Target: Jelena Silajdzic, Executive Director of Slovo 21
Goal: Applaud European program that facilitates meetings between immigrants and native families
Several European countries have recently started participating in a project called Next Door Family that arranges for families native to the participating country to meet with immigrant families living nearby. The goal of the project is to combat racism and xenophobia, to help immigrant families integrate into the new country, and to allow the country’s residents to learn about other cultures.
The project was originally started in the Czech Republic by Slovo 21, an organization that promotes multiculturalism, in response to a lack of programs to help immigrant families feel welcome in their communities. The government does not provide a way of facilitating meetings between immigrants and Czech families, and without a program of this sort, immigrant families would continue to be isolated. Although anti-immigrant violence is not a major problem in the country, many immigrants do face prejudice, resulting in segregation between communities.
Czech families and immigrant families can sign up through the organization’s website and they are then matched with another family with similar interests. The two families, along with a facilitator from the organization, meet together at one of the families’ homes for a meal, an annual event that the Next Door Family project has been organizing for many years. A majority of the families that meet each other during these events maintain relationships with each other after the meeting.
Participants state that they do not have many opportunities to meet people from diverse backgrounds and that they value the opportunity for their children to learn about various cultures. The program allows immigrant families a way of integrating into the new culture and it gives their children a chance to make friends. The Next Door Family project should be commended for the success it has had in helping immigrant families, and in reducing racism and xenophobia throughout several countries.
Dear Ms. Silajdzic,
I would like to thank you and your organization for establishing the Next Door Family project. As a result of the program, many immigrant families throughout the Czech Republic, and now in several other European countries, have had the opportunity to meet other families.
By meeting immigrant families, families native to the country learn to reject stereotypes and prejudices that they might have about the immigrant culture, reducing racism and xenophobia in the community. For immigrant families, the meeting allows them to start to integrate into the new culture and to meet people who they might otherwise not have the opportunity to meet.
If this program were implemented in even more countries around the world, it could ease tensions between groups and reduce violence against immigrants. Your organization should be commended for establishing such a beneficial program.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: bagriton via Flickr.