Creating Stronger Communities through Welcoming and Inclusion

It is amazing how easy it is to explore the world right from the comfort of our living rooms. The internet and expanded access to technology make our small communities part of a global landscape.

But your next cultural experience may be right outside your front door. Walk around the neighborhood in your community, and a cultural experience may come to life.

That’s the case in rural communities across the nation. In Nebraska, an influx of immigrant families from various ethnic backgrounds has meant a change in our population. That’s a positive sign for jobs, production, and economic impact. But it also brings its own struggles and challenges.

In newly diverse communities, chief topics of conversation include language differences and a lack of services and resources. How can we confront the challenges when language, religion, and ethnic backgrounds are so diverse?

In my small community, we looked for a common denominator. It began with the idea that “we all live in this community.” A conversation centered on working together for the wellbeing of everyone around us is a great place to start. With that premise, we can begin to explore how to strengthen our communities by learning about our differences.

A good example is happening in Schuyler, Nebraska. A group of mainly first generation Latino immigrants formed El Comite Latino de Schuyler (CLS) – the Schuyler Latino Committee. Individuals saw the unmet needs of the Spanish-speaking community and came together to find a solution.

Each committee member has a different immigrant story. And each one has gone through the acculturation journey, learning English, adapting and adopting their new way of living in rural Nebraska, their new home.

Not only are they serving the Spanish-speaking community, they are serving the entire community. They own businesses or provide services in Schuyler. More than that, they have volunteered to serve on other committees and boards that make decisions that impact the community as a whole.

Creating an inclusive community is a two-way street. The effort should come from both sides.

This is exactly what el Comite has achieved, by starting the conversation with the Spanish-speaking community. But also with local community leaders, and getting involved to create change that ignites the process of welcoming and inclusion.

Having a sense of belonging is a sign of a healthy community!

Feature image: The Comite Latino de Schuyler gathers for a holiday photo. Image courtesy of Comite Latino de Schuyler-CLS on facebook.