By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
The Nile River of Egypt, the Dead Sea of Israel and the spicy chili, pineapple and orange flavored Escobon Cubierto lollipops of Mexico — the children in the New Albany Parks Department’s summer program discovered quite a bit on Friday.
OK, so they didn’t actually visit any foreign lands, but thanks to some volunteers with native ties to different counties, the kids received a worldly education.
It was the department’s inaugural International Day, and the children learned about different cultures from the Middle East to Central America.
Abdul Mohamood is a Hanover College student who is interning for the parks department this summer.
His parents are natives of Somalia, and he was born in Dubai of the United Arab Emirates. Naturally he spoke about Middle Eastern culture.
“I think it’s really important that people understand more than the United States,” Mohamood said.
Television reports and movies can’t capture all the features of a country or its people, he said.
“I want them to understand the political things they have there don’t represent the people,” Mohamood said of the stereotypes that residents of other countries agree with the governments that rule them.
Some of Mohamood’s friends volunteered and setup booths dedicated to the cultures of countries such as Ecuador, Israel and Peru.
There was even a table that focused on Hawaii.
Children sampled native foods and drinks, viewed colorful dresses and garments from other countries and listened to the volunteers speak about traditions from other lands.
Jonathan Salazar manned the Mexico table. In addition to handing out the chili powder covered Escobon suckers which he said he ate regularly as a child, Salazar displayed a Mexican flag and took great effort to explain to the kids what each color and marking symbolized.
“A country’s flag is the face of that country,” he said. “I think it’s important for them to know the meaning of the flag.”
The green soccer jersey on his table provided Salazar with the opportunity to talk about Mexico’s favorite sport.
“If you talk about Mexico, you almost have to talk about soccer,” he said.
Kathy Wilkerson, interim director of the city parks department, hopes that one day the kids will get to visit other countries.
But she knows that might not be the case for many of the children.
“A lot of the children may never leave this area,” Wilkerson said.
So International Day was launched to help the kids garner some understanding of other cultures those with first hand knowledge.
“They have history lessons in school, but they don’t get to meet the people,” Wilkerson said.