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I’ve lived here for 19 years and I’ve never had a conversation like this with American people – I talk business or jobs but never about my feelings and my mind.

- “Rosa” from Colombia after participating in Culture Bump Training in Building America’s Villages Program

The Culture Bump Approach is the foundation for American-born Americans and immigrant Americans to step beyond diversity and create a new kind of community with a shared culture. The program is called Building America’s Villages. This unique program was piloted at the College of the Mainland in Clear Lake, Webster and Texas City resulting in walls of suspicion and fear being torn down. Neighbors from very different backgrounds came to know one another and to find a common ground – right in their own neighborhood.

Building America’s Villages is an idea that came to me about 12 years ago as I observed my Jordanian neighbor, my Vietnamese neighbor, my Mexican neighbor and my American-born neighbor. And I reflected that my neighborhood was much like other neighborhoods all around the United States.

Nationwide, there are enclaves of communities of immigrants from various parts of the world scattered among the larger community with individuals born and raised in the United States.

But there is no structured means for interaction between these communities and much of the daily life is lived side by side with little or no meaningful interaction. As a result, the hidden rules of American society are not transmitted to the immigrants and the richness of the immigrant culture is not transmitted into the larger culture.

My work with Culture Bump and international students as well as corporate training for the past forty years has taught me that there is an observable process by which we human beings can connect with one another. And because the process is observable, it is teachable. I approached College of the Mainland with the idea of applying that process in community building. I’ll finish with two more stories of the results in that program.

I saw a 60 year old American man put his arm around the shoulder of a 40 year old Salvadorian carpenter named Jorge and say – You know Jorge, we’re really pretty much the same. And I saw the tears in Jorge’s eyes.

That same night another American man, stood up and made an announcement that he had been a fan of certain radio programs that favored “sending them back home”. He stood there and looked at everyone in the room (about 25 people ) and said, I was wrong. I was wrong. And I am sorry.

Those individuals are still helping one another – creating programs for studying for citizenship, for supporting teenagers and for creating communities that work for everybody.

The program used the Culture Bump Toolkit for Culture and Communication (available online at Auburn University) with language support for immigrant participants. For more information about the Toolkit, click here. For more information about the original program, Building America’s Villages, click here.

(August 31, 2014)

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