Multicultural Village at Cumaca
By VERDEL BISHOP Thursday, August 28 2008
WHEN CLOSE to 30 young people from various ethnic backgrounds came together to participate in a vacation retreat, the experience had a powerful impact on them.
Through a camp facilitated by Multicultural Village, the young people, who were between the ages of 12 and 19, were given lessons on conflict resolution, dealing with violence and how to be socially responsible and culturally competent citizens. Multicultural Village provided an environment where they could learn about one another, themselves, and their environment, exchange experiences and grow together.
The 17-day camp was spearheaded by founder of Multicultural Village, Trinidad-born political ccientist Michelle Cromwell, a professor at Pine Manor College, a liberal arts college for women in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She holds a Master of Science degree in Dispute Resolution from Nova Southeastern University, and a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
Cromwell explained that the camp allowed participants from diverse backgrounds to interact with each other while obtaining skills in conflict resolution, cross cultural relations and leadership.
The camp was held at the Cumaca Primary School, off Valencia in a district often referred to as “the forgotten village”, located in the Northern Range.
Campers had no access to electricity, telephones and other basic amenities. Cromwell said that the environment allowed the young people to focus on each other rather than on themselves.
“The camp provided a unique opportunity for inter-generational conversations about issues of class, gender, race, age and other cultural differences. It challenged every form of violence, prejudice, racism and crime,” she explained.
“The main mission was to get strangers together to have meaningful contact. The other big part of the mission was to bring about peace building and to inculcate a new group of conscious individuals who are aware of what is happening in the world and how it affects them, with a view to becoming young agents of change.”
Cromwell said the young people in the programme were equipped to confront and diminish racism, hatred, violence and other forms of cultural divide through specific initiatives.
“Through games, projects, and other activities, the children were taught how to relate to people from different backgrounds. They participated in a three-part module, where we not only talked to the children; they looked at films, video clips, did workshops and a host of fun activities,” Cromwell said.
The campers said their minds are renewed after spending 17 days learning and growing together.
“We learned to be appreciative of other people. I used to make assumptions about people before even getting to know them and now I know better. I don’t see myself as different to anyone else.
We learned not to judge people,” one camper told Newsday.
“We learned about what is ging on in Dafur, Rwanda, and other parts in the world. We learned about the Jewish Holocaust and a lot about what people have to go through in other parts of the world. It really opened our eyes.”
During the second week of the retreat, campers took part in community action, including a joint venture with Habitat for Humanity. In week three, the main activity was a programme entitled “Reflection Through Facing History Facing Ourselves”.