“Reflections on Family and Stereotypes,” LEAP Students from Uganda, Norwalk, and Darien, January 2012

Family Reflections From January 2012

Darien, Uganda, and Norwalk

Jjuko Joachim – Uganda

Wow!! We physically missed the discussion. I think different people can differently define a family, depending on the differences in the nature of environment they grew up in. To me, it is a union of people or any other species that share same interests. For example, looking at the aspect of “the world’: it is a family of God. Why? Because everywhere, regardless of which God, people acknowledge Him for the same values; life, food, peace, understanding, reconciliation and other values. At LEAD Uganda, we are a family and bodies in their capacities that join us automatically become members of the family (you are all welcome). So if any one fails to cope, or the values of any union {family) are rejected, this means they are not rhyming with the

interests of the family. In Africa, a family is the direct meaning of “togetherness” and all problems are solved together so that everyone can hear and learn a lesson. Therefore, I call upon everybody to keep in line with the virtues of their communities. Thank you for sharing with us such an important issue. God bless you.

Paul Ntege – Uganda

It’s typically not very easy to state what a family means to someone without actually making understatements. However, to me all I can say that a family in its general sense goes well beyond your parents and immediate relatives. In other words, a family means a group of people whom one has acknowledged as one’s sense of belonging. We all want to fit into a certain group of people and be identified with them, so a family means that if one identifies themselves well with a that group of people then, that could be his or her second, third, fourth …family. At LEAD, we are the LEAD family, and this goes hand in hand with the ancient African clan system where people had their second families separate from their immediate relatives. Now, this therefore means that respect, love, care, honesty, and all other virtues must be fulfilled for to qualify a group as a family. Food for thought, “What does the LEAP family or the LEAD family or the LEAP to LEAD family mean to you?”

Julius Kim – Uganda

A family to me is a small unit of a clan. Personally, I have a brief knowledge of family because I grew up with only a mother.  Not that my father was dead, but I was just unfortunate that I did not enjoy my father’s love. So a family did not mean a lot to me. It is great having members around you that are honest and trustworthy. I have lived with my mother, two sisters and 3 other members who joined us five years ago. Love, honesty and unity are the most important things in the family. Having friends is as important as having a family, and my friends have always been there for me and I have as well been there for them. I have been with friends who are kind and caring, and I love being with my friends. Most of the time, I am not at home because they really mean a lot to me. I have loved sharing with my friends in all aspects of life. This has kept me moving and as well as my friends. Actually it is my friend who connected me to LEAD Uganda when I was hopeless and looking for someone to support my future, mostly education wise. This rings true that everyone is very important in life to an extent of being more important than your family members – more important than your father or anyone you may think to be close to you. I call upon all people in the world to be united and always stand as one. Remember, “a family that prays together lives together.” “United we stand and divided we fall.”

Taylor Duhart – Brien McMahon (Norwalk)

Last time we met, we talked about family. A topic we talked about was love. I said others couldn’t love you if you didn’t feel love from your family. I said this because some people isolate themselves because they don’t get love from family. If family is supposed to love you and care for you and they don’t, it can make you

think that people don’t need to love you and won’t love you. If your family doesn’t love you and others don’t love you, how can you feel good about yourself and love yourself! Family is how you present yourself and how you receive things from the world. If you don’t receive from your family, you won’t receive from the world. You feel that you can’t love yourself, but you can. Others will also love you for who you are, and if your family doesn’t, you can have friends that will love you. If you’re loved, you should learn to love yourself.

Kim Duhart – Brien McMahon (Norwalk)

At our last meeting with Darien, we talked about family and some of the qualities that a family has. One quality is trust. Trust is very important in any relationship you have with anyone, but especially in your family. To be able to be trustworthy, you have to communicate with your family. Along with communication, there should be honesty. For example, if you tell your parents you are doing one thing and you turn around and do another, which is not being trustworthy or honest. It feels bad when I do that to my mom because she trusts me and is confident that I am an honest person all of the time, and I turn around and lie to her face. That is showing that I am not always honest and therefore my mom should not trust me, but she does. It shows that if you can’t trust yourself, how is anyone else supposed to trust you? So, one thing I will work on is communicating better with my family. I will try to be more honest and trustworthy.

Sam Stine – Darien High School

As teenagers, I think we constantly overlook the true meaning of family. We are all convinced that our parents are trying to ruin our lives when they take away our laptops or cell phones, and therefore it is “cutting us off from the rest of the world.” What we don’t think about is what it would be like without our family there to support us. To me, a family is a support system. One with a strong foundation hopefully set by parents, and built up with the sturdy framework of brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles etc. I think we take the fact that we typically always have a family member to lean on for granted. I too feel alone at times, but in reality I have a strong network of people who love me. Coming from an affluent town, we don’t really consider our families very much. The average Darienite feels safe at home, has a loving family, and doesn’t think too much about it other than that. However, we are very sheltered in our “Darien bubble.” What about the people who are less fortunate than us – people to whom family is everything they have, or people who have hardly any family at all? We are so concerned with our own personal selves that we don’t even consider that we are taking such a fundamental thing for granted. I could not even imagine either not feeling comfortable in my own home, or not having a well-fortified family. Now that I think about it, my family relationships are certainly something I underestimate the value of.

Zoe Calahan – Darien High School

Family is looked at in multiple aspects. It can be a burden, a sacred place to share feelings, or an irrelevant part of life that doesn’t need to be brought up or talked about. What we don’t realize when we yell at siblings or talk back to parents is that we’re breaking apart pieces of a something that should be looked at as lucky. Not everyone has a family, and the people who do, don’t always cherish it. Yes,we have the ability to speak, but that ability is not supposed to be taken for granted. When we look at our moms or dads with a glare after they tell us to get off Facebook, we should feel appalled. They are the reason we live where we live, have the education we have, and have the opportunities that lie in front of us. Family is not just a thing we can throw on the ground and step on. We have to take it seriously, because we never know when the puzzle pieces of a family will fall apart. Instead of us teenagers going out and finding more and more friends to get our minds off off family, walk into it. Face your fears, and fix the problems that need to be changed. Fix the relationship with your parents or siblings, but don’t run away from them. Family is the thing that will get you through hardships and conflicts so don’t push it away.

Stereotype Reflections From January 2012

Darien, Uganda, and Norwalk

Paul Ntege – Uganda

Whereas stereotypes could have some positive effects on an individual, largely, stereotypes have negative effects. Stereotypes specifically dealing with our human nature, including personality, culture, way of life, and geographical location, have far more devastating psychological effects on the individual portrayed. “Africa is a dark continent.” This is a very common stereotype among the West about Africa and Africans especially as perpetuated by the Western media. Africa is depicted as a place of misery, suffering and abject poverty. Photos of kids malnourished are a common scene of western televisions such CNN. Albeit this is a way of ‘attracting’ donors to Africa, it should also be understood that better methods of fundraising for the cause of poverty in Africa could and do exist. Such include selling African art in the western markets and the profits sent to charity organizations among others. It should also be understood that the mere existence of NGO’s in Africa will not solve the problem the poverty in Africa. But, finding efficient means of tackling the root causes of poverty would prove vital. Now that I’m traveling to the US, for example, such a stereotype would affect me in such a way that I’d afraid that all those with such a stereotype in mind because I feel they will look at me as yet another desperate African, an outcast of some sort who has come to beg for help instead of for a noble cause. And yet in actual sense, they would forget that I too have the ability to think positively just as they and come up solutions to worldly problems if given a chance to express my views and opinions.  All in all, it is virtually impossible to do away with stereotypes, but it’s most important that we understand and acknowledge each other’s differences, erase negative perceptions, think positively, and work together for the wellbeing of our future generations.

Kyra Conciatori – Darien High School

America is one nation, but divided among thousands of towns and communities. Calling our country the “United” States of America is not as accurate as we like to believe. Just 10 minutes away from our town of Darien, there are kids in Norwalk who know nothing about us. And we know nothing about them. LEAP is working to change that. We are a group of teenagers aspiring to create a magazine that will focus on all aspects of life demonstrated through different forms of expression, whether that be articles, narratives, short stories, poetry, paintings, music, etc. This magazine will be produced by not only Darien High School students, but also with students in Uganda, Africa and students at in Norwalk, Connecticut About two months ago, the Darien students visited Brien McMahon, Norwalk. As part of the Darien group, I knew that we had to present our ideas to the Norwalk kids in a way that would persuade them to join on our adventure. We had things to teach them, such as the basics of LEAP, but at the same time we wanted to learn from them. We wanted to work together on a sustainable project that could benefit everyone involved, and outside readers too.

We entered Brien McMahon (a high school that none of us had ever been in before) with open minds. And as I walked into the Brien McMahon classroom, I was nervous! Being slightly intimidated by the ethnic diversity that is nonexistent back at Darien High School, I sat next to my friend.  We weren’t sure how they would perceive us and whether or not they would respect us. But we yearned  to get to know them and share our ideas.

Ever since that October afternoon, we have been returning to Brien McMahon weekly to continue our conversations and work toward the publication of our first issue. But a few weeks ago, the topic that all of us had felt hovering and unspoken in the room finally came to the surface: stereotyping. Stereotypes are something  that are inevitable. They are shaped by the society that we live in, developing in a person’s mind from his or her first social experiences. We judge people based on the way they look or act, based on the people they hang out with, and more. It’s something that no one wants to admit to doing, but everyone does. And slowly, as the group warmed to the topic, confessions emerged. Many of the Brien McMahon students had expected us Darien students to feel and act superior and better. However, they all agreed that this had not been the case at all. They were shocked to hear that we had actually been very nervous to meet them! We talked more about stereotypes and how they affect our daily lives. It was amazing to hear how our lives were so similar and yet, on the first  day of meeting them, we had thought ourselves so different.

Kim Duhart – Brien McMahon, Norwalk

My feelings on stereotypes are that they are wrong and you shouldn’t judge people by their looks. You have to get to know them better. Since we talked about stereotypes, I have worked on getting to know people first before I judge them on what I see or hear about the certain type of person they are. Usually I don’t stereotype people because that is stupid. Meeting with Darien made me think about some things that people are stereotyped about that you should be more sensitive about. Someone that you are dealing with may be stereotyped against because of where they are from or who they hang out with. For example, just because you might be from  a bad neighborhood doesn’t mean that you are ghetto or stupid, or something. That is one thing I stereotype. I say that ghetto people are dumb and loud and you shouldn’t judge people by where they live or how they act.

Jaquon Lambert – Brien McMahon, Norwalk

I think stereotypes are good and bad. Throughout the after school program with Darien, I learned a lot about judging people the way you see them before you know them, but then I realized that I was stereotyping them. I thought they thought they were better than us because they are from a richer and better place, but then I realized they all had problems and they were mostly just like us. I think stereotyping is a good topic to talk about because everywhere you go, people always use it.

Sanyu Shammy –  Uganda

Sanyu is a rescued AIDS orphan taking care of her siblings with no parents at 13-years-old. She is now well written, and highly educated through LEAD Uganda.

Stereotypes: What are they?

In my own opinion, stereotypes are popular beliefs about specific social groups or types of individuals. Similarly, they can also be assumptions that people make about behavior of all members of a group, based on an image (often wrong) about what people in that group are like. Here are some examples of stereotypes in my community.

  1. All girls kneel down when greeting elders.
  2. All wives are bound to their husbands’ rules and regulations.
  3. (In my school) all clever, brilliant, talented and smart students belong to the Eastern class.

In this case, look at example 1. It has a positive impact of respect, but most girls find it old fashioned. Such stereotypes tend to be self-perpetuating .If one assumes that others are deceitful and aggressive, they will tend to respond in the same way.  However, stereotypes enable us to interact effectively, and hence we need to some idea of what people are likely to be like, which behavior will be considered acceptable, and which are not before we can actually meet and interact with them. Stereotypes can be essential when proving to your opponents that you are better in character then they assume. One party may visit the opponent personally and be more reasonable, more friendly, more agreeable or more helpful than the opponent expected. When this happens, they are likely to revise enemy’s image at least a little bit, concluding that some members of the opposition are reasonable people.

For example, my first time in my school, no one thought that I would lead the class because of my poor background – that is,  being an AIDS orphan ,having grown up from  a very poor family and so on – but when I did lead the class, I was much more respected, thus I gained confidence in myself. Therefore, we must determine what others think of us before we can possibly meet them. One way to overcome negative stereotypes is to contradict them in direct interactions with the people around us, especially our teachers. Teachers have the chance to affect them and hence influence inter-group relations. Efforts to teach about different cultures and the history of different racial groups can help build understanding, especially if it is done in an effective and sympathetic way. We should also examine the assumptions that we make about others. This is what I think.

Stereotype and Insecurities Reflections From January 2012

Darien, Uganda, and Norwalk

Caitlin Keady – Darien High School

Today, the discussion was focused on the roots of stereotypes and our insecurities. My group believed that being in a certain “clique” or “group” in school limited who a person could talk to and how they could behave around their peers. Because of these limitations, insecurities surface regarding how we present ourselves in school and how others view us. When we are insecure, we tend to put others down by creating stereotypes to make us feel better about ourselves. My group played the role of the “preps” in the school cafeteria and we thought that by being in that group, we were the popular kids in the school and that everybody admired us. We thought that the “preps” looked down on all the other groups and tried to avoid being seen around them. People tend to retreat to those who are similar to them so they stay around the people in their group and avoid branching out to others. We said that insecurities prevent us from doing many things in life and that they cause us to create stereotypes about people who are different than us.