Embracing Differences

Author: RPCV Rebecca M. Taylor


Sharing the cultures and helping to promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans is one of the main goals of Peace Corps. In the spirit of this goal, this past April National Peace Corps Association affiliate group Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of the Gulf Coast of Florida put on the World Heritage Event in Sarasota Florida.


The hugely successful event was diligently planned and took 11 months to put together.  Organizers Betty Bruquetas (Solomon Islands, 93-95) and Jan Mazer (Uganda, 94-94) took time to describe the event and share its success. "We had over 70 international standard size flags on display and visible signs with the names of all the regions of the world as well as tables with display items from around the world. Anyone passing by would have instantly known this was a celebration of the world and its cultures. We can say that we had the world on display. The message that this sent to people passing by was that diversity is something beautiful, valuable and worthy of being showcased!"


While passersby got a beautiful visual of what the event was about, once someone walked in they were able to travel the world without having to leave Florida. "We had twenty display tables representing the seven regions of the world where Peace Corps Volunteers serve: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean & Central America, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan & the Middle East, the Pacific and South America."


To help participants travel the world and celebrate diversity the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of the Gulf Coast of Florida organization utilized passports.  "We handed out passports to the children attending the festival. Each table in each region had stickers the children could attach to their passports to show them as places they had visited."


While each region had booths representing individual countries. People could walk up to various countries and learn a bit about them. All countries represented had either an RPCV or someone who was there representing their home nation. This allowed people to get an idea of the diversity between counties and also see all the similarities and differences. In addition to the tables that featured: food, music, crafts, traditional clothing and more, "every regional display area had an amazing variety of arts and crafts from specific countries, as well as the region/continents those countries belonged to. The seven display areas were tastefully decorated and all parts of the world were equally represented.¨


One of the highlights of the day was the live performances, "We had folkloric dancers performing throughout the length of the festival. They were young women from Costa Rica and Mexico expertly dancing to the music of their homelands. These young women performed solo dances as well as group ones. They were enthusiastically received by all present and cheered on!"


All in all the day was a huge success, "We reached out to the community and fulfilled that goal and did so in partnership with the Embracing Our Differences Program which shares in the same mission as we do: Bringing the World here to Our Communities and Raising Consciousness about the Value of Diversity."


Photo 1: RPCV Forrest Walker, Philippines. with wife Gina Walker; Photo 2: folkloric dancer from Mexico; Photo 3: a local Senegalese family who came to share their culture  and Photo 4: Anita Roger RPCV Afganistan with Gina Walker 

About the Author

Rebecca M. Taylor is an RPCV serving in China (2015-2017) and Liberia (2017-2018). She graduated from University of Wisconsin- Madison with a degree in English Literature and Women Studies. She is currently a communication fellow at National Peace Corps Association. In the Fall she will be starting her masters in Corporate Communication and Marketing at I.E. in Madrid, Spain.