Summer Heritage Guide: If You Have a Weekend or Less

Great cultural heritage ideas that dont require plane ticketsor even a full tank of gas.

Cultural Heritage: Connecting With Your Child's History

Summer vacations are perfect for celebrating culture. To make the most of it, start planning now—the investment in your child will be invaluable. Why? In the words of one veteran mom, “Children who fall in love with where they come from feel good about themselves.”

To instill pride, make friends and have fun, here are great ideas that don’t require plane tickets—or even a full tank of gas.

If you live near a metropolitan area, plan a daytrip to a neighborhood populated by people of your child’s ethnicity, like Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, home to both Little Colombia and Little India, or a city like San José, California, which boasts the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam.

Reach out to ethnic associations at schools and universities to learn about local heritage events. Sue Robertson, whose three-year-old daughter, Emma, has Native-American heritage, found out about a nearby powwow by calling her Stockton, California, school district, which runs a Native-American center. That powwow connected Sue and her family to other groups and events in their area.

Find recommendations for ethnic restaurants and food shops anywhere in the country on chowhound.com, a mecca for those on the hunt for great, and often hard-to-find, food.

Make a date to attend a culture day organized by an adoption agency or adoptive family association. One of the nation’s largest adoption gatherings—sponsored by the New York chapter of Families with Children from China (FCCNY)—happens each year, in sight of the Statue of Liberty. We love holding our event at the historic train station that took immigrants from Ellis Island to destinations across the United States, since our children represent a new kind of immigration, says David Youtz, FCCNY president. The annual event attracts as many as 2,000 people, who come for music, dance, and food.

Look through the event listings in your local newspaper, or an online city guide, for festivals, parades, and street fairs that celebrate your child’s ethnic heritage. “We go to the two-day Festival Latino in Columbus, the largest in Ohio,” says Laura Phillips, mom to Joe and Megan, both six, and Rosa, two, all adopted from Guatemala. “We meet up with friends from our local Guatemalan adoption support group and hang out together.” Check often, as new heritage events grow in popularity each year. We took our daughter to the first annual dragon boat races, on a lake near Charlotte, for a wonderful dose of Chinese culture, says Carmi Henderson, in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Cook a dish from your child’s ethnic heritage and invite friends and relatives over for a feast. Search allrecipes.com for ideas, and then head to a farmers market to find fresh produce.

For more ideas, search a city or town in Google Maps. Type in your child’s ethnic heritage in the find businesses tab. A search for Guatemalan in Milwaukee, for example, will lead you to a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee website, complete with a Latin American events calendar; a Mayan diorama at the Milwaukee Public Museum; and a Mexican restaurant that serves Guatemalan dishes.

When you’re back from your outing, start a heritage blog or website and upload videos and photos. Let your child help you write captions that describe what he learned, and share the Web address with other adoptive families who would enjoy knowing about your experience.


If You Have More Time…

Invite an exchange student from your child’s birth country to live with you. To find students, try afs.org, which runs programs in 50 countries.

Jenni Colson, of Adrian, Michigan, mom to three children adopted from South Korea, uses My Language Exchange to learn Korean.

Get together with other parents to create a playgroup for children who share your child’s heritage.

Start a summer reading group focusing on heritage.

“I went to the Black Student Services office at the university where I work and asked about churches,” says Tara Steinke, of Eaton, Colorado, mom to two biracial boys. “We found one that is very diverse. We ended up loving it so much, and making so many friends, that we now go all the time.”

Rainy day? Sit down with older kids and watch DVDs about heritage and history, such as PBS’s Searching for Asian America or the History Channel’s Voices of Civil Rights.

Find a mentor for your child through an ethnic student group at a nearby college or university. Korean adoptees can find mentors through a program run by Also-Known-As.

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