MAPC presenters (left to right) Fatemeh Jafarnia, Liya Robertson and Nanda Shirke visit schools in Pictou County to share knowledge about their native countries.
Welcome back to another installment of Bridging Cultures, presented by the Multicultural Association of Pictou County (MAPC). Through this column, as well as our other activities, MAPC hopes to bridge cultures and connect people of all backgrounds.
It's hard to believe that summer is finally here and that we've come to an end of another school year. Throughout the year, members of the Multicultural Association of Pictou County visit area schools to give cultural presentations. For this month's column, I had the opportunity, following a recent event in Pictou, to speak with a few of the presenters who volunteer their time to talk to these students.
Since 2011, a group of dedicated women – Nanda Shirke from India, Liya Robertson from Russia, Fatemeh Jafarnia from Iran and Gulmihrii Imam from East Turkestan – have been giving presentations about their countries to schools in the Pictou County area.
What originally started as a presentation to A.G. Baillie Elementary in New Glasgow as part of a Cultural Day has grown to numerous presentations over the last three years as more and more schools started approaching them to come out.
As Nanda states, it is first hand education since all the ladies know about their countries. Dressed in traditional attire, the presenters bring items that represent their country to show students. Such items have included decorative pieces, currency, books and flags. Talks by presenters cover very basic topics such as time zones, culture and other information to give students an idea of what each country is all about. Students are sometimes introduced to the language of the countries as well. This has included words for counting to five to greetings. On one occasion, Nanda had run into a student outside of the school who greeted her with “Namaste”.
Students also have an opportunity to ask questions to the presenters as well and their questions have sometimes been very interesting. At one of the school presentations, Nanda was asked if she was going back to India after the presentation. Recently, she was asked by students if people slept on nails in India and if the sari, a female garment worn in India, was a magic carpet.
As for Liya, who is from Russia, it has been asked if she knows hockey players Ovechkin, Malkin or Markov. “They are very smart” says Fatemeh “and sometimes they ask questions that I don't have answers for.”
So why do they participate in these presentations? For the women, it is a very fulfilling experience.
“I feel pride and joy doing it because people in Pictou County don't know much about Russia” say Liya. “Having spent four years in public schools, she also enjoys being back in the school environment and sharing her knowledge. For Nanda, she says she has never felt so much pride in being a part of India.
I asked each of the women what they hoped that students take away from this experience. That the students can “go and talk to, make friends and approach people from different countries” says Nanda. “I want them to actually get an idea of, especially the Muslim countries, where the women have to cover themselves” says Fatemeh. The last word I will leave with Liya who says “the more we know about each other, the more friends we make. It's the great way to eliminate all the wars”.
I would like to thank Nanda, Fatemeh and Liya for speaking to me about their involvement with these presentations. I hope that many students have the opportunity to hear them speak and learn about some different countries.
Even though we are in the summer month, the Multicultural Association of Pictou County will be busy. There are a variety of activities planned that will be hosted by MAPC, thanks to a Community Health Board Wellness Grant that the association received through the Pictou County Health Authority. As well, the Multicultural Association of Pictou County will be attending many events and festivals over the summer to promote the association as well as our upcoming Fusion Festival on September 27th at the NSCC in Stellarton. Be sure to drop by and say hi.
If you are looking for more information on the Multicultural Association, be sure to check out our website at www.multiculturalpc.ca. The Multicultural Association of Pictou County web page also has events listings, photos and more. Be sure to join us on our Facebook page as well at www.facebook.com/groups/multiculturalassociationofpictoucounty. As always if you wish to contact us via e-mail you can write to info.MAPC@gmail.com to find out more information about MAPC and to get added to our mailing list.
- Submitted by Doug Walsh, communications manager for the Multicultural Association of Pictou County.