Where our hearts are

Lynette Lamb is on a cultural crusade — a mission to help people from all walks of life gain appreciation and acceptance for each other, starting with children.

“I feel really passionate about this. Our world is shrinking and we need to know and understand each other better and that’s just proven everyday with everything going on in the world,” said Lamb, who lives in Linden Hills.

That’s why she’s a part of Children’s Culture Connection (CCC), a local nonprofit aimed at improving cultural awareness. The organization supports 12 children’s charities around the world, but their programs for U.S. kids can be set up right here in Southwest neighborhoods.  

CCC was granted their nonprofit organization status in February, but the foundation for the organization was laid years earlier.

“Before we became a nonprofit, we did a fundraiser for a Chinese orphanage group and got involved with looking up other small children’s charities and holding fundraisers for them,” said Lamb, who is secretary of the executive board of directors for CCC.

“By the time we started the non-profit, Dina (Fesler), the founder, already had relationships with all of these people,” she said.

Both Lamb and Fesler have adopted children internationally, which was another motivation for the organization, she said.

“We got to thinking about helping kids beyond China, and also got to thinking that one of the things that needed to happen was cross-cultural education of U.S. kids, because when you have a kid adopted from another country you realize there really isn’t a lot of information in the schools,” Lamb said.

Being aware of this lack of information came with adopting internationally, she said.

“Since all of the founding board members are mothers of kids from other countries, that’s where our hearts are — you cannot look at kids from around the world the same way after adopting,” Lamb said. “It changes the way you look at things, and a lot of families in southwest have kids adopted internationally.”

Every neighborhood in the metro area would benefit from involvement with CCC and getting Southwest families and kids more involved is something the group would like to do, she said.  

CCC’s involvement with international charities such as Iraq War Kids Relief, China AIDS Orphan Fund and Partnership for Education of Children in Afghanistan helps to put U.S. kids in contact with children from many countries around the world including Afghanistan, China, Guatemala and Iraq – among others.  

“One of the things that makes the organization so interesting for teachers and parents is that we are already hooked up with all these international organizations and they all know kids in their countries and we can help leverage this to help put U.S. kids directly in contact with each other,” Lamb said.

Placing U.S. children in direct contact with kids in other countries is crucial to finding cultural understanding, she said. “There is a need for more connections everywhere and connecting on a personal level makes less room for prejudices and more for acceptance and knowledge,” the vice president of CCC, Jane Rydholm said. Rydholm lives in Kenny and has two adopted daughters from China and Taiwan.

“We really want to encourage children to become involved and show them that they can shape the world through understanding each other,” she said.

Children can get involved through cross-cultural carnivals, which are events where CCC comes to a school, church or community center. CCC brings along someone from the specific country featured at the carnival along with food and cultural artifacts. These events can be catered to any grade level from first to middle school, Lamb said. CCC will be doing a cross-cultural carnival in Minneapolis in 2009, she said.

“We would love to do them for Southwest schools — any teacher or parent who is interested can contact us about bringing a program into the classroom,” Lamb said.

“If our kids can learn to forge those relationships and learn a little about each other and do a little bit of peace-building that way, I think we can take a step closer to healing this planet — that’s a big goal for a nonprofit, but we’ll do our little piece of it anyway.”

For more information on Children’s Culture Connection, visit www.childrenscultureconnection.org.