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Jasmin 24/7: Community Child Care, News & 'Nyad' Movie Review

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We delve into the significant expansion of Jasmin Day Care, including plans to offer 24-hour services, featuring an in-depth discussion with Vice President Mohamed Hussein. We also engage in our weekly news review, led by News Director Dave Thompson, providing perspective on current events. Additionally, Matt Olien offers an insightful review of the movie 'Nyad.'

Jasmin Day Care Segment:

  • Jasmin Day Care is expanding its services to 24 hours to better serve its community. Many of the parents work late and overnight. We visit with Vice President of Jasmin Services, Mohamed Hussein.

Interview Highlights: (full transcript below)

  • Cultural Responsiveness and Language Diversity

    • Mohamed discusses the challenges of English language learning among diverse communities and highlights the success of their literacy program. He shares a heartwarming impact story about a family's journey from language barriers to kindergarten readiness.
  • Cultural Adaptation and Diversity in Food

    • Mohamed explains how their daycare center incorporates diverse cultural backgrounds into its menu and accommodates dietary restrictions such as halal food. He emphasizes the importance of catering to various cultural needs while providing nutritious meals.
  • Addressing Safety Concerns and Overcoming Prejudice 

    • Mohamed reflects on safety concerns initially experienced due to prejudice but emphasizes the importance of not taking such incidents personally. He shares a story about receiving a hate voicemail and how it serves as a reminder of the importance of their work.
  • Navigating Cultural Differences and Active Listening

    • Mohamed discusses the importance of active listening and navigating cultural differences. He reflects on instances where assumptions were challenged and emphasizes the need for respectful communication and understanding, especially in today's polarized world.
  • Defining Home and Connection 

    • Mohamed shares his personal journey of growing up in various countries and highlights the concept of home as a place of love, belonging, and acceptance. He reflects on his connection to the daycare center and its mission, driven by a passion for advocacy and addressing disparities.

Full Transcript

Ashley Thornberg

The community that you serve, the need that you see. Describe your primary client base.

Mohamed Hussein

98% of our clients receive child care assistance or qualify for child care assistance. Free or reduced lunch with a food program.

70% of the children come from homes where English isn't the first language. There's also a good number of families that are recently resettled from new American backgrounds. Over 90% of our kids are from BIPOC communities.

Black, indigenous, and people of color. So it's a real mixing pot. So we have families from low-income backgrounds.

So just generally historically underserved communities.

Ashley Thornberg

How many languages are spoken? Me personally, I speak five. But within the center among the children, staff, and families, up as high as 12 at one point.

Mohamed Hussein

We have about eight different languages spoken. And we just have some additional staff that join the team. We have the preschool teacher from Egypt.

We have an assistant from Afghanistan. We have an aide from Congo. The FM area has become very diverse.

We have communities from Somalia, from West Africa, from Congo, Middle East, Afghanistan coming in. And no one culture is the same. So being able to recognize that these communities have differences.

And adapting your program to that service. And not being very rigid. And understanding that, hey, we may need to pivot.

Especially English language learners. It's kind of challenging sometimes because they speak their traditional language, right? So when you're trying to get them in English, to get them improved in English and get them to learn English, how do you do that exactly? So what we try to do is get teachers from diverse backgrounds. Especially those who can maybe speak that child's language.

So it helps speed up the process. And as a result of that, we have a very strong literacy program. Where 90% of our kids in the preschool go to kindergarten at or above readiness.

There's a family that was resettled. They came here. Mother didn't speak English.

Children did not speak English. One child was an infant. One child was a toddler.

When the mother got hired, she was looking for work. She spoke Arabic. Arabic is one of the languages our director is fluent in and many of the staff.

So she was employed. Became a teacher. You know, ended up learning English as well.

But the children didn't speak English. By the end of the year, we're very fluent in the language. You know, helping translate for the mother.

And each and every one of them went to kindergarten. Ready at or above the readiness level. They're doing very good.

Which is exactly our mission. Giving each child the opportunity that they need to be successful. Immigration patterns, especially to the United States, two, three hundred years ago, was very much like assimilate or, you know, get left behind.

Ashley Thornberg

Are we at a point now where we can look at people's cultural backgrounds and understand that one culture, one way of thinking, one way of cooking, we can add and learn instead of everybody needs to fit in?

Mohamed Hussein

I feel like, yes, we are. As a society and a community, yes, we are. But there's always room for improvement.

Like I said, people need to understand. The most important thing is not being afraid of something you don't know. Just taking the time to explore and understand or appreciate the perspective that diversity comes in so many different ways.

Yes, there are communities from other individuals, from other communities. But, for example, chili, when you're cooking chili, there's more than one way to make chili, right? So you can't say that the way you make chili and the way I make chili, no. Mine is the only way to do it.

So if you can kind of look at it from that perspective and understand that, yeah, there's always versions of, yeah, there's differences out there. Let's not be afraid of the differences. Explore, ask questions.

Ashley Thornberg

Well, and kids are so naturally wired to that. I wonder if you have more of an issue with parents or, you know, maybe parents of the more dominant society in North Dakota. Do you run into challenges?

Mohamed Hussein

At the center, no.

The biggest thing I would say is the community has been very open and responsive and supportive. And I feel like that's as a result of efforts of individuals before us and within the community from other organizations putting in that work. Yeah, our executive director who came here and, you know, saw that there was this particular need, specifically within the early education field, in terms of a culturally honoring program, saw that need and created this program, you know, to work alongside some of those initiatives that we're currently on there.

The community has been supportive and understanding. At the end of the day, it comes down to, for all parents, I feel like, every parent loves their child, you know, and every parent just wants their child to be better off than they were. We're strong advocates that every child deserves access to opportunities, the tools and resources that they need to become successful in life, academically and in life, and to become productive members of our societies and productive American citizens.

They're our future.

Ashley Thornberg

Talk a little bit about honoring cultures and cultural differences when it comes to the way that food is given here. There are cultures that sit on the floor and don't use utensils. There are cultures that pray deeply before and after every meal.

Mohamed Hussein

If you look at our menu, we have a very diverse menu, international menu, in a way.

Don't get me wrong, kids love chicken nuggets and stuff like that, mozzarella sticks and look at you. But being part of the food program, obviously, you have to have healthy, nutritious food. But it's always good to have something that maybe reminds you of home, in a way, and having children from various different backgrounds.

We try to, again, that's part of that culturally responsive approach, or culturally honoring, we'd say, where it reflects in even the menu, you know, where some of the dishes, you know, you have traditional Somali foods, you have some, you know, some Latin food as well. You know, we have little casseroles as well. So we just try to be very diverse in that.

And the kids love it. Don't get me wrong. Yeah.

Kids love it.

Ashley Thornberg

Does it get hard? I mean, are there enough options to get halal food around here?

Mohamed Hussein

You know, not really. But actually, you touched on a very good point.

We don't serve pork. You know, if we don't serve pork, I don't think it wouldn't affect the family from another religious background who could eat pork. It's not a huge deal if they don't get pork.

But there's another families, you know, from certain backgrounds where pork is not allowed. So, you know, like how a center would exclude peanut butter, because there's a child who has an allergy. We just exclude pork.

You know, try to incorporate halal foods or certain foods without ingredients. Parents have been very responsive, you know, very understanding. We try to educate individuals with our responses and, again, adapt our program.

So whether it's the menu, the instruction, you know, the way we interact with families.

Ashley Thornberg

Talk a little bit about having a daycare center that's about to go 24 hours.

Mohamed Hussein

It is a need. Statistically, families who work, families who work non-traditional hours are statistically from, you know, in our crowds.

Although they're all families, might work second or third shift. Those are higher paying jobs. So part of our, not only are we culturally responsive and honoring, we're holistic in the sense that we serve the children in the families.

So for the parents' perspective, if the parent does good, the child does good. The child does good to the parent, but also do good. So ensuring that the parents have economic opportunities as well.

This was a major need that we've seen. That a lot of inquiries, there's a need of care. Families benefit, employers benefit, everyone benefits.

People are able to get access to work and kids have a safe, reliable environment to seek care. So we've implemented some policies where children under three, unfortunately, won't be able to initially provide care for currently just for safety reasons. Double staffing, for instance, because it's the evening hours.

So we want to make sure that we are under the ratios.

Ashley Thornberg

Okay. Yeah, as you can tell, once one starts to wake up.Suddenly we've got two, three, four babies crying in the background.

Mohamed Hussein

Babies are amazing. I feel like they communicate and it's really adorable.

You just see curiosity in their eyes.

Ashley Thornberg

The doors are locked and the screens on them black out so that you can't, it's not visible from the outside. Do you have safety concerns?

Mohamed Hussein

You know, at first, yes.I'll be very honest. When we first founded our center, we kind of did. Just got a little nervous. Actually, I still have it safe. We got this hate voicemail. I was like, effing Muslims, whatever. I'm not fazed by it. I've traveled the whole world. I still have it safe though.

Sometimes I listen to it. Kind of remind you of why you do what you do. You know, the importance of this work.

I don't know who that person is, where they are right now, but I hope that they maybe met someone from a different community. Had a good experience here. Maybe, have you ever had samosas? Maybe they tried a samosa and fell in love with the culture.

I don't know. Yeah, so I feel like sometimes you just lose, you might have that tunnel vision. It gives you perspective.

Ashley Thornberg

This is going to be a brute force kind of question instead of using more of a scalpel, but you're living in a part of the world where the last name Hussein. How's that going for you?

Mohamed Hussein

Life is life. You're dealt with the cards you're dealt with.

Not that they're work cards or anything, but Homeland Security really loves to ask me questions about my trips at the airport. Every time I land.

Ashley Thornberg

Mohamed is the most popular first name in the world, and yet how many people have one in their friend circle?

Mohamed Hussein

Yes, I think we know some of the agents on a first name basis. I travel a lot, so I get taken aside. Tell me about your trip.

You know, this is a buddy, taking notes and stuff like that. I'm used to it, you know, being called Muhammad Hussein, all the racial slurs that you see, and I got it. You know, any biased experiences, prejudices, I've experienced.

We don't have much detail on that all over the world, Canada, the US, but I was fortunate enough to have traveled the world and grew up in many different places. Just recently, I was working remotely from Cyprus, and before that Turkey.

So meeting people from different cultures, learning different languages, you know, I just wish everyone has that opportunity to go out, step out of your comfort zone, you know, they say ignorance is bliss, so I get a little uncomfortable sometimes. I don't know, just go to a local, I think, restaurant or something like that. Hmm.

Nothing bad can happen, you like the food or you don't like it, so. You don't label a group as racist or people with bias or prejudice, you know, it just depends on the individual, we're all different people. The actions of one does not reflect on the others, that's one thing I realized, so.

Yeah, you know, you can either walk around with a chip on your shoulder, or just don't take it personally. That's something a lot of people of color, I feel like, or from the community, I've noticed you can take it two ways, so.

Ashley Thornberg

You have to become very efficient at processing.

Mohamed Hussein

Yeah, yeah, that's one thing I realized, especially getting into business, you kind of, I don't want to say act, but you have to put on this, you have to give this image, you know, before you can get in, speak a certain way, look a certain way, and then, yeah. But you can't change the system, so you just work with it. That's why we're doing this.

These are our future leaders, these are our future trailblazers, innovators, pioneers right here. You know, the U.S. is becoming diverse. Some people see that as a bad thing, see it as a good thing.

I don't have an opinion on that, Jasmin does not have an opinion on that. Our main thing is just making sure every child has the access to quality, affordable, early education, and child care, and the tools, resources that they need to be successful in life in the future.

Ashley Thornberg

What does the word, like, success mean to you?

Mohamed Hussein

I like your questions. What is success? I'd say that's subjective. Success is, I guess, lived experiences may probably change your answer depending on who you are. Success is, for some of these kids, being a first generation college graduate.

Success is, for some kids, it's not getting into the criminal justice system, that's just the reality. Success would be becoming a first-time homeowner, maybe an entrepreneur. Success would be maybe moving up a couple of tax brackets for the first time.

Ashley Thornberg

Yeah, or I'm wondering about cultures where women aren't allowed to drive or go to school.

Mohamed Hussein

Success would be, basically, success in opportunities. So, mothers having the opportunity to educate themselves, maybe go back to, it starts off with the ELL language courses.

ELL is English Language Learners. Yeah, English Language Learner programs. Mothers started them, went to college, and graduated.

So, our executive director has worked with them. It's just opportunities. Freedom, I'd say.

It's not cliche to say that people talk about the American Dream. It's bittersweet in the way that I'm sitting here saying it's achievable. But my lived experiences and some of the environments and the individuals that I've been with or gone to school with, probably wasn't as accessible.

There are disparities sometimes. When you sit down and think about it, you can see it. We can do a lot more to address those disparities.

Ashley Thornberg

Where do you think we can make the most progress?

Mohamed Hussein

I've been thinking about that for a very, very long time. What is something we can do to uplift people? And I would say it comes down to economics and money. That's the way society is.

So, I would say opportunities for individuals to lift themselves out of poverty, help them move up. And then with that, it creates opportunities. Going up so internationally and then being constantly in a space where you are mixing interculturally, what are some of the things that have come to your mind of like, oh, I guess I only thought that because somebody told me to think this.

Or the opposite, I understand where you're coming from, but my value set is here. You know, you have the opportunity to strengthen and let go at the same time. Yeah.

That has happened a lot, I feel like. When I have realized that, oh, I just assumed something. I called myself out.

Being open to understand that, very, very important. And then on the other side of what you said is being able to navigate that. Being able to navigate that.

Okay, you may have a certain belief or an opinion. I respect that. You know, the key word is I understand and I respect that.

But at the same time, being able to also communicate to the individual. Okay. However, you know, whatever it may be, my certain cultural beliefs or even just personal, you know, code or something like that.

And I have seen that a lot, especially traveling the world. Being able to be open and listen to each other. I feel like that's something that's really missing in the world now.

I don't know where it went. Listening skills. Some of these preschools do better.

We call it listening. You know, when you're in preschool, you learn about listening skills. You know, it's called active listening.

Mm-hmm. We don't actively listen anymore, you know? We're just ready to say what we want to say. Yeah, you're just waiting for the opportunity to get your... We want to react, not respond.

Yeah, I already know what I'm going to say. I don't care. You just say it.

Wah! Right back at you. Yeah. We're not all going to think the same.

We're not all going to do the same thing, you know? But just actually just taking a second and actively listening to what the person is saying and understanding. Oh, okay. I heard what you said.

Okay, I can understand why you think that or whatever for what reason. And then you take the time to just say what your opinion is or your thing is right there. And you're done.

You know, it doesn't have to be a duel or anything crazy. And I think that sort of active listening and effective communication would really, really save a lot of people from misunderstandings. If you just misunderstand each other, everything else goes out the window.

We don't agree on this one thing. As it goes off, you're the enemy. We're neighbors. Our kids go to school together.Five years ago, we were hanging out. You know, I was like, what happened? All that. So, active listening.

Ashley Thornberg

What feels the most like home to you?

Mohamed Hussein

What feels like home? Having traveled so much and not stayed in one place so long. You know, as a child growing up, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Kenya, the U.S., back to Kenya, to Turkey, to Cyprus, back here. I always felt like I had a suitcase to go back where you go.

It was exciting. I like adventure, like meeting new people. So, do I really have a home home? A physical location? I don't see it as a physical location or a certain town or a city or country.