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Celebrate and Educate. (Not-For-Profit Report).

If you hear the cadence of African drums, the syncopated rhythms of Jamaican reggae, the cool sound of jazz or the beautiful music of an East Indian sitar, you're not on a safari, doing the limbo on a white sandy beach, dancing at the Savoy or gazing at the Taj Mahal--you're celebrating cultural diversity at The Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale in New York City.

Through in-services conducted by the rabbi and the Judaica Museum, staff have become very familiar with the cultural traditions and beliefs of Judaism. What was needed was a better understanding among residents and staff of the 84 different nationalities represented by those who work at The Hebrew Home.

To address our mosaic of ethnic backgrounds, cultural diversity training was instituted at The Hebrew Home in the early 1990s. The program's major goals are to help staff appreciate their cultural differences, while helping them discover how much they are alike, and to educate the resident population (predominantly Jewish) about their caregivers' different cultures.

Originally, the program consisted of lectures in a classroom setting, but interest among staff was lacking. Administrative staff of The Home, consisting of the chief operating officer and select disciplines, decided to revamp the program and expand it beyond the classroom setting, to be experienced firsthand.

Using the theme "Celebrate and Educate," a Cultural Advisory Group--composed of administration, human resources and the education component of the nursing department--was formed, along with the Cultural Traditions Committee consisting of frontline workers from every department and representatives from other Hebrew Home facilities: Fairfield Division, Baptist Home and Elderserve. The main function of the committee has been to develop the framework of the new program and oversee its implementation through the leadership of the nurse educator.

We celebrate by putting up decorations and serving food from the culture being highlighted; wearing the dress and playing music of the culture; having a program that consists of dancers and fashion shows; and singing the national anthem of the featured country.

We educate by inviting a guest speaker who addresses the theme the selected culture has chosen. We distribute fliers and handouts, and we show videotapes. We also display artifacts from that culture for all three shifts.

The celebration has grown into a day, evening and night affair. To make sure all shifts are treated equally, the kitchen provides the same menu for all of them. A videotape of the day's events is played for the evening and night staff. The event usually ends at about 12:30 a.m. These celebrations have been quite a morale booster for the night shift, who, because of the hours they work, often miss special events.

To date, the program has featured "visits" to Jamaica, which was our first cultural celebration. Also featured were India and the continent of Africa, as well as an exploration of Black History Month (an annual event). Future spotlights will shine on the Philippines, as well as Spanish-speaking countries, Jewish culture and more. Although these are, first and foremost, staff events, residents are invited to participate and have been delighted to be included.

For each event, an ad hoc committee is formed from members of the featured nationality. The committee plans, authenticates and presents the event. Preparation is very extensive, especially with respect to the food. Because residents are invited to the tasting and The Hebrew Home is kosher, the kitchen often has to be very creative in translating the dishes to comply with Jewish dietary laws.

The ad hoc committee also has to address other issues before the event. For example, in planning for the India Day Celebration, there was a lively discussion about which of the 106 dialects spoken in that country would be used for singing the national anthem. Working together, the committee decided that it would be sung in Hindi.

The African Day Celebration is another example of positive collaboration. Everyone of African descent--and anyone else who wanted to--dressed in native attire. Although there are 52 nations on the continent of Africa, the committee was able to agree that the national anthem of South Africa would be sung in Zulu. A red, black, green and yellow pan-African flag was chosen to represent all the countries in Africa. These were not 1-2-3 decisions; they took some effort. Working through such controversies, staff members have not only learned about discussion and decision making, but they also witnessed the satisfying results of teamwork and compromise.

The night before any upcoming event, the sitting ad hoc committee and the Cultural Traditions Committee have worked together to decorate the cafeteria and 42nd Street, an area of The Home that is easily accessible to residents and staff. Committee members display tables of art, artifacts, jewelry and information about the culture of interest that are gathered through books, via the Internet or staffloans. Everyone is invited to view the displays and sample ethnic dishes at a tasting table throughout the day. Of course, someone is with the residents to make sure they can tolerate the food being offered. Listening to the music and touching the native art, fabrics and jewelry lets people get a hands-on perspective of the culture.

To demonstrate its strong support, administration provides the committee with a budget that pays for the speaker, food, decorations, informational books, tapes, etc. With this program, staff have discovered a unity among themselves and a new togetherness with residents. They have discovered that diversity is not an end in itself but an opportunity to understand the important similarities and intriguing differences in their own and each other's lives. Through such awareness comes understanding and tolerance, precious commodities in any place or time.

Administrative Support

Daniel Reingold

Executive Vice-President

David Weinstein

Chief Operating Officer

Vilma Baltazar

Director of Nursing

Cultural Traditions Committee

Jean Lee (Chairperson)

Dean Cooper

Gina Segaric

Prince Hudson

Melva Kittrell

Doug MacCulloch

Christine Henriquez

Ann Marie Dunn
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:cultural diversity training
Author:Baltazar, Vilma
Publication:Nursing Homes
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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