HIPPY goes international — for a day


Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.

HIPPY children with their parents in tow traveled the world, meeting new people and sampling the food.

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Eileen Bustamante, a graduate assistant in the Santa Fe College Multicultural Student Center, talks to a young girl during the inaugural Gainesville HIPPY International Day. The goal of the event was to encourage understanding of cultural diversity.

BRETT Le BLANC/Special to the Guardian

But they did not have to deal with the hassle of canceled flights and delays, nor spend big bucks for a private jet. All they needed was a passport to the inaugural Gainesville HIPPY International Day, which was held Saturday at the Thelma Boltin Center.

Yolanda Hagley, director of Gainesville HIPPY Inc., or Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, said each child received a passport to get stamped at booths representing the various countries.

She said the goal of the annual International Day was to encourage understanding of cultural diversity and to bring awareness that we're all very similar the world over.

"We're all connected and facing the same issues," Hagley said.

Hagley said HIPPY was founded in Israel, and is now worldwide, as a way to get children school-ready by training their parents to become their child's first teacher. Hagley said HIPPY provides teaching materials and a support system to train parents to teach their children to succeed in school and socially.

"We empower parents to be their child's first teacher," Hagley said. "By parents being involved academically, socially and emotionally with their children, the children succeed. What happens at home really matters."

At International Day, countries represented included Columbia, where they tasted arroz con leche, or rice pudding with cream, raisins and cinnamon; Peru, where they explored a traditional Peruvian dress and played with a llama toy; Puerto Rico, where they tasted guineitos en escabeche (gui-nae-tos n-es-ka-beche), a dish of chicken gizzards with onion, bananas and olive oil; Korea, where they saw a traditional Korean dress, stainless steel chopsticks, a fan and a wooden comb, and tasted a rice roll, shrimp crackers and other snacks; Jamaica, where they tasted rice and field peas; Ghana, where they tasted Kosi (Kose), which is fried blackeye peas, and in United States, where they tasted macaroni and cheese.

But children being children, they headed straight for the hot dogs, hamburgers and chips that were provided by George's Florida Style Barbecue of Gainesville.

Venezuelan students from the Multicultural Center at Santa Fe College taught children simple Spanish words. Sang Mien Shin, a Korean student at the University of Florida, demonstrated the steps to the Korean Gangnam Dance, a wildly popular dance by South Korean rapper Psy. Horatio Edwards of the Gainesville reggae band, Irie One, sang songs by Bob Marley (1945-1981), the legendary Jamaican reggae artist.

The children also enjoyed arts and crafts and mingled with each other.

HIPPY and the event received high praise.

Dominique Howard, who has two children in HIPPY and one child on the waiting list, couldn't say enough good things about the program. She said reading and doing activities with her children have strengthen their relationship.

"HIPPY has changed my life," Howard said. "I never thought I would be my children's first teacher."

Pamela Brown, who has a son in HIPPY, said International Day provided opportunities for children to spend time with their parents.

Erica Watson, who has a daughter in HIPPY, said her daughter is reading ahead for her age.

"HIPPY has helped me bond with my daughter," Watson said. "We read every night as a family. I recommend this program. It's wonderful."

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