by Domonia Voniarisoa

Guest Blogger, Project Coordinator at Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center

This time of the year as everyone celebrates the Holiday Season, we claim the spirit of “sharing and giving”. These words became very meaningful to me as I attended the Hser Ner Moo Welcome Center’s last Cultural Celebration of the year. I must say, out of the four events we have held this year, this one was pretty unique. Then I wondered, “why was this different?”

On the evening of December 21st, the City of South Salt Lake Columbus Center’s Auditorium was packed with people of all ages. A large variety of cultural groups were present; they all spoke different languages and wore different outfits. To list the ethnic groups in attendance, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Africa, Central and South America, and the United States were all represented.

A church group from the Alpine Cove Ward brought in more than 100 youth volunteers to celebrate the holidays with South Parc Townhomes’ residents of whom the Center regularly serves. These youth set up different stations of activities for our residents: Karaoke, Wii game, Carnival game, arts & crafts, and a cookie decorating. They also brought lots of gifts to add to the Kris Kringle store that was organized by the South Parc Townhomes’ Manager with the help of many members in the community for families to shop for the holidays. Some of the highlights of the evening were watching the performance of various groups. The youth from the Alpine Cove Ward sang holiday carols. The youth and families from South Parc showed off their talents with ethnic dances and songs in their own language. Refugee teens and other youth were shouting together “I believe I can fly” on the Karaoke machine.

Perhaps, the action that showed the true spirit of giving and sharing was observing South Parc residents share their ethnic food with over one hundred volunteers at the event. This was to express their gratitude for the gifts received. The volunteers got a taste of three delicious countries’ ethnic dishes: Burmese pasta with spices, Momo and salad from Nepal, and Congolese “beignet”. This act of sharing was very humbling to me. It daunted on me that the cultural exchange reached to the community at large, not just between the refugees. I felt that everyone’s acts of generosity truly brought the warmth and spirit to the holiday season.

I hope everyone had a happy holiday!