On Friday, September 21st from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., students, faculty, and volunteers gathered at Stewartfield on Spring Hill College’s campus to celebrate Cultural Night and learn about different cultures. The welcoming and friendly environment was decorated with flags from different countries all over the halls and tables to emphasize the various cultures represented at the event. As people arrived and intermingled with each other, food from various cultures was served for everyone to enjoy. The dishes were prepared by refugees from around the world who were invited by Dwell. By eating various dishes from other countries, participants felt as though they were truly experiencing different cultures.
Once everyone finished eating, the attendees went outside for a talent show in which many participants showcased their cultures through song and dance. One of Dwell’s own volunteers, Georgette Munezero, performed a dance from her home country Rwanda. Also, a Columbian family sang the national anthem of Columbia together. While the adults sang and danced, the children played soccer and volleyball with volunteers. Later, there was a piñata for the kids to attempt to break open in hopes of getting candy.
Whether they attended Cultural Night for the first time or returned as a volunteer, participants had a good time playing games with kids, indulging in food from various cultures and singing and dancing to music from all around the world. Participants agreed that the best way to approach an event, such as Cultural Night, is to come without prejudices and be ready to learn about different cultures. Lauryn Bass, a volunteer with Dwell and first-timer at the event, said, “You get more out of it if you come with an open mind”. Through all the diverse activities offered at the event, people left feeling they had experienced a small part of a new culture in one night.
The night instilled a great sense of community. Not only did volunteers and students mingle with refugees but refugee families themselves had interacted with each other. Another Dwell volunteer, Carolina Taquechel, said that she saw “a Columbian family with a Rwandan family with a family from Iraq all dancing together and celebrating each other…”. She also mentioned that they taught each other songs and dances from their cultures, in which community was formed.
Organizations, Dwell Mobile and Jesuit Refugee Service Team, partnered to make this third annual Cultural Night happen. Since Mobile is the only city in Alabama that accepts refugees, both organizations share the goal to help these refugees feel welcome and build relationships within their new community in Mobile. The concept of Cultural Night was founded to help accomplish these goals and bring volunteers and refugees together outside of their regular classes for one night in order to celebrate different cultures. This year, according to Dot Brown, who is the President of the Jesuit Refugee Service Team, members really focused on spreading the word about Cultural Night to get more Spring Hill Students to attend. Overall, this event was able to meet all of these goals. In fact, according to Brown, one family emailed Dwell Mobile back saying that seeing people come together and build relationships at Cultural Night helped them feel welcome. For those who could not make it, there will be a chance next year to celebrate cultures with fellow students and volunteers.