International Thanksgiving celebration at Wayfinder Schools

Posted on Thursday December 16, 2010

November was a busy month at Wayfinder Schools, culminating in a special International Thanksgiving celebration, in which students, staff, volunteers and friends of the school gathered to celebrate together, and enjoy food from around the world.

Held on the evening before students headed home for Thanksgiving holiday break, International Thanksgiving was not only a lot of delicious fun; it was also a great learning experience.

Weeks before the food was served, each student selected a different country to study. This year, students chose Chad, Turkey, The Philippines, India, The United States, Japan, France, and Cuba.

In preparation for the big night, each student researched the food and traditions of their selected country, including how much money a typical family from each country spends on weekly groceries.

What the students discovered was surprising, and sometimes heart wrenching, particularly in the case of the families they studied from Chad and the Philippines.

In addition to typing up and presenting reports on their individual countries, each student prepared a meal representative of that country.

This year’s meals included a dried goat’s meat stew from Chad, a sweet and spicy Japanese soup, a rich chocolate torte from France, a delightful Cuban banana dessert, feta-filled puff pastry from Turkey, a spicy Indian rice dish, southern fried chicken from the United States, and a spicy chicken dish from the Philippines.

Culinary Instructor Cathy Ames-Cruz rounded out the meal with traditional New England Thanksgiving fare, including mashed and sweet potatoes, turkey, stuffing and all the fixin’s.

Before serving the food, each student made an oral presentation about their selected country, what they learned, why they chose to cook what they did, and what they are thankful for in their own lives after doing their research.

16 year old Ayla Johnson chose to study a refugee family from Chad. After learning about the daily struggles of this family, including how little they had to eat, how much money they had to spend, and the lengths they had to go to secure food for their family, she expressed thanks to her own family, and the food they have to eat. “Never again,” she said, “will I open the refrigerator and complain, “There’s nothing good to eat in here!”

Student Eimi DeWitt, who hails from Japan, talked of typical Japanese family life and food. Eimi expressed thanks for the education she has received in both Japan and the US, as well as the relative gender equality she has experienced in both countries. “Women in many Asian countries don’t have these same opportunities,” she said.

Before the presentations and the food, student Dawn Dudley spoke of her Mic Mac heritage, and said she would be filling her plate with small samplings of each food item, as an offering to her ancestors.

Residential Program Director Joseph Hufnagel then asked everyone around the table to take a moment to think about Native Americans and indigenous people from around the world, and to honor the best parts of the Thanksgiving tradition- friends, family and community.

All of those things were in abundance during International Thanksgiving, and we’re looking forward to celebrating this new tradition for many years to come.

Happy Holidays!