Birthright isn’t just for Jews anymore.
Following the same model, a number of cultural organizations and governments have created programs to connect diasporic communities in North America with their ancestral cultures.
Founded by the National Hellenic Society, Heritage Greece offers Greek-American undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 26 a two-week immersive summer trip. The trip is specifically geared toward second-, third-, or fourth-generation Americans with little to no connection with their Greek heritage. The goal is to introduce them to their culture and ignite their interest and pride. Participants tour important cultural sites, spend time with a Greek family, and take classes in Greek language, cooking and culture. In-country costs are covered for participating students.
Hungarian-Americans and Canadians between the ages 18 and 26 are offered a 2-week trip designed to expose them to Hungarian culture. They get to meet with Hungarian businesspeople, politicians and other leaders. The trip extends outside the current Hungarian borders, to Hungarian communities that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and are now parts of other countries. Participants visit the specific villages their families came from. The trip isn’t free, but the price tag overs travel, food, boarding and activities.
Anyone over the age of 18 with Macedonian heritage can participate in Birthright Macedonia, which takes place over three weeks in the summer. The program includes an internship program that is meant to compliment personal, academic and/or career goals while introducing the intern to Macedonian culture, as well as a Macedonian family-stay, visits to sites around Macedonia, and lessons in Macedonian language and culture. The program is specifically geared toward developing contacts and friendships between native Macedonians and members of the Macedonian diaspora.
Geared toward participants aged 20-32, Birthright Armenia is a longer-term program, with a minimum commitment of four weeks of volunteering. The program covers travel expenses and gives a monthly stipend to participants who stay for over 18 weeks. Volunteers are matched with a host family, and participate in language and culture immersion while volunteering. Over 800 Diasporic Armenians have participated so far.
Cuban Diaspora organization CubaOne offers a free trip for Cuban-Americans between the ages of 22 and 35 who are looking to connect with their Cuban heritage, and specifically to build meaningful relationships with Cuban people. Trips vary in focus and include focused programs in politics/policy, art and literature, local and national culture, history, ecology and industry. All programs include person-to-person connections with other young Cubans in the participant’s field and/or area of interest.
The Ireland-based group Diaspora Matters, which focuses on connecting people in the Irish Diaspora with their heritage, teamed up with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to create the Global Irish Summer Camp, which is designed for American teenagers of Irish descent between the ages of 15 and 17. The program covers all in-country costs, and includes classes and workshops on Irish history, language and culture, as well as relevant field trips to important sites across Ireland.
Here’s wondering if the hook up scene crosses cultural lines…
Lana Adler is a Forward Fellow working in opinion. Follow her on Twitter @Lana_Macondo