Minnesota immigrants teach others about their home country

By Ricardo Lopez

With the growing cultural diversity of the Twin Cities, Neighborhood House is touting a workshop program likened to a crash course on the home countries of immigrants.

Since the agency launched its cultural proficiency workshops in 2008, about 3,800 people have come to learn about the various countries. The St. Paul multicultural community center works with immigrant populations, including Latino, Somali and Hmong groups.

“It started as an effort to share what we know,” said Steve Kean, spokesman for Neighborhood House. “There’s a demand for these workshops.”

He said most who attend work in education or health care, but there is increasing interest from businesses and government agency workers. Many Neighborhood House employees lead sessions on their home countries.

Last week, a class of about a dozen took up Ethiopian and Oromo history, culture and customs. Gada Roba, who is Oromo and a recent University of Minnesota graduate, led the session. He explained ethnic differences within Ethiopia and the country’s history of ethnic strife. This type of information, Kean said, is important because it helps bridge communication that could be hampered by a lack of cultural awareness.

“I thought it’d be neat to check out,” said Eve Lo, who works with minority students through a precollege access program. Her colleagues had attended previous trainings.

“It provides tips on how to work with different groups,” she said.

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