Community Outreach: An International Neighbors Group

An International Neighbors group establishes a program to enhance the lives of underserved children in Washtenaw County.

By Marcy. Today I learned about a remarkable program begun by two IN women who wanted to “give back” to the community. Begun last year, IN members, Cindy L and Julie C, established a community outreach program with Ann Arbor’s Community Action Network (CAN), the network having as its mission to partner with children, youth, and families from under-resourced Washtenaw County neighborhoods to create better futures for themselves and improve the communities in which they live. CAN has seven locations in Ann Arbor, and our two volunteers began to work with the Green Baxter Court Community Center. Cindy and Julie sought to introduce the children (ranging in age from kindergarten through high school) to new cultural experiences all the while providing nutritious food and having a good time! Each month a different country was highlighted with delicious foods and enjoyable activities representative of that culture. One or two IN members who represented the highlighted country worked with Cindy and Julie to expose the children to many aspects of their particular cultures. These countries included Japan, Australia, Turkey, India, Spain, and the USA. The children enjoyed eating ethnic foods while responding to questions designed to spark their interest about a given culture. Everyone loved Japanese sushi and learned to their great surprise that familiar characters like Hello Kitty and Pokemon were actually created in Japan as a part of anime and manga.

Sometimes musical instruments and dance have been main features of the entertainment. The children loved wearing Indian clothes as they tried out the lively dances representative of that Asian country. This year Julie and Cindy are looking forward to introducing the children to Brazil as well as distant locations in the USA that the children want to learn more about. The Community Outreach program has been tremendously well received. Green Baxter director, Harrison Metzler, described it this way, “International Neighbors provides a fantastic opportunity to allow children to explore other cultures without leaving the country. They experience different food, different music, and learn about how people may play games, go about their daily lives, how they are similar and how they are different. This is something I wish I had when I was a kid to be able to experience the different cultures and have much more appreciation for the world that we live in at a younger age and I know my staff also agree with me as we talk about how excellent this program is for our community.” What wonderful recognition this is for our volunteers, and how rewarding it has been for Julie and Cindy as well! Thanks for contributing to our community in this significant way!  If you are interested in introducing your country to the kids of Green Baxter Court or getting involved in any way, please email adding Green Baxter Court to the subject line.