I would never have ventured into the narrow lanes of the Freetown cloth market alone, but I had so much fun shopping there with the local members of our Family Network group. They taught me about the different fabrics and helped me get fairer prices! The times we spent together, socially and on charity projects, are amongst my best memories of Sierra Leone.
In DC and in duty stations our members come together to support each other, learn from each other, and build community. When everyone is included, from around the world and the host country, the sharing of cultures enriches everyone. Local spouses can demystify their country and its ways for the expats and at the same time experience the fun and joy of interacting with people from far flung places. Everyone benefits!
You never know what new foods you will discover at a potluck meal, or what festivals you will celebrate that you didn’t know about before. Our Local Connector (LC) in Islamabad, Pakistan, organized a meeting during Ramadan to explain the customs and practices of Islam to members who are not Muslim, so they could understand Pakistani culture better.
In Singapore one of our members hosted a lunch for members at her home during Diwali, the Festival of Lights, which is very special for the Indian community and one of the major cultural celebrations in Singapore. In the words of the LC, “She explained the traditions, and offered us a wide delicious spread of local food. It was a very special experience that engaged all of our senses. Singapore is culturally diverse, and we have started organizing city tours with a local tour guide to explore different aspects of its history and learn about our new home from inside out.”
In Pakistan, local and international staff and spouses have also come together to plant trees, play soccer, and be buddies to support the relocated families from the Kabul office. The Family Network chapter organized the planting of one hundred trees, with families, and more particularly with the children, to have an educational activity in the face of global warming.
In August 2021 the Kabul office was transferred to Islamabad and the whole WBG community, IRS, LRS and STC, organized a sponsorship and support operation. Every Afghan family had a buddy to allow them not to be alone and to have someone to count on. The chapter organized picnics, and the Afghan families were able to have moments of pleasure and relaxation despite the difficulty of their situation and without distinction of status. Thanks to our very active LC in Pakistan, who speaks Pashtun, there was no language barrier. This is how solidarity was created between the different members of the WBGFN community.
Including staff in Family Network social gatherings, and working together with the Staff Association, can further strengthen the community and open wider possibilities. In Bangkok, several Thanksgiving celebrations were organized jointly by the Family Network and Staff Association, and supported by the Country Manger. The LC wrote, “Everyone feasted on a Thanksgiving buffet, children played on the bouncy castle in the swimming pool, and adults met new friends and socialized with colleagues and their partners.”
In addition, staff who are single parents can be members of the Family Network, and can benefit from the support our community offers. During the elections in Cameroon, one of our members, a single woman with an older child, sought help from the Family Network because the security situation had deteriorated. To allow this child to be safe and not alone while his mother was on mission, our LC took care of him. Community solidarity in times of trouble in fragile countries is essential.
My husband is about to retire, and we will return to India, but I know that I will still be included in the Family Network. I have enjoyed meeting with the Delhi members during our home visits, and look forward to being part of that group, as well as continuing to belong to our larger global family.
If you are the spouse, partner or dependent of a WBG staff member, consultant or retiree, you are included in our family – whether you are in your home country or posted to a duty station. The greater our diversity, the richer our community!