By Sydni Ellis
Diversity is on the rise in Dallas- Fort Worth. While 20 years ago DFW was home to a mostly homogenous mix of residents, today the Metroplex is the fifth most racially diverse metropolitan area in the United States, according to the International Mission Board. Nearly 20 percent of Metroplex residents are foreign-born and approximately one in three people in the DFW area speak a language other than English at home. What’s more is that out of 3,000-plus counties in the U.S., Dallas County is the 10th most ethno-linguistically diverse in the nation.
The City of Southlake is growing in diversity each year and one club for adult residents aims to celebrate that diversity. Formed in 2010, Southlake’s International Culture Club (ICC) is dedicated to learning and celebrating various cultures through interaction among members from more than 30 countries. The club is open to anyone interested in sharing cultures and ideas from around the globe.
A CLUB BASED ON UNDERSTANDING
When people move to a different country, all familiarity goes out the door. Throw in potential language barriers, unfamiliar social norms and the need to adapt to new everything, and becoming acclimated in a new community can be overwhelming.
Southlake resident Ginny Bumagny is familiar with the challenges—and joys—of adapting to new cultures. Bumagny’s parents, both of Chinese descent, emigrated from Indonesia to Brazil. Bumagny was born in Sao Paulo and raised in a household with three different languages and traditions. As a result, she grew up with a love for all cultures.
When Bumagny settled in Southlake as an adult, she craved a way to connect with like-minded people who shared her affinity for embracing the world’s cultures. So, she co-founded the ICC seven years ago.
The club was founded as a nonprofit organization with the mission of learning, celebrating and participating in various cultures to increase understanding and knowledge through interaction, education and charity.
“The organization welcomes people of different cultures and traditions,” explains Bumagny. “We also assist individuals of international descent and those in need of information or services. In general, the ICC helps people to understand and accept individual differences to make this world a better place—and it starts in our small community in Southlake.”
EMBRACING CUSTOMS AND LANGUAGES
Celebrating other cultures is why Laura Bussell decided to join the ICC in the first place. “I think we better ourselves and our community when we strive to understand others,” says Bussell, who serves as communications co-chairman, book club chairman and movie club chairman for the ICC. “I’ve met people from all over the world in this club. They have all provided colorful enrichment to my life.”
Members of the ICC book club read novels about other countries or by authors from other countries to gain additional insights into different customs. Last year, books from Saudi Arabia, Russia and The Bahamas, among others, were on the list. But since not everyone has time to settle in with a good novel, the ICC also started a movie group that screens films from around the world. Recently, Bussell hosted movie night at her house where members enjoyed the film “The Patience Stone,” which is based on a book of the same name by Atiq Rahimi of Afghanistan.
For those interested in Spanish culture, the Café y Conversation group meets twice a month, and native Spanish speakers help advanced students practice conversational Spanish. Bussell has been studying conversational Spanish for more than 10 years with ICC member Maria Mahan, and now she helps Spanish speakers understand “Texan” while they help her with Spanish.
Meanwhile, members Esther Amundsen and her sister, Irma, have created a class and curriculum to help beginning Spanish speakers. If French is more your style, ICC offers lessons with a native French speaker, in addition to French-based events.
Bussell and other ICC members also embrace the all-powerful, magic elixir known as coffee. At monthly coffee meetings, members pass around foods from their home countries, and the club plans interesting programs to learn more about others.
A recent meeting featured Connie Cooley, president of the Southlake Historical Society. “She talked about the importance of investigating cultures different from native Texas and showed others our own culture as well so we can learn from one another,” explains Bussell.
There’s also a philanthropic element to the ICC, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. ICC members are currently involved in area charities including Kids Matter International, Christmas is for Children and Spokes for Hopes. Ultimately, Bumagny hopes that the club fosters an understanding that spreads to other communities.
GROWTH AND UNITY
The ICC is always looking for new members—and new ways to embrace the many cultures of the world. Although Bumagny is stepping down from her role as president due to her husband’s relocation, she still plans to return to Southlake to visit friends from the club. Bumagny believes that the ICC will continue to prosper and grow under new president, Elsa Otero-Kackley, a native of Columbia.
Stepping into a leadership role was natural for Otero-Kackley, who first volunteered to fill the secretary position only a couple months after the ICC was founded. “Sharing my own culture and learning about other cultures around the world has been a passion of mine since I was a teen,” she says. “I used to send postcards from Colombia to Russia. I have always been connected to humans from all over the world, and I am interested in their traditions and cultures. The club has been growing and evolving since its foundation, which indicates that the mission is still relevant.”
Otero-Kackley’s favorite activity with the ICC is organizing programs that help members discover the array of interesting people in Southlake. She treasures the priceless friendships she has made over the years through the club.
Members need not be born in another country to benefit from the ICC. Membership is all about expanding personal horizons by learning about others.
“Our membership is like a beautiful landscape with all colors in it,” said Bumagny. “Anyone can join the club, whether you are from a foreign country, married to a foreign spouse, interested in travelling or seeking understanding from different cultures.”
In a time rife with divisiveness, the International Culture Club is a refreshing reminder that all people deserve a chance to have their voices heard and cultures appreciated. The ICC and the community of Southlake show the beauty and unity that are possible when we embrace different experiences and customs. The club’s doors are always open, so come on in and learn more about your neighbors. You might just learn something about yourself, too.
INTERNATIONAL CULTURE CLUB AT A GLANCE
FOUNDED IN: 2010
NUMBER OF NATIONALITIES REPRESENTED: 30+
WAYS TO GET INVOLVED: Coffee meetings, canasta, crochet club, book club, ethnic outings, social, cultural and philanthropic activities, and language conversation groups
UPCOMING EVENTS: Coffee meeting March 14 at 10 a.m. (location TBD); canasta at the Timarron Country Club March 21 at 11:30 a.m.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MEMBERSHIP? Visit International CultureClub.org.