Recently, I had the opportunity to evaluate a program for the Erie Art Museum called Old Songs New Opportunities. This program, under the direction of Kelly Armor, helps refugee and New American women transition into roles as early childhood educators, while sharing the traditions of their native countries via song. The women receive intensive training on child development and ECE pedagogy, followed by an internship at a local Early Childhood Center, where they teach the children and other teachers folk songs from their childhood. It’s a highly successful program, and I could talk for hours about it (in fact, I did talk about it at the Groves Conference on Marriage and Family this past summer).
Of course, one of the most exciting facets of this program is that many of the participants gain employment at their internship sites. But an added benefit of the program is the social aspect. Graduates of the program get together for potlucks and reunions and have forged lasting friendships. OSNO introduces them to other women who share their same interests, which in turn helps to alleviate some of the loneliness and isolation that comes with moving to a new country. The gift of friendship is so important in our lives.
This Friendship February, I think it’s important to highlight programs like OSNO that are bringing women together through music, art, or any other medium that bolsters friendship. And in OSNO’s case, it helps bring communities together, since the children’s families also learn the songs. Hopefully, as we highlight the benefits, more agencies will see the value in these programs and support them through funding.