Nebraska City celebrates community bonds

By Leigh Calfee, freelance writer and photographer from Nebraska City

A series of four short vignettes using the real-life experiences of immigrants from Laos, Mexico, Sudan, and the Netherlands, “Vang” tells the story of how immigrants in the Des Moines, Iowa, region are using their agricultural skills to create better lives for themselves and their families.

“Vang,” a play written by Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander, was presented in conjunction with Family Fun Day on June 23 in Nebraska City, both sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs.

Center for Rural Affairs Project Associate Jordan Feyerherm has been working to provide opportunities for local residents to think more inclusively about issues like immigration.

“The goal of the family day and play presentation was to bring the Nebraska City community together to celebrate and strengthen community bonds, and to start a conversation around what it means to be a part of a community,” Jordan said.

“Vang” also details how immigrants from across the globe affect positive change in the communities in which they live, work, and farm.

“Community building events like these are a great way to bring a diverse set of world views, opinions, and life experiences together in the same room,” Jordan said. “These kinds of activities are a great way to start a dialogue on the personal level and engage with subject matter in a more relaxed and comfortable environment.”

The Center for Rural Affairs counts Family Fun Day as a success, and there are plans for other outreach activities in the future, including opportunities for intercultural development coaching, presentations on identifying and overcoming bias, and hands-on workshops designed to help individuals practice civil conversation techniques.

“We really have a wide array of programming that we are planning to bring to the community,” Jordan said.

Proceeds from Family Fun Day went to disaster recovery assistance at the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline. This event was hosted with support from Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce and Nebraska City Center for Children and Families.

Feature photo: "Vang," a play written by Mary Swander was previously performed in York, Nebraska, also presented by the Center for Rural Affairs. | Photo by Rhea Landholm.