Exchange Matters / January 5, 2018

Celebrating Cultural Heritage Through Citizen Journalism and Food

By Lola Pak, Program Manager Communications & Marketing, Gloabl Ties U.S.

Throughout December, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State celebrated the theme of Cultural Heritage. As it comes to a close, we highlight the Communities Connecting Heritage Program, which is administered by World Learning, a National Program Agency, and of which Global Ties Akron, a Community-Based Member, will be participating in the spring.

There are many ways to demonstrate the value of cultural heritage in a community. Global Ties Akron plans to do it by supporting refugee communities in Ohio and Serbia through an online magazine and food art expo, collectively called the Global Threads Collaborative Project.

In partnership with the Creative Economy Group, an organization based in Serbia, the Global Threads project will develop online training for student journalists to capture the cultural heritage and stories of artists within the resettled refugee communities of Akron and Kikinda, Serbia. It will also involve in-person exchanges and mentoring to support the production of each. The project will result in the launch of the Global Threads Online Magazine and Food Art Expo in April 2018.

“With minimal investment, we can have a larger impact, pull in younger professionals through senior citizen readership, and bring positive attention, awareness, and support to refugee business owners and artisans who contribute to the cultural richness of our city,” said Michelle Wilson, Executive Director of Global Ties Akron.

Approximately nine university students in Ohio will be selected to participate in the project. From February to April, the group will receive online training and mentorship to develop the publication. Once finalized and launched, two students will be selected to travel to Serbia where they will meet with citizen journalists there to help launch Global Threads in Serbia.

The name “Global Threads” was chosen for the project as a way to represent the weaving nature of cultural traditions from past to present. “Global Threads honors traditions passed down from generation to generation and keeps these essential elements of cultural heritage alive, adding to the vibrancy of our Akron community,” Wilson added.

The project is funded through the Communities Connecting Heritage Exchange Program (CCH), an initiative of the Cultural Programs Division of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and administered by World Learning. The Global Threads project was one of six to receive funding from the inaugural round of the initiative.

“Global Ties Akron is a particularly exciting partner because of their outstanding connections to organizations that support their refugee communities, as well as to local students who are interested in documenting these stories,” said Nicolette Regis, Program Officer at World Learning.

Through a competitive matchmaking process for the application for the project, Global Ties Akron got paired with the Creative Economy Group, a Serbian-based organization that seeks to build culture and creative industries as pillars of sustainable development within a society. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade had previously supported the organization in other projects for cultural entrepreneurship and heritage, and encouraged it to apply for the program.

“We plan to inspire others to learn new skills and develop a deeper appreciation of the ethnic and cultural groups of Kikinda and Akron by drawing parallels and comparisons with the stories told of the traditions shared,” said Hristina Mikic of Creative Economy Group.

The Food Art Expo will have similar goals, as it seeks to involve the local community members in a “practical demonstration of gastronomic heritage and intercultural dialogue between the two countries,” Mikic said.

The project is not without its challenges. Recruiting, selecting, and training citizen journalists (who differ from traditional journalists in their tailored focus on civic engagement) are just a few that Global Ties Akron expects to face in implementing the project.

In spite of this, supporters in the Akron community are optimistic. “I am really excited and happy to be a part of this crucial project,” said Pupsa Gajmer, founder and director of the Himalayan Music Academy in Akron. “This will help me to share the story of our communities with other people.”


Follow the Global Threads project here

Have an idea for a cultural heritage project in your community? World Learning is seeking interest inquiries for the 2018-19 cycle of the Communities Connecting Heritage Program. View details here. Deadline: January 10, 2018.