Cultural Connections: Women Weaving WorldsCultural Connections is a two-week cultural connection experience between women from the United States and women in South India facilitated by Deanna Brown. Having lived and worked in South India, Deanna has led many groups to the South Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. She is a gifted and experienced leader who carefully facilitates the group process through regular circle reflection, intercultural exchange, and interfaith dialogue. Her energy, generosity of spirit and passion for women of all countries makes this a one-of-a kind experience. Cultural Connections: Women Weaving Worlds begins with several pre-trip orientation sessions. After arriving in Kerala, the group visits sites in Fort Cochin and interacts with women from the various programs of the Cultural Academy for Peace. The group next travels across the mountains covered with tea plantations and down into the dry hinterlands of Tamil Nadu. There they arrive at Blue Mango, a development program for women founded by Tamar DeJong. The days and nights spent at Blue Mango form the heartbeat of Cultural Connections experience. This mutual interchange between women flows naturally from the deep personal friendship of Deanna and Tamar. Village visits, storytelling, dance, and Tamil cultural activities are woven together into a tapestry of beauty and sobering discovery, group fun and personal introspection. By the end of the experience, both groups of women feel enriched by having spent time together.
Quotes from participants:
“Traveling with Cultural Connections to India with Deanna is about women of the world meeting one another to weave our personal stories, cultures, values, beliefs and loves together…. to learn from one another. Experiencing South India by building relationships with Indian women and the small group of women travelers from across the US was a life changing experience.” -Suzan Windnagel, Founder, Circle of Friends and Advocate for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
“It is interesting meeting so many different women from America. There was an 81 year old woman who came and we were shocked she could travel so far. Another time a college-age girl came and we couldn’t believe that her parents would allow her to come to India. When we heard that widows in America can live by themselves and remarry, we couldn’t imagine such a thing was possible.” -Rajakumari – Blue Mango“I am grateful for the amazing opportunity to travel to India with Deanna. I am still reflecting on and learning from the insights I gained during that trip – from experiencing Deanna’s deep cultural knowledge and spirit-filled leadership, to witnessing the character and courage of the Indian women we met.” -Ineke Way, Assoc. Professor, Western Michigan University
“When one of the women in Deanna’s group started crying while sharing her story with us, we became upset and sad for her. But the last day, it was she who got up and danced with us, laughing her head off. It made me realize that I can also laugh in the midst of my troubles.” – Aarathy – Blue Mango“As I look back over my photos and remember transforming excursions like being invited into the village homes of the Blue Mango women, I begin to understand that the people of India have a larger vision of life, one that transcends monetary wealth. Their relationships with their God, land, neighbors, and family is what that vision is all about.” -Ethel Swartzendruber, Senior Assistant Director and Coordinator of Supplemental Instruction at Purdue University
“We love showing the visiting women our homes. In fact, we all want to have the chance but we have to take turns.” -Kavitha – Blue Mango“What amazed me most about my trip to India was learning first-hand what remarkable things single individuals can do to alleviate poverty and fight injustice. I returned to the US more determined to make a positive difference where I can. What started as a unique and wonderful trip with Deanna is evolving into a journey that will surely enrich the rest of my life.” -Denise Wilson, professional musician
“During sharing time, we learned that one member of the group’s job was to help those on the streets to find homes and to give them pots and pans and clothes. We never knew that this kind of poverty existed in the United States. We thanked her for her service to the poor in her country.” -Tamil Arasi – Blue Mango“The trip to Blue Mango was a journey inward for me, to discover what I love most in life: being truly engaged with those I am with–learning, laughing, loving, discovering the beauty we all possess. With Deanna and Tamar taking care of all the logistics, feeding us well in many ways, we were free to be in the moment, fully energized with clarity of mind and spirit.” -Lisa Pantea, Water Engineer
“I used to think that foreigners were very different from us. I was surprised that even though American women come from a richer country, they have pain in their lives too. We have met widows, women who are abandoned, who are suffering from divorce and violence at home, women who have disabilities, older women, younger women. I have learned that we are all sisters.” - Leela – Blue Mango“I always return from India feeling joyfully awake to all that is sacred in the midst of the ordinary.” – Deanna Brown, Founder and Facilitator of Cultural Connections