordinate a foreign exchange club or diversity club. Many cities and schools offer clubs to build awareness of cultures, etc. Can you help the adviser in any way? Maybe you could speak to the group or help out with their fundraising or cultural presentations, etc.
- Share folktales and books about your country of native authors. Is there an all-city reading program or a week at the library that features folktales or certain authors? Are reading teachers at literacy centers or schools looking for content- rich international literature? Can you offer your background/experience/advice in this area?
- Translate visual writing, if needed. Is there enough of a need in your community to have some specific information translated? Think about important things that a person would need to know in their language. How about at the pharmacy or doctor’s office, at a store or school, at a bus terminal or train station? Are there international organizations that you can call to ask if they need help in this area? Maybe there is a Red Cross agency or another organization that helps refugees or new citizens?
- Give away your reading material and/or supplies to others. Do you have newspapers, magazines, or books written in your language that you no longer need or use? Do you have newspapers or magazines and even books written in your language that you no longer need or use? Is there someone or a group of people who could benefit from these? I know people who have given away reference books to refugee families, school supplies to new arrivals in town, foreign newspapers/magazines to those in the community who are learning that language, and those who have donated used books to book swaps, book fairs and schools.
- Help families of adopted children. There might be a local organization that helps with the adoption of children from other countries. Might you be needed to help ease the transition of adoption for the parents and that child? Could you be a mentor to that family to help them understand your culture and the culture of their adopted child?
- Host foreign students. Are there students at any age level and language level that you could host either on a short-term or a long-term basis? The students could be from any country or nationality and you could share your family, life and culture with them while they are experiencing their “home away from home”.
- Invite foreign students to your house, out to dinner, etc. This could be as simple as contacting the high school guidance department or foreign language department and inviting those teachers who work with those students. Or, you may invite students who are attending school for the year in a new country, to your house for dinner or a social gathering, and/or possibly taking them out to dinner or to an event in the community (a play, dance performance, concert, etc.).
- Contact institutions that might have foreign professionals and ask if your help is needed. Perhaps you have read in the paper or heard on the news about a group of foreign professionals visiting your city for a particular purpose. Maybe they are studying a social services institution or a local museum or educational offering, etc. Maybe they are coming from a specific business to see how that business operates in your country. Maybe they are matched from a Sister City of some sort and the meeting exchange is more social. Can you help out in any way? Can you translate, make food, offer a room for the night, chaperone on a fieldtrip, help translate, etc.
- Call social service agencies and enlist your help to transition others into your community. There might be a group of individuals/families that have resettled in your community and they are working with various social service agencies in this process. Is there something that you can do to help these people adjust to their new city/town/state/province/country? Are there opportunities to babysit, tutor, talk to, translate, transport, or donate?
- Write an article for the local newspaper or magazine. Are there avenues for you to write about the importance of cultural awareness and acceptance? Is there a community column forum in the newspaper? Perhaps you can comment on certain international topics that may be relevant to your community at the time (e.g., foreign language instruction, the value of learning English or learning English on-line, the advantages of bilingual education, the help needed in resettlement of refugees or immigrants, rights of immigrant populations, etc.)?
- Speak at a career fair. Contact your chamber of commerce or business departments at the university or high school. Would they need someone to speak about international business or international work at any time?
- Observe (or join) local community awareness groups and help with community functions. I realize that all communities are different, but you can scan the phone book or explore online to see what community groups might be in your area. Are there groups that help others? Are there Rotary or Lion’s Clubs? Are there churches you can call to see your services are needed? You can also help your community by participating in various groups or activities within the community. What are your interests, skills and talents? Are there groups that need this at any time during the year? By being active and visible in your new community, you are sharing a part of your culture with others.
There are lots of ways that you can share a part of your culture with others. Some of these ideas are simple things that don’t take much time or commitment. Some are much more involved and time-consuming. But sit back and think a little. If you have other ideas, please share them with me in the feedback section below. Your ideas might encourage others to share their ideas; they may trigger additional ideas. Write to tell me how you might have shared your culture with others or tell me how you plan to do so.
Remember, every moment is an experience…and you can share those moments with others so they can experience your culture. In turn, this will inevitably help in ways that you can’t even imagine. No matter what your native language is or what your ability to speak a language of the host country and/or a more universal language like English, you have something to share…this moment.