Intercultural Wellness Program
The Intercultural Wellness Program (IWP) is offered by The Welcoming Center to promote community wellness and wellbeing among immigrant communities of Greater Philadelphia. The program is offered to immigrants from very diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds who want to help their community utilize coping mechanisms to overcome the challenges they face, such improving their social and economic integration, learn manage stress, and connect to resources and opportunities.
Schedule: currently, the program meets online twice a week. Some in-person activities are planned depending on approval by the program participants and on COVID-19 guidelines from the City of Philadelphia.
What Participants Learn
- Personal and collective listening skills that lead to new trusting relationships
- Team-building and critical thinking competencies
- Re-interpreting the concept of wellness from the immigrant experience
- Understanding the barriers affecting immigrant wellness and how to generate solutions
- Analytical skills to deconstruct the process of American racialization and structural racism that produces deeply felt health disparities
- Speak intermediate level English
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Commitment to supporting immigrant communities
- Ability to attend all training sessions and activities
- Comply with six hours of weekly assignments
- Support evaluation of program outcomes
- Respect for cultural diversity and inclusion
- Full participation in the program
- Respect and promote the mission of The Welcoming Center
Not sure if you want to join the program? Just fill out the application form and we will contact you to answer your questions!
“Our instructor was always serious when he told us why it is important to help the immigrant community. And his words in the session sometimes sounded very heavy to me. The more I learned what we needed to do, the more difficult it seemed for me to overcome. It’s actually like a mountain hike, which I don’t do often recently, but every time I hike Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, I always regret having decided to hike because of the pain I have to get through on the way to the summit. But once I reach the summit, the pleasure is indescribable. Our action project was just like that.”
Akane Kikuchi, Japan
The Intercultural Wellness Program is a hands-on initiative that meets once week over a period of four months. Cohorts of 20-25 participants meet to discuss wellness concepts guided by external experts from various fields of expertise, including immigrant leaders.
Program participants learn analytical skills using a social inclusion framework, and practical organizational skills which are put into practice through the execution of short-term action projects.
Our approach to promoting wellness among immigrant communities combines a critical view of the dynamics of economic and social integration and an understanding of wellness developed from the perspective of the immigrant experience.
There is major confusion about what wellness is, and is not, and there are contrasting views on how to support and meet the mental health and wellness needs of immigrant communities. Thus, the Intercultural Wellness Program starts by creating a space where immigrants can define what wellness to them while learning about existing service gaps and social disparities but also new strategies that can be used to improved wellness and wellbeing in local communities.
The stories program participants hear from the community inform their next steps. Working in small diverse teams, participants move on to organize community events that become hands-on opportunities to put into practice their newly acquired skills and knowledge, but also to bring communities together to learn about innovative solutions to wellness and integration barriers.
Program participants are guided to investigate barriers to community wellness. To develop a deeper understanding of those barriers, issues and needs, participants conduct a listening campaign utilizing qualitative interviewing and meeting face-to-face with immigrants and non-immigrants. These empathic conversations give the participants not only a better understanding of the different ways in which immigrants experience barriers that increase acculturative stress and anxiety, such as prolonged unemployment, limited social capital, or lack of access to effective language learning opportunities, they also build trusting relationships which increases their social connectivity, mutual support, and prospects for collective action.
The stories program participants hear from the community inform their next steps. Working in small diverse teams made up of 5-6 people, and guides by experienced instructors and mentors, participants move on to organize community events that become hands-on opportunities to put into practice their newly acquired skills and knowledge, but also to bring communities together to learn about innovative solutions to wellness and integration barriers. Thus, Action Projects serve as a framework that helps to strengthen personal agency and community leadership skills, lifting the voices of immigrants in our cities, and offering evidence and support to community-based approaches to addressing wellness well-being.
Featured Action Projects
Let’s Talk Philly
Let’s Talk Philly launched in 2020 as an Action Project in our Immigrant Leadership Institute. Many great things have happened since then.
- The project was selected as one of 15 finalists among 125 applicants in the Well City Challenge, an initiative organized by the Economy League.
- Let’s Talk Philly won the People’s Choice Award and qualified to move on to stage two of the competition, which was a business incubator for five finalist teams.
- As a result, after six months of intensive training Let’s Talk Philly morphed from being a loosely organized action project to becoming a structured organization in the process of incorporation.
- They have established a Core Team in charge of the organization’s strategic direction
- Working in close partnership with The Welcoming Center as its Fiscal Sponsor, Let’s Talk Philly has impacted the lives of hundreds of immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia and beyond with its unique model of conversation circles which was specifically designed to address community wellness challenges.
Beyond Cultural Shock: Next Steps to Success
Beyond Cultural Shock: Next Steps to Success was a 5-part seminar to help participants learn new skills, share information, build connections, and discuss opportunities for success in Philadelphia. The seminar engaged 35 participants from diverse cultural backgrounds to meet online every Thursdays evening for 2 hours and examine a better way to understand cultural shock as experienced by newly arrived immigrants in Philadelphia.
Knowing that immigrants are among the most vulnerable, the team conducted a listening campaign and learned that social isolation had increased in immigrant communities and that many people were experiencing anxiety and varying levels of depression throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Concern for their families back home and the impossibility of offering materials support, made their emotional situation very difficult.
Using a participatory approach to learning, the organizing team responded by offering a seminar as a series of presentations and discussions that develop as a safe space for participants to not only share their experience, but to re-connect and breath from the impact of lock-downs and social distancing resulting from the pandemic.
The organizing team was made up of Jieun Kim from S. Korea, Hadjila Ait Alioua from Algeria, and Zdrakva Karapetrova from Bulgaria.
Below are some of the topics covered in the seminar.
The importance of a success mindset
Having the right mindset is important in the process of immigrant integration. In this session we will learn about what produces a given mindset and how mindsets can be changed to overcome the barriers and accomplish our goals.
Managing the Cultural Shock
Adjusting to life in Philadelphia can be very stressful and produce serious feelings of anxiety. In this session we will learn more about the clash of values behind cultural shock and how to use our cultural strengths and strategies to connect to the opportunities we need.
Features of American Culture
American culture can be very difficult to understand. We will learn about some key American values and cultural features and how to use this understanding to communicate better, meet new friends, and enjoy enriching our life in a safe and appropriate way.
What are the skills we need to communicate with people from other cultural backgrounds? Thinking critically, we will explore cultural competence as a two-way street and specific techniques we can use to live and work in a very diverse world.
Next Steps to Success
Where do we go from here? What can we do to remain engaged in learning and in the networks that can connect us? We will talk about how our talents, skills, experience, and the wealth of knowledge can help ourselves and the communities where we live.