The First Annual Interfaith Community Cultural Event was held recently on Saturday, July 23rd, at the Kimball East Stake building. The theme for the event was Our Global Neighborhood: Celebrating our Diversity and Serving our World, One Neighbor at a Time.
“We homeschool our children and, along with some other local homeschooling parents, have been holding a geography fair for about the past five years,” says organizer Carrie Mason of the Windsor Ward, Kimball East Stake. “Each family would pick their own site and then tell what they learned, about the people, the culture, the food, and the agriculture. This time, I kept feeling inspired to also reach out to someone who works with refugees.”
She contacted Hailey Smith of Lifting Hands, Gul Siddiqi, the Arizona Area Coordinator for Helping Hand for Relief and Development, and Arian Hatch, with Goods For Good.
“From day one the event just took off. It kept getting bigger and bigger. Our personal event was now turning into a community event. We realized that people are hungry for service opportunities,” says Sister Mason. “People I didn’t even know were calling to help. They were asking me questions like, ‘How can I help? How can I get my family and children involved?’”
After talking with KES Stake Relief Society President Jill Adair and Curtis Clouse, a counselor in the Kimball East Stake presidency, it was decided to move the occasion to the larger building at the stake center and it became the First Annual Interfaith Community Cultural Event.
Most of the twelve display tables held food items to sample from over a dozen countries. Also offered were half a dozen dance performances, a table where attendees could decorate birthday cards for displaced children in the Save the Family organization, and even a class on how to reach out to our neighbors and the community, entitled “The Art of Neighboring.” In keeping with the geography theme, there were game tables for the children such as Geography Bingo, plus cultural- and geography-themed coloring pages like flags, neighborhood maps and the art of Pablo Picasso.
“Sometimes it’s hard to go out in the community and get involved,” says Sister Mason. “This shows what can be accomplished when we come together. People from many faiths attended. Invitations were sent to Mayor John Giles and Councilmember Kevin Thompson, who also attended. I got wonderful feedback comments, such as, ‘Great ideas!’, ‘Awesome sense of community’ and ‘so many ways to serve others!’”
“It’s one example of the good things that can be done when we seek to serve,” says Sister Adair. “While our national conversation about refugees has become politicized, our Church leaders have specifically asked us not to make it political but to heed the call to love and serve our neighbors and to care for the poor and needy, whoever they are or wherever they may be. The recent cultural event held at our stake center is a great example of heeding that call. The ‘I Was a Stranger’ initiative’s focus is an invitation for members to seek personal inspiration on how they can help, according to their individual circumstances. When Sister Mason felt inspired to plan this event, I believe she followed that principle.”
For more information on how to help with next year’s Interfaith Community Cultural Event, or the other organizations, contact Sister Carri Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org.