Students, faculty and volunteers gathered at Stewartfield on Spring Hill College’s campus to celebrate Cultural Night and learn about different cultures in September.
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 people in the Mobile community. 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, as it was meant to be an evening in which different people and groups could come together and share the diverse cultures that make up the Mobile community. 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 Action Team partnered to make this third annual Cultural Night happen. According to Dot Brown, president of the Jesuit Refugee Service Action team, Dwell Mobile is a non-profit organization in Mobile that works to build relationships with families that have been resettled in Mobile and help them with any needs. Some of these needs include ESL classes, driving classes, Citizenship classes, GED classes, and friendships. Brown said Dwell is an off-campus organization that a with which many students volunteer, and some of those same students are also in the JRS Action Team. The JRS Action Team is an on-campus organization that works in advocacy and education of the refugee crisis.
The concept of Cultural Night was founded to help celebrate different cultures. This year, according to Brown, 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.