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Celebrating Individuality

Ashby Ponds Diversity Week an example for the world to follow

Created date

October 10th, 2016
(From left) Sanae Nimura, Mitzi Chirite, Chiyoko Norman, and Yoshiko Yoshimura show off their finest at the Diversity Week fashion show.

(From left) Sanae Nimura, Mitzi Chirite, Chiyoko Norman, and Yoshiko Yoshimura show off their finest at the Diversity Week fashion show.

“I am the diversity at Ashby Ponds.” 

It is a phrase echoed in Spanish, Urdu, Bengali, Korean, Japanese, English, and many other languages in a commercial for the Ashland, Va.,
Erickson Living community’s recent diversity fair. The phrase swiftly became the motto for the much-anticipated week of festivities.

“I believe community events that bond people together are important at every Erickson Living community and in the world, in general,” says college student and Ashby Ponds dining service employee Julia Nelson, who produced the video. 

“Last year, our diversity day had a profound impact on this campus because residents and employees were able to proudly display what makes them unique,” she says. “I’m so glad we were able to expand that priceless opportunity into a whole week of activities this year.”

The Diversity Week program is the result of the hard work and dedication of the Ashby Ponds Diversity and Inclusion Council composed of residents and staff. The council supports a variety of initiatives designed to improve community living through an acknowledgment of unique thoughts, cultures, and talents.  

“Ashby Ponds welcomes and accepts people of all cultures and backgrounds,” says Dr. Roshan Chaddha, resident member of the Diversity and Inclusion Council. “By building on events like these, we hope to increase awareness and appreciation for all residents and staff members at Ashby Ponds.”

Learning from each other

The weeklong festivities kicked off on a Sunday night with a Latino dance performance by the Galiono Group from the Sterling Baha’i Temple.

The next day, Ashby Ponds’ numerous cultural groups seized the opportunity to share with their neighbors at a diversity expo, an interactive event honoring heritage and diversity. 

Resident groups participating included the Sign Language Group, the Science and Faiths Forum, Unitarian Universalists, the Genealogy Group, the Catholic Rosary Group, the Japanese Culture Group, the Jewish Community, and the Growing Up in Lebanon and Syria Group, as well as staff from Central and South America, Albania, Ghana, Bangladesh, and beyond. 

“I am so pleased that our staff is very diverse and the commitment
Erickson Living makes to focus on growing diversity at all levels,” says Roshan.

During the expo, residents and staff also had the opportunity to “pin” their country or city of origin on a world map and a U.S. map. Pins were positioned from Greenland to Bolivia to the Marshall Islands. Foreign-born residents and staff members shared clothing from their native countries on mannequins displayed throughout the expo. 

“I really enjoyed seeing the residents and employees excited to express their heritage and show off their multicultural backgrounds,” says Nelson.

Keynote presentations

In the days following the diversity fair, Ashby Ponds community members enjoyed two important presentations. The first, by Jackie Mills-Fernald, director of Access Ministry at McLean Bible Church, one of the largest disability ministries in the U.S., addressed “Disability Is Natural,” examining the concept of inclusivity among the disabled in a community setting.   

The following day, Joe Machicote, Erickson Living’s senior vice president of human resources, presented “Understanding Your Personal Privilege,” addressing the opportunities available to use one’s privileges for the betterment of others.

Let me entertain you

The final two days of Diversity Week focused on entertainment and drew large crowds. 

First, a “Cultural Variety Show” featured performers from local community organizations, including the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling’s band, dancing members of the Mudra Arts Center, sword dancing by Sucha Collins, and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian Church Band. 

Ashby Ponds community member Sanae Nimura and a friend also delighted the audience playing the Japanese koto. 

On the final day of festivities, residents representing China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam took part in a fashion show highlighting traditional ethnic clothing, including a Chinese formal robe and a Japanese formal mourning kimono.

The way to a neighbor’s heart

Throughout the week, Ashby Pond’s dining services team prepared menus in honor of the variety of ethnic cuisines. 

Pairing with the Sunday night performance by the Galiono group, sangria was served at the View bar while Windows Restaurant served two entrees—a Lomo Saltado, a traditional Peruvian stir-fry dish featuring marinated strips of sirloin with onions, tomatoes, and french fries; and a citrus mojo tilapia.

In honor of Ashby Ponds Chef Kevin, who grew up in Sierra Leone, the Monday menu featured a peanut butter stew and a pan-seared wreck fish. Tuesday’s offerings featured a choice between sauerkraut with bratwurst or an herbed trout. The following day, residents enjoyed dining on Korean barbecue short ribs with kimchi and shrimp stir-fry. Thursday night’s menu featured lamb kabob with chick peas or a tomato herb snapper. 

Before the cultural variety show, Ashby Ponds residents dined on jerk chicken and salmon cakes, and the week ended with an Italian menu featuring lasagna and Mediterranean bronzino.

Something for everyone

In the midst of the week’s activities, Ashby Ponds’ cable television station showcased a spring concert by the resident chorus, as well as interviews with members of the Diversity and Inclusion Council. 

Residents also decorated the large window displays outside the creative arts studio with special cultural treasures.

“Living at Ashby Ponds is a great example of how people of diverse religions, cultures, and political backgrounds have learned to live together,” says resident Bill Olcheski. 

By week’s end, the sentiment “I am the diversity at Ashby Ponds” rang loud and true among the members of the Ashland community. 

“When we started making our commercial for Diversity Week, I knew there were many multicultural clubs and groups on campus,” says Nelson. “But I was surprised by the scope of different languages and backgrounds represented. Community life at Ashby Ponds is the way I think we all wish the world to be.”