Program aims to ‘unlock’ culture

SarahRaber269

SarahRaber269 People preparing for, or interested in, international cultures don?t have to go overseas to have their horizons broadened.

Ten Thousand Villages, the store that creates opportunities for artisans from around the globe to earn a fair wage by selling their products, will bring cross-cultural training to its location at 625 N. Main in Newton through a new program called ?Unlocking Culture.?

The course will be offered from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every Thursday night from Aug. 11 to Sept. 22.

No one is more enthused about the opportunity to offer the program than its creator, Sarah Raber, who started working at the store this summer after graduating in May from John Brown University in Arkansas.

?I?m really excited about doing it,? said Raber, who earned her degree in intercultural studies and completed a minor in history with a focus on African history.

Raber developed ?Unlocking Culture? as a project for her senior capstone class at JBU. It?s intended for people who are going on a mission trip or preparing to work in another culture, but the door is open to anyone.

?I want to make it for everyone?even if it?s only to learn more about the people who make the items in the store,? Raber said, referring to the artisans from 37 different countries.

?I hope I?ll be able to help people help other people,? she added.

The program consists of lessons on six how-to topics related to encountering a new culture: understanding it, adjusting to it, communicating within it, dealing with conflicts, understanding its gender roles, and teaching and learning within it.

Raber said participants can expect a variety of approaches, including lecture, simulations, small-group discussion, role-playing and case studies.

?The examples I?ll be giving will be specifically from countries where we get our products for the store,? she said. ?I hope to make the people we?re helping at the store more real for everybody else.?

A cross-cultural bent

Raber, a North Carolina native who also lived in Ohio before her family settled in Arkansas, admits to being something of a cross-culture fanatic, rooted in the faith tradition of her family.

?I?ve always had international influences on my life,? Raber said. ?Ever since I can remember, I?ve wanted to be a missionary. I felt like that?s what God wanted me to do. As I grew up, my dad would always read me missionary stories before I went to bed.?

Raber always knew where she?d like to serve someday, too.

?I?ve always had a special interest in Africa,? she said. ?I love Africa.?

Over the years, the childhood bedtime stories were augmented with trips to more than 20 countries, including Brazil, Tibet, China, Ireland and France. A number of the trips were in the company of her grandparents; some were through mission trips.

Ironically, the two primary components of her childhood dream have yet to develop. Raber hasn?t been to Africa?although she plans to visit her sister in Uganda in January?and it appears she will not be a missionary anytime soon.

?When you go to college, nothing happens like you think it will,? she said. ?God kind of said, ?No, you?re not going to be a missionary; you?re going to stay in the States?but I?m going to give you a tool so you can help better prepare those who are going.??

That tool turned out to be ?Unlocking Culture.?

Raber isn?t sure what kind of turnout to expect for the program?s Newton debut. She needs a minimum of five participants to make the program viable, but not more than 30 to 40 to keep it manageable.

The cost to participate is $35, which includes all seven nights. Registration is required and is due by Aug. 8; the fee is due at the point of registration. Registration forms can be picked up at Ten Thousand Villages.

For more information about ?Unlocking Culture? go to unlockingculture.blogspot.com.

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