This month we are celebrating the International Day of Cultural Diversity on 21 May. In today’s globalized world, encountering different cultures and what they contribute to humanity’s common heritage has become easier than ever — something we think needs to be shared!
We’d thus like to share with you what the InterNations Volunteer Consuls have organized to honor our diverse cultural backgrounds and to inspire you.
Embracing Cultural Diversity through Traditional Food
Traditional cooking classes, Asian cuisine, and new superfoods: it’s hardly a secret that food cultures are spreading around the globe. While recipe books and the internet are doing a good job at replicating international cuisines, proper traditional food is still best prepared by someone from the culture itself, thanks to family recipes handed down from generation to generation, as well as years of experience.
Rosa Guerrero from the Madrid Volunteer Group therefore set up an Ethiopian dinner at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant to enjoy this very different cuisine and to support the Mzungu Project over a shared dish of spicy stew and injera flatbread. The project, founded by InterNations member José Antonio Ruiz Díez, aims to provide education to children in need in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“People became very committed to the Mzungu Project when the volunteers met José at dinner and saw how passionate he is about his dream to help the underprivileged and to make a difference in the world.” Twenty-seven people from ten countries were inspired by José, who actively participated in organizing the dinner with Rosa and who will be using 100% of the funds raised to help build a new school for children in the DRC.
Former Consul Eleana Chatziri from the Barcelona Volunteer Group saw the start of spring as a wonderful opportunity to get together with the members of the InterNations Barcelona Volunteer Group for an international potluck picnic. All the attendees prepared and shared typical national specialties with each other.
Next to indulging in delicious dishes in an outdoor setting, Eleana considered the beginning of spring to be the perfect time for collecting clothing donations, since most of us clean out our closets for a new season. All attendees were encouraged to donate clothing to Arrels Fundació, an organization that helps homeless people in Barcelona to live a decent and dignified life.
The Human Rights Initiative, an organization that both advocates for justice and promotes international human rights, organized an annual holiday party to celebrate the season with the local refugee community.
The Dallas Volunteer Group was invited to join the party, donate goods to people in need, and make the refugees feel welcome and accepted. The event host, Consul Sanjeeb Samanta, and his former fellow Group Consuls came up with the great idea to contribute to the festivities by asking every volunteer to bring a side dish, which was ultimately shared with all the families and guests.
Providing Support to Those Looking for a New Home
Megan Hanna from the Luxembourg Volunteer Group organizes a monthly activity, where InterNations members join her on a four-day trip to the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, France. With her “Boots on the Ground” events, Megan and the volunteers support the refugees with various tasks, such as chopping carrots in the kitchen and sorting clothes, that make life at the camp just a little bit easier.
Temenuga Bakalska, Consul of the Munich Volunteer Group, does an incredible job at getting InterNations members together to help support the refugees living in Munich’s biggest shelter, the Bayernkaserne, a former army camp. Since the refugees can come to pick up much-needed toiletries and clothing on Saturday, help is essential. The volunteers assist in various tasks, such as sorting donations or handing out the items.
“It’s always very motivating to see the efforts that volunteers put into supporting others and the gratitude from those you are helping. Despite the language barrier between volunteers and refugees, this doesn’t cause any issues: in the end, there’s nothing that a thumbs up or down can’t solve! I was very glad for the opportunity to help the many regular volunteers in their work — there’s nothing more rewarding than putting a smile on the face of a complete stranger.” — Blandine West, former volunteer at the Bayernkaserne.
A former Consul of the Barcelona Volunteer Group, Robert Stars, teamed up with Arrels Fundació, the organization that has been supporting homeless people in Barcelona for as nearly 30 years.
As many of those sleeping rough aren’t necessarily from Spain and don’t always speak Spanish, the language barrier is the main obstacle to doing efficient work. To address this issue, InterNations volunteers are providing assistance in translating leaflets about various important topics, giving homeless people more guidance and new opportunities.
Soothing Activities to Bond in Dallas, Brussels and Barcelona
Heart House is an organization that provides safety, education and opportunity to refugee and underprivileged children.
Together with the Dallas Volunteer Group, InterNations Consul Sanjeeb Samanta, as well as his former fellow Consuls Doaa and Shalah, organized an activity where each InterNations volunteer got to accompany a refugee kid to the Crow Museum. The Volunteers accompanied the children on a guided tour, attended lunch together, and joined them for an arts and crafts session, which resulted in a big smile on everyone’s face — not only for the children, but for the volunteers as well.
The cultural center Omar Khayam in Brussels wishes to create a bond between individuals, build bridges between cultures and give visibility to the cultural and artistic wealth of Syria. Eija Hietala, former Consul of the Brussels Volunteer Group, noticed this organization and invited InterNations members to promote the message of peace, using music and poetry to connect. All funds at the activity were collected in order to benefit Syrian refugees.
Mesmerizing children with new cultures is what happens in the Shanghai Volunteers Group thanks to Group Consul Elena Wang. Immigrant children aged from 10 to 14 get to find more about other countries through singing, dancing, and painting, making it a wonderful and eye-opening experience for them. Elena hosts the activity almost every month and assists the children, together with the volunteers, in playing games and guiding them throughout the afternoon.
“Cultural diversity makes the world a much more interesting place to live in. There’s a lot to learn about how other cultures approach life. Diversity shows us that we are all different, yet very similar; at the core of every human being is the need to feel safe, happy, and loved.” — Rosa Guerrero, Madrid Volunteer Group Consul
If you’d like to get involved in activities for a good cause, please check if there is a Volunteer Group in your InterNations Community. Every InterNations member can join the group and take part in the activities!
(Image credit: 1) Wikimedia Commons user Lelaw Wondimu 2)-5) InterNations)