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Out of Africa … and into Medford with virtual travel

Zoe Tisi, 3-years-old, coloring the Ugandan flag. (Marianne Salza)

MEDFORD — The public library is sending local children on a virtual tour of the world beginning with a presentation on Uganda sponsored by humanitarian organization, Cultured Kids.

Sponsored in part by the Medford Arts Council, the interactive workshop for elementary school-age children and their families focused on the African nation and set the stage for an Oct. 26 up-close look at India at the library.

“It’s virtual travel,” said Regional Director Irena Stanic Rasin. “We are trying to do social research on cross-culturalism, especially with those under the age of 18 who have spent time in more than one country.”

Rasin’s goal is to raise awareness about the increasing population of immigrant and refugee children entering the United States by introducing children to other cultures. By exploring the art, science, and foods of diverse countries, Rasin hopes children will grow into generous, connected, and compassionate humanitarians.

During her Uganda presentation, Rasin read Beatrice’s Goat, by Page McBrier, a book based on the true story of an impoverished Ugandan girl whose greatest wish is to attend school. Beatrice’s life is transformed by the gift of a goat from a non-profit world hunger organization.

“I liked the book and learning about the girl and the goat,” said third-grader Abby Jean-Louis.

Abby and friends colored the black, yellow, and red stripes of the Ugandan flag, which symbolize the African people, sunshine, and brotherhood.

“So kids get a different cultural perspective and see the challenges that kids from other countries face, we are sharing letters written for the Cultured Kids program by kids living in Uganda,” said Rasin, who immigrated to America from Croatia more than 20 years ago.

Children and parents read handwritten notes describing what a typical day is like for children in the western Uganda village: their favorite foods, responsibilities, families, and aspirations. Participants learned how they can help those in need by being pen pals and sharing experiences with one another.

“That’s eye-opening for them because they spend almost all day in school, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.. They don’t have water in their houses, and help their parents with a lot of house chores,” Rasin said. “We are trying to raise awareness about the underprivileged children around the world that are suffering and struggling because they don’t have access to food, clean water, medication, and schooling.”

Children’s Librarian Sam Sednek believes Uganda is a country often under-represented in mainstream media, and hopes that children learn to embrace each other’s differences and be friends.

“It’s an opportunity for people from different cultures to see themselves reflected in our library programs,” said Sednek. “Medford is an extremely diverse community. It’s nice to celebrate our differences and our neighbors.”

The library invites parents and children to explore India during the next Cultured Kids Passport Program workshop on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Medford Public Library.

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