Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/7/2019 (316 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Chilean pavilion adult ambassador Carolina Fuentes stands in the middle of a circle surrounded by other pavilion ambassadors as well as a few dozen youth who interact with Newcomer Employment and Education Development Services, an organization providing support and services to immigrant and refugee families who are new to the city.
The air conditioning is working hard to keep the small room at the NEEDS office at a tolerable temperature as Fuentes leads the group in some traditional Chilean dance moves. She raises her hands, they raise their hands; she shakes her hips, they shake their hips; in some cases there may be a language barrier, but everyone is able to follow the steps.
Beginning in June, ambassadors from 12 pavilions have participated in a series of free events where they shared their culture, music, dancing and food with people at NEEDS.
And about 100 NEEDS clients are getting the VIP treatment later today, when they board buses that will take them, along with Folklorama guides, to the festival's kick-off event at Assiniboine Park.
The program is new this year, but both NEEDS and Folklorama have determined it will continue as an important addition to the festival's community outreach.
"We’re thinking about the next 50 years and where we’re going to be in the future and part of that was the changing demographic of the city and the province and how Folklorama has anchored so many communities over the years and given them a place to call home," says festival executive director Teresa Cotroneo.
"Reaching out to newcomers who may not necessarily know about us was an important thing for us to do to connect them to Folklorama and bring that new demographic into the fold as we move forward."
NEEDS chief executive officer Margaret von Lau says the response from the youths has been "huge," with more than 70 attending the program sessions since they began.
"It’s a great opportunity to learn about the different cultures," von Lau says. "Having this live training coming to them is priceless. It’s from the perspective of not only helping them integrate into Canadian society, but they’re going home, they’re sharing with the parents who may not necessarily have the opportunity to go to Folklorama, especially if there are large numbers of children, it’s not cheap… having this kind of relationship and partnership is absolutely beneficial for us and for society."
"It’s something our ambassadors really love doing, of course, because they’re all about the pride in sharing their culture," adds Cotroneo. "So it’s more than just a business partnership, for sure."
Donovan Martin, 15, a youth ambassador for the Caribbean pavilion, looks at the collaboration between NEEDS and Folklorama as a way to communicate in ways not rooted in verbal language and connect with some of the newest members of the community.
"The basis of Folklorama is helping to express culture and to learn culture and there’s so many people who aren’t able to express it," he says. "When other people dance for us and we dance for them, we can bridge that gap. We can’t literally understand each other, but we can understand through dance or song or just by playing together."
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.
Updated on Monday, July 29, 2019 at 5:08 PM CDT: Corrects spelling of name.