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Celebrating diversity

Novi community finds common ground through cultural events

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September 15th, 2016
Resident Shirley Handley (left) and staff member Sikneh Achi-Youness represent Lebanon at Fox Run’s recent “Coming to America” event, which celebrated the diverse ethnicities of the people who live and work at the Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich.

Resident Shirley Handley (left) and staff member Sikneh Achi-Youness represent Lebanon at Fox Run’s recent “Coming to America” event, which celebrated the diverse ethnicities of the people who live and work at the Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich.

Fox Run is nestled in a small town in America’s heartland, but on any given day at the community, you might have the chance to meet people who hail from all over the world—from Italy to India and many places in between. To showcase and celebrate the rich ethnic diversity of residents and staff at Fox Run, the Novi, Mich., community hosted an interactive event entitled “Coming to America.”

Rich cultural community

The event featured 22 residents and staff members from 18 different countries and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico: Scotland, Ghana, Malaysia, Norway, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Italy, England, Indonesia, India, Lebanon, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, China, the Philippines, Turkey, and Austria. 

Presenters talked about their country and their story of immigrating to America. They also shared art, food, clothing, books, photos, or other items from their culture.

“One woman had antique golf clubs from Scotland, and another woman brought homemade food from Indonesia,” says resident Marilyn Schueneman, chair of Unity in the Community, which organized the event. “One woman from the Netherlands had beautiful hand-carved work her father-in-law had made, and another lady from India had quite a few garments and shoes—there was quite a variety.”

Marilyn says a Lebanese woman showed event attendees the proper way to wrap a headscarf. A woman from Germany shared the story of losing her grandparents to a concentration camp.

“We really asked that people would talk to residents about their journeys and what they struggled with,” Marilyn says.

Of course, one of the best ways to bring people from different cultures together is through food—and there was plenty of it at the “Coming to America” event. In addition to the homemade Indonesian food, Marilyn says guests nibbled on Scottish shortbread, Havarti cheese representing Denmark, and some Lebanese treats.

The event was a big success, and Marilyn says quite a few residents and staff members attended. The presentations were recorded and will be aired on Fox Run’s in-house television station for people who were unable to attend. Marilyn says Unity in the Community hopes to hold the event again next year and expand it to include even more people from different cultures. 

Greater understanding of others

Since its inception, Unity in the Community has organized a number of events to help people understand the struggles that different groups of people face—whether because of their ethnicity, religion, physical disability, or other factors. The group hopes that through greater understanding of one another, people will find more common ground. 

“There are all kinds of people in the world, and we are all God’s children,” Marilyn says. “It’s not up to us to decide who is good or bad.”

Unity in the Community has organized some events to explore Islamic culture this fall. They will screen some films on Islam, visit a local Muslim community center and have a meal at a Lebanese restaurant. Marilyn says the group is also talking about putting on events later in the year to showcase other cultures.

“Fox Run has been wonderful about this,” Marilyn says. “People are very congenial and interested in knowing about each other.”

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