Did you know…

September 30, 2013

Dashain, the longest and most anticipated Nepali festival, begins October 5th?

This fifteen day national holiday for the Hindu goddess, Durga, and her victory over a powerful demon is a celebration of good over evil and a time of family gatherings and community renewal.

Bir Bhandari, a Bhutanese refugee from Nepal, who likes to self-identify now as a “Bhutanese-American,” was five years old when his family left Bhutan for Nepal where he spent eighteen years before being resettled in Sioux Falls along with members of his family.  He currently is a student at USD, studying Health Science with hopes of becoming a Physician’s Assistant or a Bio-Medical Engineer.  Along with his academic studies and job as a Nepali interpreter, he volunteers at LSS Refugee and Immigration Center most often in the Job Interview Classes motivated by a desire “to help people in any way I can.”

Bir working with fellow Bhutanese refugees from Nepali in Job Interview Class
Bir working with fellow Bhutanese refugees from Nepali in Job Interview Class

Recently, Bir answered some questions for me about Dashain.

What does the celebration of Dashain involve?

“All Hindu people celebrate Dashain.  In Nepal it is a public holiday with all government buildings and shops being closed for around two weeks.  Dashain celebrates the goddess’ victory over the demons.  People celebrate with ‘tika,’ receiving the blessing from elders in the family, wearing new clothes, and eating meat.”

How is celebrating Dashain in Sioux Falls different than celebrating Dashain in Nepal?

“There are some cultural barriers here.  We are the minority people here.  All the people in Nepal celebrate Dashain…everyone enjoys Dashain.  It is like the Christmas holiday in America…everyone celebrates Christmas and businesses are closed.  Celebrating Dashain here is different because our people have to work and have other daily activities during these two weeks…they can’t celebrate as much as they would like.”

Elders putting tika  Photo courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons
Elders putting tika
Photo courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons

For more information about Dashain, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasain

From “No English” to “No interpreter”: Emma’s story

September 27, 2013

Emma started English classes before at the LSS Refugee and Immigration Center, but eventually stopped attending because she was tired from work.  “I was in Class 2 and 3, then…when I started my job in 1999, I don’t need English.”  Originally from Honduras, Emma first lived in California before coming to Sioux Falls for work.  “I come here…very, very nice…for job…for quiet.  I like my job.”

Emma eventually returned to English class and has now graduated to Level 4, but measures her English ability in a different way. “Now, I’m not nervous.  I go to the doctor…I go to the dentist…I don’t need interpreter.  I’m very, very happy.“ 

Her current teacher, Deanna Streeter, says “Emma came up through our program.  Many teachers worked with her.  She is a group success for our program!”

Emma, whose daily schedule goes like this: “I work 9 hours everyday.  I take a shower.  I eat.  I rest…maybe half an hour and I come here” would like to see more English classes offered in the evenings at the Refugee and Immigration Center. “I think we need 4 days of English,” she said before quickly slipping back into her classroom to join her classmates, classmates who have also worked full days at their own jobs and who come to class every Tuesday and Thursday evening to learn the language of the place they now all call “home.”

Emma and her current teacher, Deanna

Emma and her current teacher, Deanna

The Weight of Words

September 26, 2013

The language of adoption has changed as the practice of adoption has evolved.  One rarely hears terms such as illegitimate child anymore.  But it is still common to hear other words and phrases that are no longer accurate or neutral.  Certain terms have the effect of closing doors and serving as barriers to having an open discussion about adoption; such as “give away” one’s baby.  Words can also be hurtful and stigmatizing to the individuals in the adoption circle; namely the parents who make an adoption plan, the parents who adopt and the child. If you are an adoptive parent and someone asks about your child’s “real” parent – that can be hurtful.  Or if you are a parent who made an adoption plan for your child; being asked why you “gave away” your child discredits the thought, time and selflessness it took to make that plan!

 There are at least 6 million people in the U.S. who were adopted into their families, and the number of Americans touched by adoption exceeds 100 million.  Therefore when speaking about adoption, it is imperative to use accurate and adoption neutral language. One should consider describing adoption as a process, not a label.  Also one should think about the words he/she uses so as to become more sensitive to underlying prejudices and stereotypes.

 Below are some examples of negative words and phrases along with the accurate and appropriate adoption language to use.  

 Negative                                                           Accurate

Adopt out, give away                                        Make an adoption plan

Keep the baby                                                  Make a parenting plan

Real parent                                                       Biological or birth parent

Own child, Adopted child                                 My child

Unwanted child                                                Child released for adoption

Foreign adoption                                              International adoption

Illegitimate child                                                Born to unmarried parents

Adoption Triangle                                             Adoption  circle  or

                                                                           Adoption constellation

Five Communication Traps to Avoid

September 25, 2013

commWhen young people are allowed to express their feelings, particularly their negative feelings, it offers them a safety valve that can help prevent them from exploding. If a student is systematically taught to keep negative feelings bottled up, he or she cannot get them out of his or her system, which can contribute to inappropriate behavior. Young people cannot hold back negative feelings without holding back positive feelings as well. Mentoring is a good way to encourage healthy communication for kids. And good communication between a mentor and their student will lead to a good relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

Play Dough is More Than Just Fun

September 24, 2013

When I think about my childhood one of the vivid memories is making homemade play dough with my grandmother. We would then play with the dough for hours and hours and weeks on end until it “got old” and we needed to make a new batch. Even though I had easy access to homemade play dough daily I was excited when I got to play with “real” (store-bought) Play-Doh in kindergarten. Now as an educator, I watch children playing with play dough and it becomes increasingly clear that children grow when they play with play dough whether they are a toddler or a 5th grader.  Most of us would agree that playing with play dough is fun but what are the other reasons we should give kids access to the fun dough?


Creativity- Children can decide what they want to make, shape the dough as they want and choose the best ways to represent their ideas.

Stress relief Adults and children both tend to relax when playing with play dough. It can be a focused activity or one that can be done as your mind wanders.

Fine Motor Skills- Pinching, rolling, squeezing and shaping the dough builds strength in little hands and fingers. These are the muscles used for writing and cutting.

Math- describing, comparing, measuring, and sorting are all early math skills.

Vocabulary- As children play they use describing words, color words, texture words and even increase their vocabulary. As adults engage in play with children they can introduce new vocabulary words and concepts.

Imagination-The open-ended nature of playing with play dough seems to lead children to create their own play scenarios. Children might create a farm with various animals then “feed” their animals. They might create a meal from the play dough and ask a friend to “taste” their creation. We know that imaginative play is important in child development.

 There are certainly many more benefits but I want to leave some room in my post for tips and recipes:

  •  Hasbro, the makers of Play-Doh, have some clean up tips. The also provide some fun lesson plans.
  •  The Imagination Tree blog has some fantastic ideas for substances that can be added to play dough such as popsicle sticks, straws, glitter, natural elements, etc. Really, your children’s imaginations are the only limit to what can be added to play dough. You can even use Barbie shoes to “walk” through your dough to leave foot prints.
  •  There are many, many great play doh recipes. Some are great for toddlers because they are edible. Some require no cooking. Some are scented or have different textures.  Of course with all of these recipes, I always return to my favorite:
    “Grandma Micki’s Less-Mess Play Dough”
    2 ½ cups flour
    1 cup salt
    2 Tbsp. powdered alum (dissolved in 2 cups boiling water.)
    3 Tbsp. oil
    Food coloring
    Ziplock bags
    Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Add water/alum mixture and oil. Mix well. Divide the hot dough into portions and add color. Grandma Micki would do this by putting the food coloring in the middle of a ball of dough then kneading it while it was still warm. It works well to put the dough inside the Ziploc bag to knead it if you don’t want to have rainbow-colored hands.

Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services

The YouTube video to follow from Hasbro Play Doh shows one of many creative ways a child could learn and play.

3 Credit Myths Not to Fall For

September 23, 2013

We’ve all heard them – those rumored stories of instant credit success – and wondered, “Is that really true?

Image courtesy of winnond  / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond
/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The world of credit can seem like a lot of smoke and mirrors.

Here are 3 myths commonly heard by our financial gurus.

(and why you shouldn’t fall for them) Read the rest of this entry »

My Child Has a Credit Report

September 20, 2013

Child identity theft is a growing problem.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici  / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici
/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Identity thieves target children’s Social Security numbers because they have no credit blemishes and because their fraudulent activity may go unchecked for years.

Possible red flags that your child is a victim of identity theft are when you receive bills, credit card offers, or debt collection calls in your child’s name. Read the rest of this entry »

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