By Mehgaan Jones
Children quietly listened to the Kinship Care Program Coordinator, Angela Burda, Friday, as she explained the agenda for a cultural festival taking place that day.
The Cultural Respite Program, which included speakers from five countries, took place at the Shelnutt Inter-Generational Center, in Jonesboro.
"We are trying to give them some education about the region [for different countries represented]," Burda said. "People have brought different things about their culture."
All of the children who were in attendance Friday, are part of the Kinship Care Program, according to Burda.
The Kinship Care Program services grandparents who are raising grandchildren, and other relative caregivers, in parent-absent homes, according to Kinship Care officials.
Presenters from Iran, American Samoa/Hawaii, Japan, Liberia, and Peru, all donated their time to broaden the children's perspective on the world.
Mimi Arjomand, a former Clayton County Aging Program employee, was excited to share her culture with the children.
"This is an excellent program. She [Burda] does so much for the grandparents," Arjomand said.
Arjomand, along with her husband, Dr. Lari Arjomand, a Clayton State University professor, and their granddaughter, Ariana Nowroozzadeh, showed the children pictures of Iran, and answered questions about their native country.
Nowroozzadeh sang a Persian song, and danced for the participants.
Dr. Lari Arjomand explained that he wanted his granddaughter to sing in Persian, because it is important to know other languages.
"All of you need to learn at least two languages," he said. "It is like being two people."
The next speaker, Fanny Arredondo, represented the country of Peru.
She showed pictures of the ancient city of Machu Picchu, which is the most visited tourist city in Peru, according to Arredondo.
She also prepared Peruvian dishes for the children to sample.
The food included carapulcra, a potato dish, and mazamorra morada, which is a dessert made from purple corn.
"They will have an idea of what is around the world," said Arredondo.
The program proceeded with speaker Tila Andrews, from American Samoa and Hawaii.
"They are very similar...the traditions, some of the words they say in Samoa are very similar to what they say in Hawaiian," she explained.
Andrews is the assistant to Mary Byrd, Clayton County Senior Services director.
She showed the kids videos of American Samoan dances, and shared some information about Samoan foods.
"Everything we eat has coconut milk in it," she said with laughter.
She also shared that the American Samoan men gather food, and prepare it.
"I just love that," Andrews said to the crowd.
Keenan Starr, Kinship Care Program leader, explained that the information kids received will expose them to cultures they may never know.
"I like to give them avenues that they maybe would not have known about," he said. "A lot of these kids would not have been able to see these people from different countries." I like to give them the opportunity to know more and to learn more," Starr said.
Yaneries Perkins, 14, said the cultural event helped her to add to her knowledge of the world. "I am actually learning something," she said.
"The things we are talking about here... we are actually learning about in school. This is actually helping me out," Perkins added.
"It is very entertaining...you can learn a lot from it," said Katie Dixon, 13.
"It teaches you a lot more than social studies books at school, and it goes a lot deeper," she added.
A volunteer from Liberia, Lusenii Watson, and a representative from Japan, Lynn Marie Gandy, who is program aid for the Kinship Care program, also shared their cultures with the children.