Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

Value of Cultural Connection – Two Dominicans

Posted by frankieblackburn on April 5, 2009

I went back out to Parklane Apartments yesterday to follow up with all of the people I originally met on the first round of door knocks – the ones who showed up at the Neighbors Exchange or indicated interest in getting involved in the Neighbors Campaign – and the ones who seemed to be in real distress.  Massiel Cruz, a participant in IMPACT’s Neighborhood IMPACT leadership program, volunteered to go along with me, even though she is from a neighborhood in Silver Spring where many residents are also in need. I knew that many of these Gaithersburg residents do not speak English and my Spanish was not good enough to make the kind of connection I was hoping to make. Spanish is Massiel’s first language.

At the last minute, we decided to re-knock on the door of a younger Latino resident. My original notation on him was simply “he has work, but seemed interested”. He greeted me with a smile, having remembered me from two weeks ago, but his face really lit up when Massiel started talking to him in fluent Spanish and they discovered that they are both from the Domincan Republic. She learned so much – he moved to United States only four months ago; he works two jobs and cannot come to meetings on weeknights, but is willing to come to any meetings on the weekends; he has a wife and two young daughters. He was so happy to hear about the Neighbors Campaign, because he has noticed how people live in the same building without ever speaking to each other. He told Massiel how different this is than the Dominican Republic where people know each other and help each other with problems etc.

Through Massiel’s kind translation, I told him about a young woman in the next building over who is a great soccer player at a local high school and expressed interest in organizing some soccer for the kids in Parklane Apartments. He loved this idea and wants to come to a meeting with this young woman and Massiel (who volunteered to come back) to talk about working on a project for the kids.

My point – the Massiel’s of this effort are key – committed, culturally competent, spirited folk who can engage neighbors and break down the large barriers of language and culture and our community’s extreme diversity.

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