At United Way of Story County, we believe that when we are United together, we can find solutions that make long-lasting, positive change in the lives of individuals and families, which is why our 2017 LIVE UNITED campaign theme is United Together. Finding Solutions, Changing Lives. We do this because every person in our community has a right to have a good quality of life.


During the month of November, our columns will focus on how donations made to UWSC are making an impact and Changing Lives in the areas of education, income and health. This week, we will share how funding from United Way improves our cultural education in Story County through programs like YWCA Ames-ISU’s International Friendship Fairs.


Cultural education provides our community with an opportunity to learn about other cultures, engage in conversation with one another, and increase our understanding of our neighbors, co-workers, and community members who have a different background. This type of education and opportunity for communication are important in building a stronger, more United community.


ISU’s International Friendship Fairs provides first-hand diversity education to residents of Story County. They are held at public libraries and schools so families can attend together. Volunteers from countries around the globe dress in their native attire, provide food and drinks, play unique instruments and share pictures, maps and demographics of their home countries. In schools, each country presents itself and students may ask questions at any time.


Like the YWCA Ames-ISU, UWSC believes education is the key to eliminating racism. The exposure and knowledge participants receive on diversity and cultural differences continues to help our community move in the right direction.


These events are designed to help us understand differences in cultures, but more importantly helps us to understand how we are similar. This sharing of cultures can help families create better relationships, and help parents to better educate their children about diversity.


The YWCA Ames-ISU holds eight to 10 International Friendship Fairs each year. In addition to public libraries and schools, they are held at Iowa State University, Heartland Senior Services and more. Participants are given the opportunity to experience five to eight different countries without even leaving Story County. With 100 to 400 people in attendance at each event, the YWCA is impacting our community a person at a time.


Next week, we will share how we are Changing Lives by helping to improve family incomes through a sliding fee scales at Story County childcare centers.