Organizations Dedicated to Bringing People Together
The United States of America is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds, religions, and cultures, and that diversity is one of the most beautiful things about this country. Many communities have a group that is dedicated to bringing people together to learn more about their neighbors, since bringing people together to celebrate their differences also helps them learn about all their similarities.
These organizations focus on love, understanding, acceptance, and so much more that make our cities stronger and more welcoming places.
Unite Oregon is an organization led by a diverse group of people working to build a unified intercultural movement for justice across Oregon. They represent more than 13,000 supporters and members. With a lot of focus on civic engagement and policy advocacy, they have been a leader on many successful state policy campaigns, including ending profiling by law enforcement and raising the minimum wage.
Unite Oregon helped me make major steps toward becoming a better activist. On a whim, I volunteered to help with a first-in-the-nation program to register naturalized American citizens as voters, before they even left the ceremony. This led to projects where I created a training brochure for the voter program, and helped find English language classes for Nepali speakers. This experience showed me how I can make a difference in my community, which translated well when I became involved in programs helping to fight hunger. Without Unite Oregon, I would not be the activist I am today.
Youth Celebrate Diversity
Greenwood Village, CO
This nonprofit provides resources for students and teachers to start dialogue within their schools that addresses social problems, celebrates diversity, and works to make schools safe for everyone. They take feedback directly from students so that they are constantly evolving their message to address current issues. Currently, they are working with schools across Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
One of my favorite parts about what Youth Celebrate Diversity does is the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference. I first attended the conference as a freshman in high school, and that was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Growing up, I’ve always felt a bit different from my peers and my community. I was one of only about 10 African-American students at my school, and I’ve never had school friends who weren’t white. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did make me feel alone. When I went to the conference my freshman year, my eyes were opened. Not only was I pleasantly surprised to be surrounded by people who represented so many different types of ethnic, racial, religious, sexual, socioeconomic, geographic, etc. types of diversity, but I was suddenly in a community that was so generously accepting and inclusive. All the students were friendly and willing to be friends with each other. And the student-led discussion group I was in had such a meaningful conversation about the problems we were having in our society. The workshops I attended were both fun and stimulating and led me to want to do more in my community.
In the years to come, I would use the experience that Youth Celebrate Diversity gave me to better myself and my community. I joined the executive committee to help plan the conference, and I started a Coexist Day to celebrate diversity at my school. What I did with my experience captures only a small glimpse of the effect Youth Celebrate Diversity has had on students all across Colorado. I know students who still talk highly of the conference months after the keynote speaker finished their speech, and teachers who ask me when the conference will be months before the invitation is sent. YCD’s unique and important mission has captivated so many people, and their meaningful events have changed the community for the better.
Kids N Culture
New York City, NY
This organization works to provide high school students with a unique academic experience. The participants meet for workshops on language, history, culture, finance, and the arts of a specific country. The highlight is for the students to be able to visit this country during the program. They finish the program with projects and presentations about their experience. So many of their alumni have gone on to study international relations, global finance, and health. Just having the experience of visiting another country and getting out of their comfort zone helps students open their minds a lot more.
Last summer my daughter volunteered in a school in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This year she is studying abroad in Spain for a year and doing an internship with a refugee center. Next year she will apply for a Fulbright scholarship to work with refugees or teach abroad.
I attribute these accomplishments to Kids N Culture. Her trip to Tanzania with them at 16 planted a seed of love for travel, diplomacy, and global care. I am so grateful for the experience they gave her and all the support and motivation since. It is a truly unique and wonderful program that reaches far beyond the regular parameters of enrichment!! They deserve all the stars and great support!
CAIR – Minnesota
CAIR stands for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and it is the largest Islamic civil liberties group in the country. Their mission is to help American Muslims be empowered, protect their civil liberties, encourage dialogue, and build coalitions with other groups to promote justice and mutual understanding. They can provide support and resources for issues with hate crimes, discrimination, and racial profiling. In addition to those crucial services, they also work to educate and bridge gaps of understanding between the non-Muslim and Muslim members of the community.
I am the executive director of another nonprofit in Minneapolis with similar goals as CAIR–Minnesota. We have found the current director and development person ready to cooperate and work together with those outside of their immediate community. Their education to employers and support/advocacy of individuals about their rights is invaluable to our community. In the past, staff from CAIR-MN offered training to local families who were about to host civilian visitors from Iraq. She taught us about prayer times, dietetic issues, cats and dogs, and other things that helped us feel more relaxed hosting out guests. We look forward to ongoing cooperation working to improve living conditions and community health here in Minnesota.
Virginia Center for Inclusivity
The mission of this organization is “achieving success through inclusion” and they work all throughout the state of Virginia. With different programs for schools, businesses, and communities, they are reaching as many people as possible. Their programs include workshops, consulting services, advocacy, and so much more. By working with leaders within the community, they are able to get the message out to more and more people each year.
VCIC is an incredible organization. We’ve had the opportunity to work with them during workshops with our faculty and staff and our students. All programs are facilitated in a professional, respectful manner, which allows for sharing and growth. Each member of their staff is compassionate and gives 110 percent to the people with whom they are working. The topics addressed can be very personal and revealing, but through their facilitation it is done in a non-judgmental, reflective way that allows for personal and organizational growth.
The goal of this nonprofit is to build a generation of community leaders who will work to eradicate all forms of discrimintation and build up their communities to be places of understanding. Operation Understanding works with students from the African American and Jewish communities of D.C. and builds bridges between those communities. The participants spend their junior year of high school with each other learning, building relationships, and exploring history. The highlight of their year is a trip somewhere that deeply explores their history and culture. Those shared experiences help to build lifelong friendships.
A teenager who recently took part in Operation Understanding’s program provided it with the greatest compliment: He told me it changed his life. Now in college, he is studying urban development as a way to put some of the ideas he talked about during the yearlong program to practical effect.
Organizations that bring people together are part of the solution to ending hate and discrimination in this country. Building relationships with others helps bring understanding and creates alliances. These groups wouldn’t be able to reach as many people without the help of their donors, so please consider donating to help people around the country continue to participate in these events.