Service Learning

Refugee Action Network

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Going to a service orientation for Refugee Action Network was my first service learning experience. Unfortunately, they did not have more activities this semester, but I had the opportunity to hear from a refugee who has grown to love serving herself. She is a refugee from Haiti and she moved to Florida with her dad who was very neglectful and physically abusive to her and her siblings. Her dad was constantly switching jobs and they were starving most of the time. Later in life she had some LDS religious leaders visit her and she got baptized and moved to BYU Idaho. After inactivity in the church, she realized that she was miserable again because she wasn’t trying to make her life better. She went on a mission and grew to love that feeling of serving other people and has continued to serve refugees the two years she has been back from her mission and graduated from BYU Idaho. She will buy them all hygenic kits even though she will have under 20$ left in her budget for food for the week because she wants to serve others and help them learn that they can lead a happy lifestyle just like she does now. It may take time, but it is possible!

Valentine’s Dinner

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This was my first experience interacting with refugees, and it was so good for me! I’ve never really interacted with refugees before this Valentine’s dinner. The sign in the picture above says “We Love Refugees!” I felt like that theme helped me to be really helpful, kind, and accepting to all of the refugees that night that I was meeting for the first time. I mostly helped keep the pitchers refilled and helped with kids serve the audience food. We had three performances that night, and we kept busy. I was very impressed with the kid’s performances! When I learned that they made up half of the dances in one day, my level of admiration grew for them. Refugees from Somalia and Mexico had an opportunity to represent their culture through food, dance, and poetry. I thought it was such a great experience to have these kids feel like their culture was being celebrated and not tossed aside just because they immigrated to America. So often, refugees or anyone who moves to America is forced to learn our language, customs, and culture and are then expected to celebrate the original country’s customs with those who share their same culture, race, or ethnicity. Through this activity, these kids were able to learn at a young age that America loves to celebrate different cultures and do activities all together. They need to realize that “We love refugees!”

Basketball Camp

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This service learning experience with “Because He First Loved Us” was truly a learning experience for me. Growing up and being involved in the performing arts, I never took an interest in sports. When I learned that they were hosting a basketball event, I was so uncertain of my basketball abilities that I almost did not come, but I decided that it would be a humbling experience for me if I went. I had already attended the Valentine’s dinner, so I was familiar with the kids from Somalia at this point, and I was excited to hang out with them again, even if it meant that I had to look ridiculous when I threw a basketball.

I quickly realized an hour into this event that it wasn’t about teaching them basketball, although AK taught them some great techniques about playing basketball, and we all had fun! It was about doing an activity with the kids and interacting with them. While we were playing illimanation and waiting in line to throw the ball, ten year old girls and I started to bond over the fact that we were not good at basketball. After we were talking, they asked if I was married. When I responded that I was not, they were really surprised and asked “And how old are you?” I said that I was twenty. I forgot that they marry young in their culture at home, and they are not used to playing the dating game like we are. I did show them a picture of my boyfriend to which they replied “He looks cute. Mmhmmmm.” This made me realize that we all have the same feelings, but we have different cultural norms, languages, and beliefs, and that is the thing that so often convinces people of different cultures to just not interact. Actually interacting with these girls helped me to feel connected and similar to them during this basketball activity.

Music Day

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The music day was my favorite service learning experience! I absolutely loved being the orange team leader and having kids of multiple ethnicities and cultures come in contact and mingle with each other within my group. I had the wonderful opportunity to see how these kids gradually accepted and got to know one another. These pictures above show our very first activity of the day compared to the last picture which showed our last activity together. I love that these pictures are worth 1000 words! Our first activity was learning how to drum. As you can see from this picture, the kids were very shy to interact with each other, but they would eagerly participate in the activities as long as what they were doing seemed fun. As we rotated through the stations (dancing, instruments, and naming Disney songs) we ended up in the karaoke room.

The karaoke room was our very last station. There were a few really good and bad things about this being our last station. This karaoke room turned into the “just do whatever you want” room because the station leaders said that kids were too scared to sing in front of each other. When we first got in there, the kids were hungry and tired of rotating, so they decided to draw on the white board, play the drums, and play with the colorful ball in the room that actually ended up shocking one of the kids. As you can tell, this station was a little chaotic. One 12 year old girl was just done with the day and went and sat on the couch with her arms folded. Once we turned on the songs “Juju on That Beat,” the whole group went crazy and they HAD to participate in the dance because they couldn’t help themselves. My classmate taught them the dance, and they eagerly participated. After the Juju song, Nancy taught them a few twists and turns that you did for a partner dance, and they were having a blast. The last picture shows a white girl and a Somalian girl dancing together, sharing laughs, and just having a great time with the dance. I have a ten second video in my phone, but I just wanted to screenshot the moment where they decided to dance together because it shows them reaching out to each other and grabbing hands. I was so touched by what this symbolized. We don’t know other people until we both mutually reach out, grab each others hands, and take the risk and blessing of getting to know someone different from us. I’m so grateful I got to see the change of acceptance grow in the kids just within 3 hours!

Monopoly Board Events

Ethnic Food

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Tsing Tao was a Thai food place in Payson, UT. My sister and brother-in-law live close to the restaurant and they recommended going there to have a cultural experience. I had some teriyaki chicken for my main dish and that was really good, but I had hot and sour soup and I really didn’t like it. I also dipped their version of chips which were the most bland chips I’ve had into a sweet n sour sauce with mustard, and I really didn’t like that at all. What I learned from this is that you can’t say you dislike all food from a certain culture. I realized there are things I like about Thai food, and I can’t be quick to criticize food until I’ve tried it.

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I also attended an intercultural event in my ward where people brought food from different countries where they served their missions. One of my least favorite foods was sampling a dish of raw salmon and spinach with a couple other vegetables covered in a dressing. The person who brought this dish served in the French Polynesian Islands. I’m grateful that I tried this dish even though I didn’t like it. The thing is that the dish wasn’t disgusting, but it was very different from what I was used to. I typically don’t eat raw fish but it was good for me to try. I realized that I don’t hate sea food, but it’s not my favorite food necessarily.

UVU International Event

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I attended the Chinese New Year event at UVU at the beginning of the semester. This was interesting because I expected a bunch of Chinese or Asian students having a night of dancing and maybe having Cupbop as their vendor, but things are not always what you expect. I showed up to this and saw a bunch of parents and little kids and maybe one or two other college students, and they had a bunch of little booths with games and food outside the ballroom. On the inside of the ballroom, kids who had participated in a dual immersion program were performing songs in Chinese while their parents watched. I thought it was neat to hear the parents talking to each other and saying things like “Chinese is so useful. I wish I knew the language.” Yay for our culture becoming culturally diverse!

Ethnic Event

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For the ethnic event, I attended the hunger banquet here at UVU. This was honestly one of my favorite events! There were two other classmates there, and in between the three of us we were each assigned to high class, middle class, and low class. With my luck, I was in the lower class. There were newspapers and a few cartons for us to sit on while we ate Taco Bell. The middle class sat at tables and ate pizza while the upper class was roped off away from everyone else eating a three course meal while a violinist was playing for them. Next they randomly, selected people and promoted them a class higher or demoted them to the middle class or the lower class. It reminded me of the game that we played in class with us having so many points when we selected a certain color of a chip and that determined our class/social standing. Also, people had to work really hard to not be in the class they were in. Being in the lower class helped me realize that people are selected by chance to be in the lower class. It’s not necessarily their fault, and once people are in the lower class, it is not very easy to work their way up out of it.

Movie

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Although classmates warned me that the documentary “Last Train Home” was really sad, they said that it was really good and broadened their perspective. After watching this movie, I was truly proud to be an American where we have the opportunity to work hard and improve our lives. In communistic China, if you don’t have good enough grades, you can’t become anything other then a factory worker, and you can’t even be with your family hardly ever; however, this does not mean the factory worker parents don’t care about their children. Most of the time, their children’s education and happiness in life, is all they can live and hope for because they don’t want their child to end up miserable like themselves. This movie had the phrase “made in China” take on a whole new meaning for me. My heart goes out to factory workers.

Post 10

Well this semester has been so wonderful because I have had the opportunity to reach outside of my comfort zone, and lose myself in the service of others! I seriously was dreading the 20 hour service as soon as Janet announced that we had to do that project. I even considered dropping the class because I really did not want to worry about doing all of the service hours, and I didn’t even think I would have the time. Until I heard someone say that we could do multiple hours on Saturdays, I almost dropped the class. I figured how could I possibly make 20 hours of more time for other people this semester without going insane? I had 15 credits of school and I was going to work part time. It turns out, the Saturdays I spent with the refugee kids were some of my favorite Saturdays I’ve spent this year.

All semester long we have been talking about differences in people because of ethnicity, culture, and race. As we have addressed the issues, conflicts, or tragedies in human history, I have learned that the answer to resolving these problems is communication. Because I hadn’t interacted with the refugee kids, part of me didn’t want to do it because it was uncertain territory to mingle with a culture from another country with different race and a belief system. It’s not that I didn’t respect them or think that I wouldn’t like them, but rather I did not want to go into that uncertain territory. Fortunately, because I was required to do service hours in this class, I was forced to step into that territory which I so often don’t even consider entering. I was able to find that although me and the refugees were different in skin color, culture, and religion, we were all exactly the same. We are all just people, and we have to learn to get along with each other despite our differences. We can’t let our differences trick us into not realizing that we are all quite literally the exact same. We are all people, and we all want happiness and a great life. Once I realized this after the first Valentines dinner I had, I went to all of the refugee events with an eager heart to serve these kids, and I truly wanted to connect with them and show them that I care about their situation.

I will forever be grateful for Janet and any teacher that I will have in my college education, that will make me go outside of my comfort zone to become a better person and to help me learn a life lesson. The reason people are so insecure about differences in ethnicity and race is because we look physically different. I learned that we truly can’t look at people from the outside in any way because that is not how people connect. Once we start to develop relationships through communication, empathy, and shared experiences, we are able to connect with people. And relationships and connections in life is the most important to me.

NPR article

NPR Talk Assignment
How many times do we assume things about people because of their race? How many times do we rely on our initial perceptions of others? The Ted Talk I watched was entitled “What does my headscarf mean to you?” This was presented by a Muslim lady named Yassmin Abdel-Magied who has done many unexpected things in her life because she immigrated from Sudan to Australia when she was two. Throughout the talk she kept referring to unconscious bias. Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. Essentially, unconscious bias is innocently stereotyping what we see on the outside.

Throughout the talk, Yassmin changed her outfit many times. First, she wore a head scarf symbolizing her religion. Next, she wore an orange construction suit to show that she managed an oil rig in Australia. She asked what we all thought of when they saw her in her head scarf and what we thought when we saw her in the construction suit. The response from the audience was that we expected her to have Muslim habits and lifestyle when we saw the headscarf and we were confused when we saw her wearing construction gear because we didn’t know what she could possibly do with it. It’s not because we are being racist, but rather it’s because everyone assumes things about people the see, based on stereotypes.

Yassmin continued to tell a story about stereotypes. In the 70s and 80s, men were the most common gender to play in professional Orchestras like the Boston Symphony Orchestra and supposedly were better at playing instruments than females. Once they started blind auditions, and told the ladies to remove the shoes, they ended up with an equal guy to girl ratio. What happened here? The unconscious bias did not take place based on if they saw a guy or girl. They mainly focused on the skill or talent of what they heard. So I conclude the same thing as Yassmin. Unconscious bias needs to be identified, acknowledged, and mitigated against.

After reading the article Emotion Expression and Intergroup Bias Reduction Between Muslims and Christians, I came to the conclusion that long term inter-group interactions increase positivity and lower initial bias when you share similarities. This experiment took groups of Muslim and Christian students and had them chat online. One group (Dual Identity Electronic Contact) focused on integrating interfaith information (common beliefs) and inter-group contact verse a control group that chatted about differences or within-faith between their religions. The results were that “These findings highlight the significant role that structured Internet interactions can play in creating positive and long-lasting inter-group relations” (White, 2015, p. 1). When we find similarities with someone that looks, acts, believes, or talks different than ourselves, the unconscious bias may not change, but will change is our knowledge of how similar they our to ourselves. We realize that people different from us are other people.

Now that we have seen positive emotions and decrease in bias in long term inter-group contact between two different types of groups, what happens when we decrease the amount of contact? The article Cultural Diversity, Racialisation and the Experience of Racism in Rural Australia: the South Australian Case studies interaction between Anglo (white people in Australia) vs. Non-Anglo (British/Irish and Muslim/African immigrants) people. The results were that Anglos living in the rural areas were less tolerant of Non-Anglo type of people living in their area, and the Anglos in the metropolitan areas had a high tolerance for Non-Anglos living in their area because they are used to diversity. Because of the race and common religion, Anglos were typically more tolerant to British and Irish immigrants than they were to Muslims or Africans.The article explains that although tolerance levels varied, racist behavior levels were very low in both areas: “While rural South Australians may be less tolerant than people living in metropolitan Adelaide..there were lower levels of experience of racist behavior by ethnic minority group members than the analysis of attitudes might have suggested” (Forrest, 2013, p. 8).

In conclusion, it is very hard to not have a stereotype or any sort of bias when you see someone different from you. It is even harder when you do not interact with them or find any similarity. I don’t really have a way to try and solve the tolerance levels in Australia, but I can conclude that if the races interacted, tolerance levels would increase. They need to learn from the Christian and Muslim experience of sharing similarities over a long period of time. In order to lower prejudice, stereotypes, and try to be “equal” with people different from us, we need to communicate. Communication is key.

References
Abdel-Magied, Y. (2014). What does my headscarf mean to you? Retrieved April 17, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/yassmin_abdel_magied_what_does_my_headscarf_mean_to_you
Forrest, J., & Dunn, K. (2013). Cultural diversity, racialisation and the experience of racism in rural Australia: the South Australian case. Journal Of Rural Studies, 301-9. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2012.11.002
White, F. A., Abu-Rayya, H. M., Bliuc, A., & Faulkner, N. (2015). Emotion expression and intergroup bias reduction between muslims and christians: Long-term internet contact. Computers In Human Behavior, 53435-442. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.04.074

Post 9

Does popular media influence our culture, or does our culture influence popular media? After reflecting on this question in class, I have decided that the answer to both of these questions is yes. Our culture influences popular media to an extent, and the media influences our culture to an extent.

One of the most popular topics in the media and in our American culture is body image. I can’t tell you how may things I have seen lately on social media, that either conform to the typical “perfect body” stereotype or are super against it. There is no in between stance when it comes to body image. I saw a post on Facebook recently. I can’t remember who posted it so unfortunately I don’t have the link, but it showed a model size 16 named Ashley, and it’s her story about accepting her body image. Ashley wanted to be a model, and she knew that all the models in the media were super skinny and hardly had any body fat. Skinny with make up is portrayed as the most attractive and beautiful style right now in the media, and many people in our culture are losing a dangerous amount of weight. Ashley said she remembers working out 4 hours a day and eating very little, and getting from her bodies natural body size (size 16) to a size 2. Confidently, she walked into a photo shoot, and they told her that she wasn’t skinny enough. They told her she had to be a size zero before they would shoot photos. She says while she was able to get to a size zero, she remembers being miserable, and she finally realized that the media’s “perfect body” image was making her feel this way. Just like Ashley, many girls want to be exceptionally pretty in our culture. This has meant for years that if you are more attractive, you will:
1)Get more dates
2)Get job promotions
3)Marry a rich, attractive man
4)Be an overall successful person
This is the case because we have let the media influence us to this extent. Ashley finally realized that she never thought about accepting her body for how it naturally was. She still works out and is very in shape, but lets her body eat healthy, even if it is naturally a size 16. What I learned from this story, is that we can influence popular media, but so often we let popular media influence us, to the point where it is not only unhealthy physically, but can be emotionally and mentally draining too. People need to realize how the popular media influences their life.

Post 8

For this assignment, I spoke to someone who is in an interracial relationship. My best friend’s brother, Jonathan, married someone from China. Her brother learned Chinese before he met his wife. After he learned Chinese for two years in California, he moved to China to teach English and met his wife there. They eventually fell in love and got married and moved to the United States.

They said that the most difficult thing that they have had to experience is the language barrier between each of their families. Since Jonathan knows Chinese, his wife Serena, has decided to learn English since she is planning on living in the United States with him and raising their future family here. The only difficulty is that Serena needs to rely on Jonathan a lot to translate for her. She lives with Jonathan and his family right now in Spanish Fork, so the only opportunity she has to speak Chinese is when she skypes her family, or when she talks to Jonathan. While Serena is learning English and the cultural barrier is being significantly less thick because of this, she is creating stronger relationships with each of her in-laws and any friends she makes along the way. The language barrier and adjustment to culture is harder for Serena because she is out of China for most of her life now, but for Jonathan, it is not as hard of an adjustment since this is where he grew up.

Despite cultural differences, Serena and Jonathan and both of their families have decided to celebrate cultural differences. For example, Jonathan’s parents flew out to China for a Chinese wedding celebration, and prior to the celebration, Jonathan put together an two hour long video of pictures of them. In China, it is customary to have an average of 5 hour long slide shows with pictures and music for a wedding celebration. This way, Jonathan showed respect and empathy by doing something that he knew would make Serena happy and feel important. For their wedding invitations they had one side in the Chinese language, and the other side was English. I think it was really important for Jonathan and his family to incorporate Serena’s cultural traditions into the wedding ceremony to show her and her family that despite any racial differences, they respected them and their culture.

Post 7

I don’t think my view on privilege has changed a lot from before the class until now. I already knew I was privileged being a middle class white woman in America. If I have learned anything, it is that I don’t realize how privileged I am because I have never been on the other side. I’ve never been a different race other than white. I’ve never had someone unfriend me because of my heterosexual orientation. I’ve never been a man. I’ve never had another language as my primary language. I’ve never been an immigrant. I’ve never grown up in a family that has struggled financially. I’ve never had to drop out of school so I can work and be able to help my family live. These things that I have taken for granted all of my life, is something that people struggle with every day.

Although I know that people struggle with things which I have never had to worry about and I feel sympathy for them, I have come to realize through this course that I will never have empathy. To me, one of the privileges that I can not have with my race, gender, and socio-economic standing is the ability to rewind time and experience what it would be like to literally be somebody with a different race, gender, socio-economic standing, or sexual orientation. The list can go on, but I know that because I have been given a different life story, I will never know what the unprivileged or the minority experiences.

The unfortunate thing is that for the most part, they don’t choose for these circumstances to occur. Life just happens and they are thrown into this world, and they will be stereotyped and judged. Their whole life will mostly depend on what cards they have received at the start of the game or what circumstances they have been given since they day they were born. While this is true, people struggle to believe that privilege is something you choose to have. It may not be easy to stay in school, help support your family financially, or be a minority when it’s unpopular, but it will definitely be worth it. The hard experiences in life will be worth it if you decide you want to be privileged: privilege can be earned.

Racism and Privilege

This weeks activities and readings really tried my patience but got me thinking about privilege and racism.

The activity on Tuesday was really fun, and it made me learn a few things about socio-economic class specifically. It was really strange to me how I was the “wealthiest” person in the class as soon as the game started. I didn’t have to do anything to get up to the top. I traded a couple of times, but I just had a lot of chips or “money” to begin with. At first, I didn’t realize that I was in the 2% population of the class that had a really lucky draw, but as I started to see all of the points on the board by the first round, I realized that I was very lucky. Before I knew I was in good hands, I was trading with people and trying to get as many points possible. In one of the drawings, I actually lost a few points. The next time around, I learned my lesson. I received another really lucky draw surprisingly, and I refused to trade with anyone. I remained the person in the class with the highest points. I was wondering what I did to get luck on my side, but for some reason it was, and I became very selfish and proud of how far ahead I was in the class. Later on, I realized I didn’t even care to play the game or help others win and lose points because I knew I had what I wanted. That is when the life lesson hit me. Sometimes, we don’t realize how lucky we really are in how much money we have. This affects how we act around others, and it even affects our priorities in life. Since I was so wealthy, I didn’t care about all the people in the middle and lower class working so hard to get where I was. I thought, “Why would that concern me?” I’m a nice person, but I realized that it is in my human nature to care about my self, and once I’m taken care of, I simply do not care about others. That is a scary thought, but at least I know I’m not alone.

Thursday’s lesson on racism at first made me uncomfortable until one of the people in the group said something like “racism can initially be an awkward topic because we don’t like to talk about it, but we really should be open about serious topics in our history like this.” That is another important lesson that I have learned throughout this class. It does not matter how uncomfortable a topic is. When it comes to understanding each other through communication, we have to be willing to talk about the uncomfortable because the more we don’t address topics like racism or socio-economic differences, the more uncomfortable we become with the topic.
Watching the sneetches video made me recognize how silly racism is. It really does not matter what color of skin we are, but I learned why people in history have decided to discriminate based on skin color. I noticed that the sneetches really liked to be apart of a group. They felt like they belonged somewhere, and sometimes they were proud of it, and sometimes they were not, but they all had a common goal and a mutual interest whether they were star bellies or not. What they really got into was the competitive factor of who was better and why. Personally, I think competition and wanting to live the best way possible is in the nature of man. How do we compete without opposition? And who do we compete against a group without support? Watching the sneetches video helped me rethink racism on a whole different perspective.

How Privileged Am I Really?

I have never been in a class that I have been able to talk so openly about something my culture never talks about. In other words, I have never been in a setting that talks so openly about the reality of the dissapointments around the world that include race, religion, and gender discrimination as well as the effects of poverty in education. It has been really refreshing and eye opening to discuss some of the most sensitive subjects freely where we all look at each other’s perspectives and opinions with respect, even if we may not agree.

Privilege is one of these sensitive topics that includes subjects addressed above: race, religion, gender, and wealth. Being a middle class white woman, I have grown up naturally privileged. When we had a privilege realization activity in my class, I looked around at the people who were further behind me – or in other words, the less privilege people – to my surprise, most of them were not white. Growing up a white person in America, I never have had real problems or confrontations with race. When Janet started saying things like “If you have ever been a victim of violence because of your race, take a step back,” or “If you have at least 50 books in your house, take a step forward,” or “If you have ever not got a job because of your race, take a step back,” I realized that these are real problems that I never have had to think about personally. I knew they were problems, but I didn’t realize how much they still affect my classmates and friends.

So what is privilege? Privilege is power. That is why so many people crave it. Who does not want power to survive in this world? Privilege is a way of living that society has created as “perfect” or “ideal.” Because of our world history, whites (European originated people) still have dominant power or privilege, even though for the most part, we are still striving to reach that “utalitarian society” throughout the world. It didn’t really hit me until I took this class, that unfortunately, people with any color darker than white, most likely grow up in less than “well off” circumstances, and because of this, it is hard for them to get an efficient education, which makes it hard to have a successful job with lots of money. Luckily for me, I have not experienced these difficulties. I consider myself privileged.

Joseph Ostraff and New Perspectives

I think that Joseph Ostraff’s speeches were really interesting! I always love going to speeches with professors that know how to take your direct way of thinking and they expand the way you think. That’s what Joseph did for me.

When he talked about the Parthenon being kept in England and the British refusing to give it back to Greece (the place of origin), my first thought was “How rude! Why don’t they just give it back to them? It belongs to them! No one asked for them to go retrieve the Parthenon and take it out of their country,” so accordingly, I commented with what I thought. After several comments, we were starting to give England the benefit of the doubt, and it kind of made me change my mind. Why not preserve a priceless piece of world history when we know that Greece has terrible economic conditions and maybe not a sufficient security to protect the Parthenon? Although some may be upset that they don’t have the Parthenon in Greece, I think some people in Greece are grateful that England is protecting and preserving the Parthenon better than Greece could.

I also thought learning about the various greetings of all the cultures was really interesting. I loved learning about the bows, handshakes, cheek kisses, and the Maori embrace. It seemed to me that although it would be initially awkward for Asians or Americans to kiss, hug, or embrace each other, we would probably be a lot more friendly and a warm type of people. I love how learning about other cultures through different perspectives broadens my respect for the other cultures.