What About Cultural Differences?
We recently had the opportunity to present at 1 Million Cups Wichita, and we have been overwhelmed by the love and support ever since! 1 Million Cups is a format where the presenter has 6 minutes to tell their story, then the audience has 20 minutes to ask questions and give feedback. We received WONDERFUL questions during our Q&A time, and we wanted to share some of those with YOU.
Question: I know there are big cultural differences in these countries - How do you work to get past those cultural differences?
Answer: One of the struggles in developing an international nonprofit is actually also one of the most rewarding things about doing this work. When we build relationships, when we build trust with these communities, it takes time and a lot of patience when all you want to do is HURRY UP AND HELP. These people are used to western organizations coming in and changing everything. They’re used to organizations coming in and throwing money at a problem without developing a relationship - and when that money is gone, many times the problem is worse than before. We are all about building relationships and inspiring HOPE, not dependence.
Our number one job on a trip is to LISTEN. We listen to the stories of women and girls - their hopes, their dreams, their fears, the issues facing them. In order to listen to them, we have to EARN THE RIGHT to hear their stories. Some of these are stories of unspeakable abuse, violence, hunger, poverty, shame, and desperation - and it is an honor to “hold space” (as Brené Brown calls it) for our sisters when they open up to us about their lives. We’re not there to judge, pity, or save anyone - we’re there to listen, love, and help however we can.
We are currently working in three countries: India, Rwanda, and Kenya. When we are on a trip, we observe and appreciate the cultural traditions of these amazing people. We’re talking about thousands of years of beautiful culture - and to see it in person will change your life. Our job is to be a sponge - absorbing as much knowledge about their traditions and history as possible.
What does this look like during a trip?
• We gratefully eat the food that they prepare for us.
• We drink the delicious chai (milk tea) even if milk upsets our stomach. (An upset tummy is part of any trip.)
• We honor the cultural norms, and avoid taboos.
• We dress in a way that honors the culture.
• We learn key phrases in the languages where we travel.
• We don’t just acknowledge the beautiful cultural differences - we CELEBRATE the differences, while we also realize that as sisters around the world, we all have the same needs, fears, hopes, and dreams.
It really is a small world after all.