Last month we had the privilege of offering a Somali cultural training to the entire staff of Mesa Verde Elementary School. What an amazing opportunity to train our local teachers!! The school has struggled to establish long-term trust with the Somali community, yet they host hundreds of Somali children in their classrooms every day. To address this, not only did we teach general cultural principals, but we taught specifically about Somali history and values. More importantly, I introduced my friend Dr. Salad (suh-LAHD) as a cultural bridge. He even taught some Somali vocabulary before finishing the seminar with an open practical Q&A session.
It’s incredible to me that a principal and her staff would take time after an exhausting day of school to learn about Somali culture so they can build trust with their students’ families. I watched these teachers eager to learn, tearing up with compassion, and humbly seeking advice. After learning how to say “good morning” in Somali, one teacher exclaimed: “I can’t wait until tomorrow when I can use this!”
This was a momentous opportunity to change the narrative in our schools by equipping our teachers with understanding and compassion. Yet this was not just some random opportunity. This training was the result of years of relational investment…
How Did This Happen?
Here’s an overview of the major steps of relational progression that led to this training. My goal in sharing this is to equip you to go out and invest in the people around you. This is something you can do.
1. Two years ago, I walked into a Somali mosque and met Dr. Salad.
2. I met weekly with Salad over the course of nearly two years, becoming deep friends. He taught me about the Somali language & culture, and in return I tutored his children & helped him with MBA coursework.
3. As our trust grew, Salad introduced me to many others in the Somali community, enabling me to listen to their concerns. At the same time, I introduced him to many people in my own community, getting him various opportunities. We opened the door for each other into our own communities.
4. As I listened to Somali concerns, I was able to respond appropriately, offering conversation & literacy classes geared toward Somali people. I had a heart to respond, because I first had a friendship.
5. Last year Becky, a retired school teacher, became a literacy mentor for us. She began serving a Somali woman whose kids attend Mesa Verde.
6. As Becky grew closer to her new Somali friend, her own heart changed. Becky became our liaison to local schools to help them learn what she’s been learning. Becky had a heart to respond, because she had a friendship. ALso, note that her response focused on what she already knew—schools!
7. Mesa Verde invited us to offer a cultural training to their staff. Both Becky & Salad shared their knowledge with the staff.
8. At the training, several staff asked to get involved as mentors. They want to help their students’ mothers learn to read and write. Now we have new Beckys, and their friendships will produce more impact.
Wow! Do you see how just two key relationships have opened the door to systemic change in our city? Does this make you want to find someone in your sphere and invest in them? What might happen?