How do foreigners feel on Diwali

Experience cultural diversity as an enrichment

Many different cultures come together in the International Children's Home Augsburg (IKA). More than half of the 100 or so children looked after have roots outside Germany. Her parents come from 21 countries around the world. Around a quarter of the children have one parent from abroad, and a further quarter have both parents. Due to the bilingual, English-German concept of the facility, these are primarily English-speaking countries with similar cultural backgrounds such as England, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia. But there are also families with roots in cultures that differ more from ours, e.g. from India, Jamaica, Vietnam and from African countries such as Cameroon, Uganda or South Africa.

Language as the key to participation and participation

The language aspect plays an important role in an intercultural context. Only those who understand and can make themselves understood also have the opportunity to actively participate. Fortunately, due to the bilingual approach pursued by the children's home, there are usually no major language barriers: In each group, at least one specialist works with German and one with English as their mother tongue, and communication works in one or the other with almost all children and parents Language. »It is of course a decisive advantage that we can usually reach everyone with our two languages. That is certainly not that easy in all facilities. «, Knows Sarah Nowotny, chairwoman of the board of the sponsoring association.

So that all important information really reaches everyone involved, the team and the sponsors of the parents' association attach great importance to publishing all notices, e-mails and information leaflets in German and English. "This is the only way for everyone to actively participate in day-care life," says Sarah Nowotny. If it does happen that communication with a family is not possible in either language, then patience and creativity on the part of the educational staff are required. With hands and feet, through facial expressions, gestures and visualization, communication usually succeeds after all - with parents and children alike. Individual words from the respective mother tongue may help as a door opener and basis for building relationships. It can be very helpful for the respective child if there is already another child in the facility who also speaks the native language and thus acts as a "sponsored child" and translator. The team at IKA has had very good experiences with this approach.

Appreciate cultural diversity

The team at the International Children's Home in Augsburg perceives the cultural peculiarities that children with foreign roots bring with them to the groups as an enrichment for everyday life and the cooperation in the groups. As far as possible, they are integrated into everyday life, e.g. in the form of projects or in the annual planning. »We work situation and life-oriented and therefore always try to understand the children in their current life situation and their social environment.

This of course also includes the respective cultural environment «, reports Natalie Faller, who has been working at the IKA as a native English speaker since the daycare center was founded in 2004. It is important to the pedagogical team at IKA that the children get to know other cultures and traditions. The aim is to lay the foundations for tolerance towards people who speak other languages ​​and foreign cultures and to convey respect, impartiality and sensitivity towards others to the children.

And it's important for everyone to feel comfortable and accepted. Children of foreign origin are allowed to tell about their traditions and festivals or bring something with them from their country, e.g. photos or food. "As early as the first meeting with foreign parents, we ask whether there are any special features in their home country that we can bring into everyday life, for example special celebrations or traditions," explains Natalie Faller. Not all parents accept this offer, but that's okay too, because it shouldn't be understood as a compulsion.

Traditional festivals are celebrated throughout the year

Despite the appreciation of foreign customs and traditions, it is also important to the educational team to maintain and convey their own traditional values, customs and traditions. Traditional Christian festivals such as Easter and Christmas are celebrated at the IKA throughout the year. In the circle of chairs - as in many other daycare centers - the Christmas story is told or they talk about why we celebrate Easter. Religion does not play a role in the children's home and the teaching of faith is left to the parents, but religious customs are also part of our culture and should be conveyed to the children as such. "Since there are a relatively large number of children with foreign roots in our group this year, we started a small project to investigate whether and how Christmas is celebrated in the children's countries of origin and what differences and peculiarities there are," explains Natalie Meyer. who has also been employed as an English-speaking educator at the IKA for many years. First, the parents of the children were interviewed in the run-up to Christmas. Some of them spontaneously brought special, traditional sweets with them and the different traditions were then discussed in a circle of chairs. “We show the children that we take them seriously and that we listen to them. That is very important, «says Natalie Meyer.

A lantern parade to the Martinsfest with a St. Martins game followed by a fire takes place every year at the IKA. It is not only important to the team to learn about foreign cultural customs and traditions, it also wants to bring their own traditions closer to the foreign families. With the idea of ​​sharing in the background, the Martinsfest is certainly a beautiful tradition in which important values ​​are conveyed. Toys have been collected for socially disadvantaged families and food has been donated for the Augsburger Tafel in recent years. This year the donations went to refugee children. This resulted from a project on the subject of refugees in Natalie Faller's group. In the chair group, the children and the educational staff had dealt with the topic for several weeks. It was discussed why the families have to flee, which countries they come from and what the escape route looks like. In the end there was the question of how to help. The children spontaneously had the idea to donate toys and stuffed animals - in line with the St. Martin idea.

The last summer festival of the day care center showed that there is also room for typical Bavarian food in an international environment: It was celebrated in the style of a Bavarian folk festival and was a complete success. The entire team and some of the visitors were dressed in traditional dirndls and there were Bavarian delicacies at the buffet. "Together with some foreign families who wore traditional clothes from their respective homeland on that day, the overall picture was colorful and very happy," said Sarah Nowotny.

Integrate other parties into the course of the year

Due to the large number of Indian children, Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, has also been celebrated again and again in some groups in recent years. The children then bring typical Indian sweets from home, which are traditionally served at Diwali. The meaning of the festival and why it is celebrated is discussed in the circle of chairs. And of course a particularly large number of lights are on in the group on this day. “This is always a nice thing for our Indian children, because they are the focus on this day and can show the other children something new. In this way they experience the appreciation of their own culture and notice that they have something special to contribute, «reports Natalie Meyer, who celebrated the festival with her group again this year. »And for us adults, too, it's great to keep learning something new and get to know families and their different cultures better. At the same time, it also helps us to better understand the respective child in their living environment. "

Celebrations together - integration of cultural customs

Last year Natalie Faller's group also received an inquiry from the German-Indian Society Augsburg to make colorful lanterns for the Diwali festival. These were then sold at the club's celebration and the money was donated to a social project in India. »The children of the group and some of the after-school children were very enthusiastic about the handicrafts. At the same time you learned a little about Indian culture and got involved with other people. All in all a nice and well-rounded affair, «says Natalie Faller happily. By the way, you don't always have to travel that far across the map to celebrate at the IKA: Natalie Meyer's group also celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish national holiday, after the group’s native speaker is from Ireland. After all, you should celebrate festivals as they happen and the main thing is that everyone has fun.

When celebrating, the food on offer always plays an important role. To get to know and appreciate foreign cultures, an international buffet, where everyone brings food from their respective cultural area, is a nice thing. It brings people into conversation and promotes togetherness. Cooking international dishes together is certainly even more suitable. But to do this, the facility must be equipped with a kitchen accordingly.

Ideas on how to treat foreign cultures in the facility in an appreciative manner

  • Telling fairy tales and stories from different countries
  • Visiting intercultural plays
  • Regional studies: Children and parents report from their country
  • Cooking international dishes together
  • International buffet at parties
  • Hang up a world map in which the children's countries of origin are marked

The team in an intercultural environment

Working in an environment in which different cultures meet often presents the educational team with particular challenges. However, these can usually be solved with a little tact and creativity. Empathy and appreciation are other important keywords in this context. Overall, the furnishing culture should be characterized by openness, respect and tolerance towards foreign cultures.

The skilled workers should have a positive basic attitude towards people from other countries and a certain interest in foreign cultures, customs and traditions.

It is also important to develop a cultural awareness of diversity within the team, in which existing differences are recognized but understood as normal. In particular, the ability and willingness to empathize with the situation of others, to understand and tolerate their attitudes and attitudes, is a decisive quality for educational professionals in a multicultural environment. It is certainly helpful if there are educational specialists with their own migration background in the team. As a rule, they have eyes and ears open to the diversity that exists in the groups and are very conscious and usually happy when they can promote the cultural or intercultural identity of the children.

Conclusion

It is normal that we are all different. We all need values ​​that are important to ourselves and to community life. Children need basic trust-building experiences such as experiencing community and fixed rituals in order to develop their own values ​​and those of others. In addition to the parents, the educational specialists in the daycare centers are role models who exemplify certain values ​​and whose behavior shapes children. It is therefore important to have a culture of appreciation in the day-care centers - also with regard to the respective cultural environment of the children and their families.