In a city like Eindhoven over 150 nationalities co-exist, each with their corresponding cultural backgrounds. To involve them all in the co-creation of their own healthy city and environment is complicated due to cultural and language issues. The largest population of people from a different culture is Turkish. The proof of principle of AiREAS tries to involve the entire diversity of the local population and hence also wants to reach the Turkish community. It is of interest to see how different cultures deal with the issue of air pollution and lifestyle and how they can get triggered by the information and support provided by AiREAS?
Despite various attempts, and even having an Alderman of Turkish origin in the city council of Eindhoven, AiREAS had not yet been able to access this important group of citizens.
Turkish students visit AiREAS
Another City of Tomorrow program, STIR Academy, had partnered with an organization that was looking for learning activities for groups of Turkish students who will be visiting Holland the next 7 years. Awareness is one of the 5 sustainocratic key issues together with food, health, safety , self sufficiency. The idea was born to not just tell these students about AiREAS and its challenges but involve them in the intercultural communication part. They would get acquianted with a complex reality of global pollution issues, awareness, interpretations and communication up to challenging maybe cultural habits that are polluting and maybe subject to change. In Holland people have their fireworks tradition during newyears while the Turkish don’t necessarily. They on the other hand have a strong food tradition with extensive barbecueing. How to deal with traditions, modern insights and the global and local issue of pollution with all the effects on our health, quality of life, environmental harmony and economies?
We decided to involve the visiting students.
What is AiREAS?
In the morning the students were educated on the concept of “healthy city” of AiREAS Eindhoven and the complexity of reaching the population for active involvement.
In the afternoon they were asked to work things out from a culture and communication point of view. The objective was that these Turkish students would explain the AiREAS issues to the local Turkish community. The issue became multidimensionalfor them to work out:
- What is culture?
- What is communication?
- What is AiREAS?
- How do I involve in a multicultural setting?
The initiative was well received by all youngsters who displayed wit, creativity and humor in dealing with their task.
The next day, moment of truth
The students were asked to present their finding to the elders society of the Turkish community that gathered in town. Meanwhile the program management became eager to also start Local AiREAS in cities of Turkye.
The encounter with the elders community started with all kinds of formal introduction that showed the importance of the meeting.
- Turkish chairman explained the migration pattern of first generation Turks and the difficulty to integrate due to a low level of education, fear for discrimination and language issues causing isolation of the groups.
- The local organisor of the exchange platform of students and intercultural interaction explained AiREAS and the relationship with health among different members of the same community
- The Turkish organisor explained the importance for Turkey and the initiatives started with AiREAS in Turkey
- The teacher from Turkey that travels with the group expresses his gratitud for the interaction
- I myself, Jean-Paul Close, explained the importance for health as we understand this accross all cultures and to get to a health driven awareness and innovative understanding when we share the same living space and environment in town.
Then the students got into action. They had sellected three girls who explained their mission, the cultural interests and the need to work together. The invented a trick to get everyone participating in the process using a toilet roll. Everyone was asked to tear one or more pieces and mention for each piece what personal responsibility in the process of `healthy city` development one could take. Every idea was placed as a leaf on the tree.
The interaction was very well received and 3 people of the Turkish community signed up for the health research project for which we are very grateful.
The closure was characterized by the chairman of the group who proved to be a good musician too and with the message `if we can eat, sing and dance together we can work together too!`