Cultural Continuums: A Common Language

July 31, 2014

What is culture? Is it just someone’s language, food, and dress? Does it involve religion, rituals, and rhythms? How would you describe your own culture?

 One definition of culture is given here, but there are many definitions out there: Culture is the range of ideas, beliefs, values, knowledge, and activities of a group of people which are transmitted and reinforced by members of the group.

 As Sioux Falls continues to welcome new Americans and embrace its growing multiculturalism, it can be helpful to explore and start discussions about your own culture and the culture of your neighbor using the framework of cultural continuums. These “ranges” can help us avoid definitive statements, provide some common language, and maybe help us to see that “those people” are not so different from ourselves. We can discover our own cultural preferences and see cultural differences less as “us” versus “them” and more as variations spread out upon a continuum. Everyone is affected by culture and knowing yourself can be an important first step in successful and effective cross-cultural interactions.  

 Below are five major cultural continuums, though more exist and have been researched. Answer the questions below to see your cultural preferences. Read the rest of this entry »


Back To School With A Full(er) Wallet

July 30, 2014

I always dreaded this time of year when I was a kid. The summer seasonal products in the stores would disappear to be replaced by those dreaded items. The very mention of it would strike fear in my heart and put me into a funk for days. There was no getting away from it, but I sure didn’t want to admit that the time had come yet again. I was enjoying my freedom way too much for them to take it away yet again. Alas, there was simply no way to avoid it – BACK-TO-SCHOOL season. Read the rest of this entry »


500 New Mentors … How Are We Doing?

July 28, 2014

In March, LSS Mentoring Services announced a campaign to recruit 500 new mentors. Curious about how we are doing? Come hear about our progress at a rally on Tuesday, August 5, from 8-9 AM at Lincoln High School. We are inviting the public to come and get inspired for this coming school year, and we want you to think about becoming a mentor! Read the rest of this entry »


Compassionate Communication: Tips for Talking with Minimal English Speakers

July 25, 2014

We’ve all seen it (or done it ourselves.) In an attempt to communicate with someone who speaks minimal English we’ve repeated our words, talked louder, repeated our words again, talked even louder…and when no headway was made, maybe just thrown our hands up and walked away.

Not anymore!

At the request of volunteers who assist our English teachers in the classroom, the Education Coordinator for the Center for New Americans put together some “helpful tips” for communicating with speakers of limited English: Read the rest of this entry »


Camps, Sports and Fun

July 24, 2014

When I think back to summer and being a kid I think of Swan Lake Christian camp. It was always full of fun and friends, old and new! In my work with foster care I have found that while many of these children and youth have not had opportunities to attend camps, they can especially benefit from these activities.  So one of the goals for our foster children and youth is to offer them camp and sports activities where they have opportunities to socialize, learn and just have fun in safe environments. Read the rest of this entry »


I’m Melting!

July 22, 2014

I’m not the Wicked Witch but I do feel like I am melting in this humidity and heat. I promised I wouldn’t whine about being hot if the winter ever ended but I changed my mind. Are you sick of the heat too? Read on for a few tips to keep you and your kids happy in the summer sun.

Boy eating ice cream

  • Check out our Pinterest board for a detailed list of ideas.
  • Drink something cool. Throw some frozen fruit in a blender for a smoothie or make a pitcher of lemonade. You can turn some juice into popsicles as well.
  • Get wet! Go for a swim, run through the sprinkler, toss around some water balloons or just take a cool shower.
  • Curl up with a good book. When outside isn’t fun anymore, switch to something involving air conditioning. My favorite indoor activity is reading of course. Games, crafts and movies would do the trick too.
  • Enjoy the evening. Wait until the sun goes down to enjoy time outdoors. Invest in some affordable flashlights and glow sticks or let the fireflies light the night. Click here for some game ideas to get you started.
  • Make some homemade ice cream. The process of making it will cool you off as much as eating it. In a small zip-closed plastic bag combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1.5 Tablespoons sugar. You can add little pieces of fruit or other flavors as well. Put that bag inside a gallon size zip-close bag and add 6 Tablespoons of salt (rock salt works well) and fill it to the top with ice. Zip it up and shake it, roll it, toss it back and forth. It usually takes about 10 minutes for it to get thick but if you can’t wait you can drink it like a milk shake.
  • Get artistic. You can paint with ice cubes to create some gorgeous creations. Freeze 5-10 drops of food coloring with 1/4 cup water in ice trays to create paint cubes that glide along the paper.

Have a great summer! I’m off to find a pool or smoothie. -Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services


“Blessing,” the Spirit of Ramadan

July 18, 2014

Continuing the Summer Series, LSS Center for New Americans shares about Ramadan, an important religious observance for our Muslim neighbors going on now.    

Adane Redda, a Direct Service Worker at LSS Center for New Americans, came to the United States from Ethiopia fourteen years ago. He agreed to sit down with me and answer my questions about observing Ramadan, which all Muslims around the world are in the midst of observing.

Please tell us about Ramadan for those in our community unfamiliar with this holiday.

For those who have accepted Islam as a way of life, it is required to follow the five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims must declare that there is only one God in which you need to believe. The second pillar involves prayer; Muslims must pray five times a day. The third pillar involves giving charity and money to people in need. Another pillar is fasting during Ramadan. And the fifth pillar is making the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, if you are able.

Adane shared several special circumstances which allowed for the exemption of fasting during Ramadan including if a person was sick, traveling, or a nursing mother. The very young and the very old are also exempt. During this season, most Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset for twenty-nine to thirty days depending on moon sightings. Adane continued to share with me the spirit and heart of Ramadan.

The spirit of Ramadan is blessing. When we fast and when we break the fast, we feel happy knowing we did what God prescribed for us. During Ramadan—poor or wealthy—we are all the same. We break the fast together, especially during the weekends. During the weekends we prepare food to share when we gather together to break the fast and perform special prayers and recite the Quran. Ramadan is a time for more prayers, more supplications because the door of heaven is open and any prayers are accepted. It is a time for forgiveness. We are sad when Ramadan leaves us because maybe we don’t fast together again next year. There are several people whom we fasted within the past who are not with us this year.

During Ramadan, we do not only abstain from food and drink, but our eyes must fast, our tongue must fast, our body must fast. For example, if someone upsets me and I get in an argument with them, I break the fast. So you see, Ramadan is more than fasting from food and drink.

How is celebrating Ramadan in Sioux Falls different than celebrating in your country?

In some Muslim countries, we are allowed to take the whole month of Ramadan off. We fast during the day and perform prayers through the night. Here it is different. Work is equally as important as fasting as we are working to support our families. It is more difficult for evening workers, especially for workers on production lines whose breaks may not fall when we break fast at night. He could say he is fasting, but who understands? It can be difficult for them.

Muslims in Turkey observing Ramadan.  (Photo courtesy of euronews.)

Muslims in Turkey observing Ramadan. (Photo courtesy of euronews.)

Tell me about the gathering that marks the end of Ramadan.

“Eid al-Fitr,” means the Festival of Breaking the Fast in Arabic. It is when all Muslims come together in the early morning to pray and greet each other. We will visit at the gathering, but also at each other’s homes. It is one of the biggest Islamic holidays.

Will the gathering in Sioux Falls involve Muslims from the many different countries we have represented in Sioux Falls?

Yes. That is the beauty of Islam. It doesn’t matter where we came from. We share one common thing. When I go to the mosque—on the line praying with me—I see people from Ethiopia, Egypt, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and more. What unites us is Islam.

Thank you, Adane, for your work at LSS and for sharing your insight into Ramadan.


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