Helping Hands

Helping Hands: Global group connects internationals, Americans

March 12, 2014 

Global Connections is a private nonprofit human services agency that promotes intercultural exchange between international and local residents in ways that benefit both groups. Most of our programs rely on the goodwill and energy of volunteers, and are all free (unless otherwise noted).

The organization hosts several programs and events to welcome internationals to central Pennsylvania, help them learn or practice English, and encourage them to share aspects of their own culture with the local community. Some examples of the programs include:

• The conversation partners and the international friendship programs: They pair an international person or family with an American volunteer or family to practice English and learn about American customs and norms. The native English speaker needs no formal training or teaching experience to volunteer for this program, just an interest in chatting in English with someone from another part of the world.

• The women’s intercultural book group: The involves a native English speaker leading a group of international women to discuss news, magazines and books in English.

These are all great ways to learn about the diversity within State College, practice English in an informal setting and make new friends. Our American volunteers have had very rewarding experiences; not only do they have the satisfaction of helping someone learn English, but they also learn about another country and its customs.

Global Connections also offers many exciting opportunities for local residents to try something authentic and international. Some examples include:

• The international speakers program: International volunteers are invited to schools and organizations to speak about some aspect of their own country. These presentations can enrich the classroom or community group meeting by providing firsthand information, pictures and artifacts about the specific region.

• Cultural lunch: The six yearly lunches showcase the cuisine and culture from a specific foreign land. International volunteers prepare traditional foods and make an informative and entertaining presentation to the audience. Tickets cost $10 per person. We have an Italian cultural lunch March 19 and a Brazilian cultural lunch in April. Seats fill up fast, so make your reservations.

• The International Children’s Festival: The festival is one of Global Connections’ most popular events. This year it is scheduled for April 6. International volunteers from countries around the world share unique crafts, dance and music from their own cultures. Children can try out a variety of activities, taste a variety of sweets in our “International Dessert Competition” and watch cultural performances.

These are all incredibly enjoyable and unique ways to introduce young residents to the world outside Pennsylvania and spark their imaginations — without leaving Centre County. Our international volunteers are thrilled to have the opportunity to share the best of their own cultures with local residents.

Please call 863-3927 or check our website for more information or to volunteer for our programs.

Amruta Inamdar is a program coordinator at Global Connections.

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