When cultural exchange makes a difference

I have worked now for several years with vulnerable communities in India and Kenya. Several activities and projects have taken place to make the life of the people a better one: training sessions on health and hygiene, income generating activities, water projects, digital training sessions, set up of infrastructure, mental health training sessions, and last, but not least also networking structures were built among the several communities across Kenyan and Indian NGO partners. Social enterprises invested time to link innovative ideas to the communities, as well. And we have built Making More Health centers where often many community members come and take over local responsibilities and are keen to meet, to talk, to learn even more. The impact in the communities is very visible.

However, I realized only a few months back that one essential element was missing: 

People living at the poverty line need also cultural exchange. 

When I invited some of the community members to travel to a near by new Making More Health center inauguration in Eldoret some months ago, I realized an unexpected pride, joy and excitement among the invited community members, people who told me that they never have travelled, never been in another region, never slept and ate in a guesthouse outside.

After the first night in the morning some of the community members told me even that they could not sleep because of the excitement and that they were very astonished about small things in the room. How shelves have been fixed, how the shower worked, the nice arrangements of furnitures and pictures at the wall. Just to be clear: it was a very simple guesthouse where we stayed, nothing special. 

Some weeks later one of the community woman invited me to her home and very proudly she showed me how she adapted her own house and demonstrated where and how she had fixed hooks. This was eye opening to me. I had never thought about effects resulting from experiencing other surroundings. She offered food put on a table like a small buffet…

That’s where the idea of setting up a virtual cultural exchange club for and with community members from different regions and countries came up.

A few weeks ago then we started with a first two hours session on food, food rituals, food storage, food serving. Community members from various locations in India and Kenya were invited. In a virtual session they shared about their traditions and rituals. We had ca. 100 participants, dressed in their local clothings proudly shared about the own food habits. 

Cavin, one of our local NGO leaders in Homabay, Kenya, told me later:”That was a very interactive and interesting cultural talk and exchange. Our people liked it a lot and were very happy to share how they prepare food and were very interested on how others do. Our people even asked if we couldn’t do such kind of cultural exchange on a weekly basis… Thank you very much .” Similar feedback we got also from our Indian community members.

The first session of the cultural exchange club has been prepared and moderated by one of our Making More Health interns.

Listen to what she tells about her experience: listen here

Our intern tells about her experiences facilitating the first session of the Making More Health cultural exchange club. 

There are a lot of topics planned for the future: e.g. handcrafted items, gestures and mimics, national holidays and children songs and many other topics. 

We look for more interactive cultural exchange facilitators. It’s a good opportunity even for the trainers to learn on how to prepare real interactive sessions, on how to listen and share, on how to facilitate such sessions. It’s not about teaching and presenting first, but about leveraging that the communities themselves start to exchange. If you are interested, please contact.

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