10:00 EDT Toronto, New York
15:00 GMT London, Lisbon
16:00 CEST Oslo, Berlin, Barcelona
Join Toralv Moe, Senior Advisor, Business Development and Diversity with the City of Oslo, for an update on the city’s ambitious plan to be ‘A City for All’. Learn how Oslo is putting intercultural policy to the test and raising its diversity and integration index by measuring the city’s progress on equality, opportunity and inclusion since the 2001 launch of its Oslo Extra Large campaign. In conversation with: Irena Guidikova, Intercultural Cities, Council of Europe
This webinar is 45 minutes.
Toralv Moe, Senior advisor – business development and diversity, Department of Cultural Affairs and Business Development, City of Oslo
Toralv Moe is the Senior advisor on integration and diversity to the vice major of cultural affairs and business development, City of Oslo, Norway. He has a Master degree in social anthropology, economics and history and 24 years of experience in the field – with the Municipalities of Oslo and Tromsø, State Agency of Integration and Migration. He is responsible for coordinating initiatives and measures for integration and diversity throughout the municipality; the OXLO-policy (Oslo Extra Large); and the implementation of the European Charter on Integrating Cities. His experience includes benchmarking, both local and international, through Intercultural Cities / Intercultural City Index the Eurocities MIXITIS and ImpleMentoring projects.
Irena Guidikova, Programme Manager, Intercultural Cities, Council of Europe
A graduate of Political Science and Political Philosophy from the Universities of Sofia (BG) and York (UK), she has been working at the Council of Europe since 1994. Her carrier has taken her from the Directorate of Youth and Sport where she developed and carried out a large research programme, through a transversal 3-year project on the future of democracy in Europe, the Private Office of the Secretary General where she was a policy advisor, to her present job as Head of Division at the Directorate of Democratic Governance. She is managing the Intercultural cities programme and coordinating the organisation of the World Forum for Democracy.
Her professional interests in all of the above fields cover areas at the intersection of public institutions and society: public policies and social change, technological development and policy innovation, policy review and advice, strategy development and implementation.
No cost to participate. You will need a computer with internet access and speakers or a landline telephone. Pre-test System Requirements here (Adobe Connect requires the Flash Player plugin, version 10.3 or above to run).
In 2002, the city of Erfurt, located southwest of Leipzig, recognized that it needed to embrace its international student population as an engine of growth. The previous decade had seen the re-opening of the University of Erfurt and new opportunities for local development emerge against the back-drop of German re-unification. As the city began to attract growing numbers of students from around the world, civic leaders started to register the value of being a destination city in an increasingly mobile world. The city council, the University of Erfurt and the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences embarked on a project to promote openness and a culture of welcome with the aim of establishing the city’s reputation as a friendly and tolerant regional capitol.
The result was Fremde werden Freunde (Strangers Become Friends). The program connects international students with local residents, universities and businesses to help newcomers feel more welcome while strengthening local civic engagement and opening cultural horizons.
Inspired by a similar program in Frankfurt, Erfurt adapted Strangers Become Friends to meet the needs of a city newly attuned to issues of diversity and integration. “Erfurters should realize we are at the beginning of having a cosmopolitan city,” says project manager Petra Eweleit.
Erfurt is well on its way to becoming that city. Today the state capital of Thüringen has a population of 206,000, of which 3.7% are foreign-born. The international student population has grown from ten per year to 200 a term, or approximately 500 in residence annually, from countries such as China, Indonesia and Serbia.
A culture of welcoming
Eweleit recalls the discussions that took place during the project implementation: “We must do something to include international students in our daily lives. We wanted to show the international students that Erfurters welcome them warmly. We wanted them to come to our city to live.” The organizers also realized their efforts needed to include the host community. As Eweleit remarks: “We wanted our inhabitants to be more open-minded, sensitive, and create a culture of welcoming.”
Reaching the projects’ dual audiences – cultivating international students and long-time residents – required a multi-pronged approach. An important part of the project was developing a network of local hosts to mentor students and engage in an intercultural exchange that could enrich both visitors and the city. Called “Ambassadors of Welcome,” hosts come from all walks of life – families, single persons, retirees and young people – and include politicians, business owners and members of local civic clubs. Recruitment activities fanned out across the city: workplace presentations, visits to community organizations as well as a publicity campaign that involved newspapers, radio interviews and a dedicated website.
Program activities include a welcome reception at the Town Hall to introduce foreign students to their mentors; group field trips to strengthen relationships; regular monthly meetings; and workshops covering topics such as “intercultural competence” or the history and cultural geography of specific countries. Together the mentor and student may visit cultural or sporting events, go for walks through the city or even visit the mentor’s family during celebrations. Mentors also help students organize visits to physicians or assist with administrative tasks. Students have the opportunity to practice German and learn about everyday life in Germany.
Making the business case
The program is committed to finding new and innovative ways to deepen the quality and sustainability of its integration efforts. One such strategy is co-operation with industry.
Against a backdrop of skills shortages and growing global competition, the integration of students into the city’s economy was quickly embraced by local business leaders. In 2006 the program was expanded to include the participation of local businesses. Companies provide mentors and internships, and involve students and staff in site visits, job fairs and business events with the support of the local Chamber of Commerce, the Thuringian Institute for Continuing Education eV and other project partners. Students gain valuable working experience in Germany, and local enterprise taps into a pool of talented young people with technical, linguistic and intercultural skills as well as potential access to international markets. It’s a win-win situation.
“I’ve become a different person, a citizen of the world. I love you, Erfurt. Although I now go back to my homeland, Erfurt is always my other home.” Sari a.m. (Indonesia), 2004
Strangers Become Friends has reached its second decade. What began in November 2002 with 46 pairings and students from nine countries, today has matched some 1,200 students from 85 nations, about 200 per semester. Alumni are known to keep in touch even to attend each other’s weddings. The project’s success is a testament to the cooperation of partners, The University of Erfurt, the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences, the Erfurt City Council and the Thuringian Institute for Continuing Education who jointly finance the position of the project manager.
In 2006 and 2007, the project was recognized for its “imaginative and effective civic engagement,” and in 2010, the German federal Foreign Office awarded the project the top prize for “international students’ support and integration.” Its success in developing a culture of welcome – helping newcomers to integrate, increasing social cohesion, building intercultural awareness, dispelling myths and creating openness – has attracted other German universities to come to Erfurt for guidance on how to start their own “Fremde werden Freunde.”]]>
Many refugee parents are surprised to learn that schools in the United States take a three-month summer recess, leaving their kids with much idle time and the parents often wondering how they will continue to learn and settle in. From an academic standpoint, experience has shown that most students lose some of the knowledge gained in school because of the long break.
The long summer break does not serve these young people well. For students with limited English proficiency, the knowledge loss can increase to several months of grade-level equivalency, effectively widening the achievement gap in relation to their higher income, native English speaking peers. In addition to a steeper learning curve, refugee youth also face challenging obstacles to social adjustment and integration in the public school system.
When state funding cuts threatened Boise schools summer programming and other opportunities for middle school students, a group of local stakeholders took up the challenge to find a solution.
In the spring of 2012, the Idaho Office for Refugees convened a group of stakeholders to consider a plan to counteract the negative impact of program cuts, with the goal of keeping refugee students actively engaged in learning and socializing over the summer. The group included teachers and administrators from the Boise and neighboring Meridian school districts, refugee resettlement agencies, Boise Parks and Recreation, Boise State University, and local agencies like the YMCA. Out of a handful of brainstorming sessions and planning meetings, Boise’s first International Summer Youth Program was born, built on the concept of peer mentoring and intercultural exchange.
Although planners had a great deal of experience in youth programming, the idea of pairing refugee students with native born peers was new. Starting with a small scale project to test the feasibility of the concept, the planning group agreed to target middle school age youth (grades 6—8) and to offer enrollment to recently arrived refugee students and native peers who were struggling in school, academically or socially. A special outreach effort was made to reach American youth and their families with an interest in culture and language exchange. The goals of the two-week program were to introduce refugee youth to the larger Boise community; to promote academic and cultural literacy; and to develop a greater appreciation of world cultures among all students.
Who am I? Creating self-portraits
Program activities included creative ways to help students explore notions of personal and cultural identity. Program instructor, Revital Zilonka, currently a PhD candidate in bilingual education, developed an activity that addressed the question, “who am I?” To begin, the class created their own life maps. Students were asked to think about how a life map would look and how their language, culture and experience would shape this map. Students discussed how geography shapes culture and language, and how culture and language relate to history and immigration. Each student then created a life-sized self-portrait using symbols, magazine clippings and other images, in addition to their own drawings. This activity gave each student an opportunity to express personal creativity and to connect it to their culture and experience, as well as an opportunity for cooperation when students took turns outlining his or her figure on the paper.
Discussions ranged from children’s rights to what a perfect world might look like. One student visualized equality, another food security, and yet another “no bullying; everyone would have friends and love; and there would be no poor and none too wealthy and no one would be judged for where they’re from.”
But it wasn’t all serious. An important part of the summer program was daily physical activity. The game of choice? Soccer.
Testimonials from both students and parents speak to the impact and value of the International Summer Youth Program. Rachel, a middle-school Boise native, was surprised by her experience. “I thought everybody—the people from different countries all around the world—would all be so different,” she said. “When I came here, I realized that everybody is just the same. Some people have different colors of skin or some people speak different languages, but that’s it.” During the two-week program, Rachel became best friends with Fatima, whose family had recently arrived in Boise from Iraq.
Another student’s parent observed: “My daughter’s friend was impressed by the refugee youth and how brave they have been in their young lives—not just during war and upheaval, but in coming to a new country and going to school where they didn’t speak the language. Both girls made friends with refugee girls.”
The partnerships gained across local organizations and agencies were an indispensable factor in the overall success of the program, building on the infrastructure and expertise of the stakeholders involved. For Paul Scheonfelder, manager at Boise Parks and Recreation, collaboration was the key to the program’s success: “We were able to tap into the organizations’ strengths and resources to make the program happen. Boise Parks and Recreation has the background, skills, and infrastructure in place to run a summer camp.” The school districts, charter schools and refugee agencies were able to reach out to students and their families, while Boise State University provided curriculum guidance and helped recruit the instructor for the program. Other community resources included the use of the local community center as a home base, along with support staff, transportation for field trips, a registration system to sign up for the program, and a city scholarship fund that is available to all low income youth.
The value of the summer program for all involved was immense and plans for a second 2013 season are underway. For program leader Zilonka, “the most amazing thing was to be able to communicate with [kids] who didn’t speak English at all . . . Non-English speakers and English speakers bonded, cooperated, played together, shared food, went to many activities, and had fun. It was one of my best experiences ever as a human being and as an educator. It was a beautiful and precious experience to be part of these kids’ two weeks of summer camp.”]]>
The mothers first meet, informally, over a cup of tea. They talk about the needs and challenges of everyday life in their new homes, especially as it relates to their children and families, their education, health and wellbeing. Afterwards, they might meet up to ten more times, to discuss specific challenges and needs, and what supports or services are available in their community.
Mothers helping mothers
The area of Neukölln in Berlin has a long tradition of welcoming immigrants. Today, nearly half of the district’s population (42%) is foreign-born; many are immigrants from Turkey, and more recently, Roma families from Romania and Bulgaria. Rapid growth combined with changes in the make up of the local population have led to a number of challenges, including the isolation of newly arrived communities, pressure on local schools, and difficulties in reaching out to families who did not always speak German.
“Neighbourhood mothers” started in 2004 as a grassroots outreach project. It aimed to promote access to information and services that would help families with young children. Neighbourhood mothers with immigration experience and who can speak German undergo training before being sent out to meet with recently arrived, often isolated, families. These newcomers may be encouraged to attend other women’s groups, or to make use of local childcare facilities. The fact that this advice is provided by women with a similar background and family culture helps build trust and the confidence needed to ask questions, get answers and become receptive to change.
Familiar and sympathetic to the challenges faced by the new immigrants, neighbourhood mothers are community facilitators – lifelines to immigrant families in need of city services, support for school-aged children, or help with learning German.
Getting involved in children’s schooling
In Neukölln, where some schools have up to 85% pupils who don’t have German as their first language, neighbourhood mothers encourage parents to get actively involved in their children’s integration in the German school system, which, in turn, can help improve their children’s academic outcomes.
The program cooperates closely with with local childcare centres, “parent cafes,” school-based youth centres, school officials and teachers. These partnerships have contributed to the success of this work. Until 2009, the neighbourhood mothers worked exclusively with families who had children up to six years of age. Today it includes families with children up to age 12, and the Neighbourhood Mothers now receive further training on primary schooling and can connect parents with early education professionals and teachers.
What started as twelve Turkish women receiving training has now become a network of over 100 neighbourhood mothers from all different nationalities. It has been sustained by strong partnerships with various local and regional bodies, including the District Office Neukölln, Jobcentre Neukölln and the Senate Department for Integration, Labour and Social Affairs.
“The neighbourhood mothers … are a living example of hands-on integration work. Four thousand families, with over 10,000 children, have received advice and guidance from the neighbourhood mothers. What’s more, the idea is easily transferable to other districts and cities all across Europe, and beyond.”
District Mayor Heinz Buschkowsky, initiator of the Neighbourhood Mothers project
The project has received numerous awards, including the Metropolis award (2008), the Citizenship Award (2011) and the Helga and Edzard Reuter Foundation Award for outstanding achievement in the areas of integration and international understanding (2012). It has been replicated in other parts of Berlin and has also been adapted in Denmark where a similar initiative has developed across the country. It is still going strong In Neukölln, where some of the newest neighbourhood mothers are local Roma women helping newcomers from Romania and Bulgaria. These Roma neighbourhood mothers have already received training and are catering to the needs of this new population, showing how this flexible model can work in the long term.
The real success of this project lies in the way it empowers women on both sides of the relationship. Newcomers receive valuable advice, information and confidence, while neighbourhood mothers gain employment, income and status in the community.
On a larger scale, the project benefits the local government, by increasing the interaction of immigrant families with local mainstream service providers and facilitates their interaction with hard to reach communities. Finally, it benefits the Neukölln neighbourhood as a whole, by contributing to increased integration and cohesion.]]>
The Regional Municipality of York (York Region) governs a community made up of nine local municipalities north of Toronto. As a major local employer in an area where 43% of the population is foreign-born, York Region has more than an ordinary mandate to ensure its hiring policies and practices are inclusive of all applicants.
“Many new immigrants are choosing to live in York Region. As the Regional government, we need to take the lead and develop a workforce that reflects the community we serve,” says York Region Human Resources Acting Director Beverley Cassidy-Moffatt. “To support this goal, we developed the foreign credential process guide to ensure consistency in our hiring practices among both Canadian and internationally-trained candidates.”
Recognizing barriers to employment
A major barrier to employment for new immigrants is recognition of foreign credentials and experience. When York Region made the decision to diversify the workplace, it needed a reliable and innovative tool to help its recruiters and hiring managers overcome this obstacle. Not able to find an evaluation tool elsewhere to help them assess applicants, York Region developed one of its own: Foreign Credentials Evaluation Process Guide. What’s more, the York Region guide has been widely recognized as a tool “designed to promote a consistent and effective hiring process based on merit.” (reported the Toronto Star)
The innovative foreign credential process guide was developed to fill a gap when research among other Toronto region municipalities failed to identify an available resource. It consists of a flowchart for when and how to assess foreign credentials, scenarios, templates for assessment requests and other resources. Easy to use, the guide is designed to promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and does not exclude diverse candidates.
Multiple strategies at work
The process is working. York Region is already seeing a growing number of skilled immigrants within its workforce. However, the foreign credential process guide is only one of several strategies targeted by York Region to recruit new immigrants for some of its hard-to-fill positions. York Region is also a leading employer partner with Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE), a bridging program that provides internships and was instrumental in the recent hiring of internationally-trained engineers by York Region.
Recruiting skilled immigrants from the diverse York Region community has become part of the new normal for local employers. Quoted in the Toronto Star, Alex Walker, a co-CEO and president of Markham-based SMTC, said: “To be globally competitive, you have to be competitive in different cultures. We don’t proactively go out and say, ‘Guys, we need to recruit from these communities.’ It is a given.”
York Region’s efforts to diversify its workforce are producing results. Twenty-seven percent of the Region’s workforce now consists of immigrants and, at last count, York Region’s employees speak more than 60 languages.
“At the Region, I’ve been able to transfer some of my skills and technical background from the Philippines,” says Leany Moreno, an industrial treatment engineer who first joined York Region through the PAIE program. “There is great opportunity here for me and I am always looking forward to coming to work because of the supportive environment.”
York Region was recognized for its innovative work with skilled immigrants in April 2013, receiving the TRIEC Immigrant Success (IS) Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration. The IS Awards recognize employer leadership and innovation in recruiting and retaining skilled immigrants in the Toronto Region.
Hiring skilled immigrants isn’t the only way York Region measures success. In a 2011 survey, employees rated support for diversity as one of York Region’s top five internal strengths. Michele Samuels, Manager of Regulatory Compliance: “I, myself, am a minority and have lived in three different countries. Working in an environment that is diverse makes it a happy place for me to come to; makes me very comfortable. It also gives me an opportunity to mentor other staff.”
As with most efforts to increase diversity and inclusion, York Region has experienced additional benefits from its efforts. Michele Samuels: “We do a lot of communication to our community. By having diversity within the Region, we’re able to craft communications messages in a way that we know will be impactful for our diverse communities.”]]>
Few institutions reflect and serve the diversity within the community better than the Toronto Public Library (TPL). TPL is the busiest urban public library system in the world, with 98 branches, 1.3 million card-holders and a collection of 11 million items. In 2011 alone, TPL users borrowed 33 million items and made 23 million online visits. Recent immigrants are among the library’s regular patrons – in fact, more new Canadians are logged as “frequent users” than the overall Toronto average.
Why? Because TPL has worked hard to reach out to new immigrants, building a collection of materials in more than 40 languages, hosting English as a second language (ESL) classes in library branches, dedicating a section on their website to newcomers to Canada, and publicly posting a list of the library’s multicultural service goals.
Library Settlement Partnerships
For all Torontonians, the public library is an open, free and accessible community space that has been called “the great equalizer.” For recent immigrants, the library is also a space to meet others and access the resources that can help them settle into their new home.
In particular, TPL hosts a Library Settlement Partnership (LSP), which places settlement workers in public libraries. The settlement workers provide multilingual one-on-one information and referral services, as well as group information sessions to new immigrants. These workers provide information on a range of topics, such as how to get provincial health insurance and driver’s licences, register children in school, and where to find job search help and programs. Settlement workers can also connect clients to library staff for assistance with library programs and special services, such as TPL’s Business Development Centre or income tax clinic.
LSPs are funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the federal ministry responsible for immigrant selection and integration. The program builds on the itinerant service model demonstrated by the Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program, which reaches out to immigrant parents through their children’s schools. Both programs are founded on the principle of delivering settlement services where immigrants already are, rather than forcing immigrants to seek out those services.
Partnership is a key component of the LSP program. The settlement workers are employed by local settlement agencies – in Toronto, nine agencies place settlement workers in 19 library branches. The workers bring settlement expertise, cultural knowledge, and multilingual skills, while the library provides space for the settlement worker and access to clients who might not have been aware of settlement services, or how or where to find them.
TPL was one of three public library systems selected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to pilot LSPs in 2007. Following the success of the pilot programs, LSPs have expanded to include 11 public library systems in the province of Ontario – including Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Ottawa, Waterloo, Windsor, and four systems in the Greater Toronto Area.
Further, the itinerant model demonstrated by SWIS and LSPs has been applied in other municipal institutions. In 2011, the City of Toronto piloted a program to place settlement workers from local agencies in city facilities, such as recreation centres, children’s services centres, public health clinics and city-run shelters.
Despite challenging economic times and cuts to both TPL’s budget (City of Toronto) and federal funds for integration programs in Ontario, the LSP continues to serve newcomers in Canada’s most diverse city through the world’s busiest library system.]]>
The City of Montreal, the largest employer in Montreal and the surrounding suburbs with more than 25,000 employees, recognized this barrier was preventing many bright and talented individuals from fully participating in the Quebec labour force.
To help newcomers, as well as recent graduates, overcome that barrier and help the City be more reflective of the population it serves, the City launched the Professional Sponsorship Program (Programme de parrainage professionnel) in 2006.
The program has a tripartite funding model. Emploi Québec provides a wage subsidy equivalent to the provincial minimum wage and the City of Montreal tops up the minimum wage to the appropriate compensation level based on the job. The province of Quebec’s Department of Immigration and Cultural Communities finances an annual evaluation as well as the training for mentors and mentees.
How the Program Works
The program includes a six-month paid internship with the City of Montreal and aims to increase the workforce integration of ethnic and visible minorities, who account for nearly 85 % of all participants. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a post-secondary degree or diploma and less than one year of work experience in Quebec in a field related to their education.
The work placements include a wide variety of positions and give participants the opportunity to develop their skills in a stimulating job related to the field in which they trained. One foreign-trained engineer who came to the City as a trainee building inspector intern was paired with an employee who mentored him. After several weeks of coaching and on-the-job training, the intern was able to work successfully on his own and then was hired on a permanent basis after the internship.
The mentoring and training components of the internship program are essential to its success. Not only do new entrants to the Canadian workforce need to learn the technical ins and outs of the job, but they must also learn to adapt to a new workplace culture. To that end, mentors and interns both receive diversity and interpersonal communication training. This training helps them become more aware of their own perception of cultural differences, better understand others and teaches them to communicate using negotiation, mediation and problem solving.
“This program promotes intercultural and intergenerational understanding while promoting careers in Montreal’s public service,” says Mary Deros, a member of the City’s executive committee responsible for diverse communities, at the launch of the sixth internship cohort in September 2011. In addition, the program promotes the exchange of expertise, meets the needs of the workforce and prepares a new generation for skilled, in-demand jobs, she said.
Since the launch of the program in 2006, 269 people have participated in the program. Of those, 156 (58%) have found permanent jobs after their internships. Within this group, 118 (76%) were employed by the City of Montreal.
Update! In March 2013, the city recognized the success of the most recent and seventh cohort of interns to complete the program, bringing the number of interns who have completed the program to 329. Erika Duchesne, with the City’s executive committee responsible for diverse communities, took the opportunity to thank the mentors without whom the program could not operate: “Your dedication, your generosity and your commitment to sharing your valuable expertise and experience with the municipality makes me proud to count you among the exemplary employees of the City of Montreal.”]]>
“If you are not First Nations to Turtle Island [North America], you are an immigrant.” – Rupinder Sidhu, activist and performance artist
Vancouver’s earliest Chinese immigrants referred to Canada as a place of opportunity – the Gold Mountain. Less well-known is Turtle Island, the legendary name used by many First Nations people. As one of Canada’s three founding nations, Aboriginal communities are largely absent from conversations about diversity and multiculturalism. Immigrant communities have little chance for interaction and often maintain outdated stereotypes. Yet both groups have much in common, rich cultural histories as well as the experience of displacement, racism, and living outside of the mainstream.
The City of Vancouver is situated on Canada’s west coast within the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples. In 2006, almost half its population was foreign-born, with immigrants and aboriginal peoples representing the two fastest growing demographic groups. Seeking a new approach to the city’s diversity and multicultural identity, in 2007 the Mayor’s Task Force on Immigration adopted an immigration plan that recognized the importance of First Nations and urban Aboriginals, stating: “This goal of inclusion is understood to be consistent with our existing commitment to honour and value the role of First Nations as the initial occupants of Canada.”
Within three years of that commitment, Vancouver launched the “Dialogues Project” to help create “a strong relationship between indigenous and immigrant communities with the City.”
Developed by the Social Planning Division in collaboration with 27 community partners, “Dialogues Between First Nations, Urban Aboriginal and Immigrant Communities in Vancouver” aims to “build mutual understanding and respect” through activities that include dialogue circles, community research, and a youth and elders program.
Diversity was built into the organizational structure of the project. Its steering committee co-chairs included a Councillor from the Musqueam Indian Band, the Executive Director of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre and a professor of Asian migrant communities from the University of British Columbia.
Sharing stories and cultural perspectives lies at the heart of the Dialogues Project. In a review of the project in Canadian Issues (Summer 2012), co-chair Wade Grant recalls how his Chinese grandfather met his grandmother in the market gardens in the Musqueam community: “We’ve always had that welcoming feeling, but over time, the immigrant community sort of left our community and the connection was lost…I always wondered: why did we lose that connection with the immigrant community.”
Questions like this are central to the dialogue circles. Over 18 months, nine different groups met three times each, building trust and deepening the conversation between members. Facilitators were prepared in advance to deal with contentious issues as pre-selected participants spoke of their personal experiences of racism, stereotypes and the effect of colonization on Aboriginal communities. Emerging from the discussions was a repeated emphasis on the importance of intercultural understanding among the communities present.
Cultural exchanges are an especially rich opportunity for exploring new and shared histories. The local Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations welcome visitors to their reserves, as do the Chinese, Jewish and Ismaili communities, while First Nations and Mayan communities meet to share traditional healing practices.
Says Project Lead Baldwin Wong about developing a program in uncharted territory: “Everything we proposed was brand new so we didn’t know [if it would work]. We had this belief that things could work in this vision. Until you get to the organizing, planning and delivering of the project, of the initiatives, we couldn’t tell.”
One significant outcome of the Dialogues Project was the publication of Vancouver Dialogues: First Nations, Urban Aboriginal and Immigrant Communities. It documents the entire process and includes examples of the kinds of conversations that took place, short profiles of participants, and reflections on what activities worked. Other published resources include a DVD, a short film on youth and a collection of individual stories from a Vancouver neighbourhood called Our Roots: Stories from Grandview-Woodland.
What began as an 18-month project has grown steadily into a longer term vision. The Vancouver School Board Settlement Program started its own cultural exchange project, involving over 200 families to study the ties between Aboriginal and Chinese communities. The research component of the project has resulted in the development of an online Newcomers’ Guide to First Nations that will be launched in 2014. The first of its kind in Canada, it will include digital stories of the local First Nations in the area such as the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tseil-Waututh Nations.
Vancouver City Council has proclaimed that 2013-14 is a Year of Reconciliation in Vancouver, part of a greater effort to acknowledge past injustice to First Nations peoples and to further develop a culture of shared understanding and awareness of history for all its residents.]]>
Learn how small-to-medium cities like Boise, United States, and Erfurt, Germany, are successfully bringing newcomers and receiving communities together with innovative programs and a clear message about the two-way benefits of immigrant integration. How do we bring newcomers and established residents into contact with each other and create a culture of welcome? One way is to start with cross-cultural interactions that build trust and mutual understanding.
Petra Eweleit, Project Manager, Strangers Become Friends, Erfurt, Germany
Petra Eweleit is the Project Manager of Strangers Become Friends in Erfurt, Germany. Prior to this role, she was the Chairperson of the City of Erfurt’s office for „Auslandsgesellschaften“ (foreign companies). Petra has extensive experience working with youth in social work and education. She has over twenty years of teaching experience where she taught at the Polytechnical High School in Erfurt. She holds a teaching degree in Russian, Arts and English. She was born in Wilzschhaus / Erzgebirge, in the former Eastern part of Germany, and she is fluent in German, Russian, and English.
Jan A. Reeves, Director, Idaho Office for Refugees, Boise, United States
Jan Reeves is Director of the Idaho Office for Refugees (IOR), the agency responsible for the provision of assistance and self-sufficiency services to refugees resettled in the state. Jan has been involved for over twenty-seven years in developing and implementing service programs for refugees, beginning as a staff employment specialist in 1985. Since 1989, he has served in a number of management positions, including Director of the Mountain States Refugee Resettlement Program, Director of the Mountain States Refugee Center and, since 1998, State Refugee Coordinator.
Jan is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, where he served as a combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He is the 2010 recipient of the Liberty Bell award presented by the Idaho Fourth District Bar Association and the 2011 recipient of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement Director’s Award for commitment to the support and care of refugees.]]>