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Well connected communities cultural exchange adventure

June 28, 2019

From June 7 through June 10, 13 immigrant youth and 7 adults from three Minnesota communities (Somali youth from St Paul Frogtown/Rondo neighborhood and Moorhead, MN, and Micronesian youth from Milan, MN) embarked on a “cultural exchange” journey to learn about one another’s day to day lives, understand each other’s cultures and heritage, visit each other’s communities, and explore commonalities and differences in a guided and safe manner. The exchange was coordinated by Center for Family Development and Center for Youth Development staff.

The goals for this exchange were:

  • To bring together youth and community teams from these three disparate, diverse communities utilizing a framework of civil discourse to engage in a cultural exchange in which participants identify commonalities and foster appreciation of difference, and learn to apply these skills in their own communities.
  • To expose participants to opportunities available to them in Minnesota, including the natural resources of the state.

Youth from each community planned activities to highlight their lives within their communities. Reflection activities after each community visit documented impressions and understanding of the community culture, and also demonstrated the progression of relationships and understanding.

Highlights:

  • A scavenger hunt in Milan brought the cultural exchange participants throughout the town, and required them to take a selfie with spoon-carvers who were there for a spoon carving festival. When the group was leaving Milan, nearly the entire community of Micronesian families living there filled the main street to sing us a “farewell” song in their native language Chuukese
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provided (free of charge) use the Sibley State Park Group Center for one night of this trip, as well as a demonstration ride in a Voyageur (18 passenger) Canoe. They have shown an ongoing investment in the youth we are working with, and will continue working with them after this journey.
  • Representatives from the National 4-H/Well Connected Communities funders (contributors to this event) joined for part of the cultural exchange, and challenged the youth and leaders to consider how this work can become more of a youth-adult partnership in each community (as opposed to a largely youth-centered initiative).
  • An amazing Somali meal was enjoyed in Fargo. The youth were fascinated with the Red River and seeing North Dakota across the river.
  • After an evening of barbecue, garden-touring and learning about the history of the Frogtown-Rondo neighborhood, the participants bicycled to the State Capital where they learned how they could be a part of Minnesota government.
three cultural students in front of state capitol, St. Paul Minnesota
four Milan Minnesota micronesia youth
Somali youth by largest ball of twine sign

To follow up on this successful project, a deeper dive cultural exchange training has been funded by one of the Extension mini-grants. It will include building youth adult teams and helping them create an action plan that they can bring back to their own communities to support healthy inclusive communities.

Trina Adler, program leader

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