Speakout

October 30, 2005

The Issue: -- Howard County is becoming a cultural and international crossroads - the county's foreign-born population stands at 16.7 percent, or 46,000 people, up from just 5 percent in 1970, according to a report funded by the county government and the Horizon Foundation. That population is growing, posing challenges for schools, social service agencies and health care providers. How well do you think Howard County is doing in knitting new immigrants into the fabric of the community? What more can be done to foster cultural understanding between native-born Howard countians and those who have made the county their home?

Continue welcoming immigrants in county

When we moved to Columbia in 1975 we quickly appreciated the diversity of the population. We were privileged to have neighbors and friends from many countries.

In Howard County, we need to continue to welcome immigrants, enjoy getting to know each other, and seek to help those who are adjusting to life in this country. For the future, we should find ways to develop community leadership that more fully reflects the diversity of people in Howard County. Possibly we could envision a multicultural grass-roots leadership development and community action organization.

Don Downing

Columbia

The writer is the volunteer coordinator of Columbia-based FIRN (Foreign-born Information and Referral Network).

Remember, we are an immigrant land

Homes in western Howard County are large and expensive, but are built on portions of family farmland. Some farmers accept selling to immigrants but cannot respect or befriend them. Students are taught to be broadminded and accept other people, but inside the home they hear disrespectful and critical comments about other cultures from their parents. These students become confused when their parents act and talk differently in public.

Some suggestions:

At the Howard County Fair, have international displays offering history, cultural information and possibly foods of interest to all.

Citizens from various cultural backgrounds should be urged to participate in county politics and elections, to attend community and county meetings and to become elected judges. Getting involved is a great opportunity to meet neighbors and be part of the political system. Invite them to attend Howard County Board of Elections monthly meetings held at the election office, which is conveniently located in Columbia.

School principals, guidance counselors and teachers, along with the PTA, could offer the Welcome Pairing-Up of junior/senior students with international students to help integrate them into the already established student circles.

The athletic departments could challenge students to compete while sharing the cultural backgrounds with seasoned teammates.

Music departments might sing songs from different countries asking the students to research, share the songs' story and present the songs in a "Welcome All" style.

We all need to be reminded that America is a land of immigrants.

Darlene Affeldt

West Friendship

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