4th Annual Celebration of Cultural Diversity

November 2005

On Thursday, November 3rd, Orion Associates, Meridian Services, and Zenith
Services hosted its fourth annual Celebration of Cultural Diversity at the
Maple Grove Community Center, in Maple Grove.

The event provided our employees, our consumers and families with the opportunity
to sample foods from a number of different ethnic groups, to learn more about
each other and the cultures from which we all come, and to have a great time
together as we celebrated our diversity!

Encouraging Our Employees to Be Culturally Competent

Orion Associates, Meridian Services and Zenith Services encourage its employees
to be sensitive to other people’s cultures. We want our employees to
be more fully aware of differences in culture among each other and among the
consumers we serve, as well as to understand the importance that culture plays
in everyone’s lives.

Culture forms the identity of a people, an organization, or a community.
Various aspects of culture may include a group’s history, family values,
child rearing practices, religion, and cultural courtesies. Culture can be
identified in social patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and thoughts that
are characteristic of a community.

Having a disability in and of itself is a form of culture. As people who work
with people with disabilities, we need to increase our own sensitivity and
celebrate the diversity of this culture as well.

As an organization, we continue to encourage our employees to be “culturally
competent.” Cultural competence helps to alleviate misunderstandings
between people. A cultural competent person incorporates the importance of
culture, assesses cross-cultural differences, expands cultural knowledge, and
adapts services to meet culturally unique needs.

There are six levels to cultural competence:

  1. Cultural Destructiveness: Attitudes, policies and behaviors are actively
    destructive to cultures. This includes dehumanizing people who are not of
    your own culture by denying them rights you allow your own culture.
    A person at
    this level assumes their own culture is superior to all others and often
    controls and exploits other cultures.
  2. Cultural Incapacity: Persons who are culturally incapacitated do not intentionally
    seek to be destructive, but lack capacity to work with people of another
    culture. This person still believes their own culture is superior and may
    believe stereotypes. These people are characterized by ignorance, unrealistic
    fears, inability to value to welcome diversity, and lower expectations from
    people outside their own culture.
  3. Cultural Inattention: A culturally inattentive person is unbiased toward
    members of cultures different from their own, but believes the culture
    makes not difference at all. These people function under the idea that all
    people should be treated the same. They ignore strengths that cultural diversity
    provides and covertly encourage assimilation. These individuals may also
    end up blaming people rather than cultural bias for problems.
  4. Cultural Pre-competence: This type of person recognizes weaknesses in serving
    cultural minorities and attempts to improve the problem. They ask, “What
    can I do?” This person has begun the process but often lacks information
    on how to proceed and what is possible.
  5. Basic Cultural Competence: This person accepts and respects differences
    while continuing to access own culture. This person also pays close attention
    to dynamics of difference and expands own cultural knowledge and resources.
    This person also varies the way he / she provides service in order to meet
    the needs of others’ cultural identity.
  6. Advanced Cultural Competence: This person seeks to add to cultural knowledge
    he / she already has and holds culture in high esteem. This
    person identifies discrimination based upon culture, and advocates for
    cultural competence in the agencies and systems to which he/she belongs.

In our society today, we are beginning to view cultural differences as individual
strengths, and are moving away from the historical perspective of viewing our
society as a “melting pot” in which people’s differences
are melted away.

Our organization joins with our society, therefore, and acknowledges the importance
of striving to value, discuss and respect our cultural differences and encourages “cultural
competence.”

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