Cultivating Cultural Competency

We welcome you to our website. This is a series of brief articles written by Julie Sands, a UI Master of Social Work practicum student working with The Center during the 2020-2021 academic year. We present various topics hoping to increase our competency within various cultures, including investigating the structural effects of the White-American culture. The most current information is posted at the top of the website. Next to each heading/title is the day or month of observance. The gray, horizontal line denotes posts from different weeks.

Note: When you see words in blue, they are a hyperlink and you can click them. They will open a new tab on your web browser and take you the website being referenced.

Arab American Heritage Month, April

“Arab Americans have roots in 22 countries located in the Middle East and North African regions: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. And within all those countries, there are various languages, religions, traditions that are now part of our American story” (source).

Here is a 4-minute video called “Arab: How You See Me” and shares perspectives of being an Arab in the United States.

The theme this year is “mosaic” and PBS is highlighting different writers, poets and other people at this website. PBS also has several videos available to watch to celebrate this month, here.

The Arab American National Museum is in Dearborn, Michigan. They have several virtual tours that share contributions from the Arab world, coming to America, living in America, and making an impact. This website offers more information, including an Arabic recipe of the day, news, trivia, etc.

Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life

"Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life is the work of the Turkish/Jordanian artist Princess Fahr El-Nissa Zeid from the Prince Raad bin Zeid Collection. Embedded in the Paris art world, Zeid was the only female artist from the Orient who managed to record her name in the history of the Abstract art movement and its consequent cultural discourse categorised in the period from 1944 until 1966. Her oeuvre reveals the inspiration of the melting pot of styles that came to be known as the École de Paris in the first half of the twentieth century, which in turn influenced several generations of artists.

"The painting is also one of the most expensive pieces of art ever sold, bought for the record price of $2,741,000 and estimated for more than $3,000,000" (source).

Sexual Assault Awareness Month, April

On March 31, 2021, President Joe Biden stated this in his Proclamation on National Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness:

“According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, done by the CDC, one in five women has been a victim of a completed or attempted rape at some point in her lifetime. Research has revealed a strong link between sexual violence and chronic disease, as well as greater long-term economic burdens on survivors of sexual assault. The trauma of assault is further compounded by the high costs of medical and mental health care, navigating the criminal justice system, and lost productivity.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

“Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse can happen anywhere, including in online spaces. As we connect online, we can learn how to practice digital consent, intervene when we see harmful content or behaviors, and ensure that online spaces — whether they be workspaces, classrooms, social media platforms, or otherwise — are respectful and safe” (source).

4 short videos about 4 myths about sexual assault (one more to come later this month):

Myth #1: Most sexual violence occurs between strangers (link).

Myth #2: What a woman wears, somehow contributed to her sexual assault (link).

Myth #3: Sexual violence only affects women (link).

The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month, April

On March 31, 2021, President Joe Biden gave this proclamation:

“As we begin to emerge from a year of unprecedented stress and hardship, children and families need our support more than ever.  The confluence of a devastating pandemic and the worst economic crisis in nearly a century have increased the risk for child abuse and neglect as Americans grapple with the compounding challenges of school and child care facility closures, social isolation, and increased financial instability.  Children and families of color — who so often across our history have been underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality — face even greater adversity today as they disproportionately carry the burdens of the COVID-19 crisis.  During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and throughout the entire year, it is imperative that we join together as one Nation to combat child abuse in all of its forms — through neglect, mistreatment, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.”

This 9-minute video highlights how a family found support with the Safe & Sound organization in San Francisco, California. There has been “a shift in thinking from being a child protection system to a family well-being system.” Their website lists several risk factors for child abuse and protective factors. The image below is from their website and shows their vision of keeping every child safe.

safe & happy child

NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE, 1-800-4-A-CHILD or 1-800-422-4453

Autism Awareness Month, April

April is autism awareness month. Here is a one-minute video promoting individuals with autism spectrum disorder. After watching this video I found this 13-minute video ot Jac den Houting sharing that learning they have autism was the best thing that ever happened to them. They briefly talk about how disabilities are seen differently, depending on what perspective, or model, is used--either on the medical or the social model. This document and the image below show some of the main differences. The social model empowers people with disabilities instead of seeing them as the problem. For more information on autism, click here.

Medical Model vs. Social Model

National Fair Housing Month, April

On April 11, 2021, President Joe Biden gave this proclamation:

“By helping to create a fairer housing system, the law seeks to do more than just open up American neighborhoods to all Americans.  Access to quality housing is about more than having a roof over your head — it is the foundation for achieving better educational, employment, and health outcomes, as well as one of the most important ways that families build wealth that they can pass along across the generations.  The Fair Housing Act was created at a time when Federal and State policies held that dream at arm’s length from far too many Black, Brown, Native, and Asian American families through the insidious practices of redlining and lending discrimination.

“Over the course of 53 years, the law has made a world of difference in the lives of countless families and communities.  We have also improved upon it through the years; as a Senator, I was proud to co-sponsor the 1988 Fair Housing Act amendments that extended the law’s protections to Americans with disabilities and families with children, and just 2 months ago my Administration issued a rule change to ensure that the law finally guards against discrimination targeting LGBTQ+ Americans.  But the truth of the matter is that we have not fully achieved the goals of the Fair Housing Act — we still have so much work to do.”

To learn more how housing policies have worsened segregation in the United States, watch this 22-minute video by Vox.


After World War II, the U.S. government created discriminatory laws regarding where People of Color could and could not live. This 7-minute video explains how homeownership and wealth are connected and how those laws still disadvantage People of Color today.

"Zillow teamed up with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) to survey 10,000 adults in the largest 20 metro areas nationwide about housing discrimination. The Zillow Housing Aspirations Report (ZHAR) survey conducted in October 2018 found that roughly one in four adults believe that over the course of their lives, they’ve been treated differently in their search for housing due to illegal discrimination" (source). The graphic below comes from this same website.

Housing Discrimination

Consider attending a free webinar hosted by The National Fair Housing Alliance and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 2:00pm CT.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Social Work Month, March

Social workers are in many areas of society. They range from therapists (assisting families, children, students, hospital patients, etc.), to child protective service helpers, to implementing policy change, legislators, community planners, advocates, etc. They are helping improve peoples’ lives—especially those who are marginalized. To guide social workers, they adhere to a code of ethics. There are six key values: service, social justice, dignity and worth of person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.

This year’s theme and rationale is that “social workers are essential.” Social workers have helped get civil and voting rights for People of Color, advocate for marriage and employment protections for LGBT people, support immigrants seeking asylum, etc.

Social Workers are Essential

This video shares about what social workers have done throughout COVID-19.

International Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31

I’m re-sharing “7 tips to help you observe Trans Day of Visibility” by Natasha Piñon.

Transgender youth
  1. Practice being an even better ally.
  2. Uplift trans stories
  3. Recognize and celebrate trans folk around you
  4. Practice self-care
  5. Honor those no longer with us
  6. Learn about barriers to trans justice
  7. Make your voice heard in supporting transgender rights

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Day of Happiness, March 20

It has been a year since COVID-19 arrived in the United States. We may have felt sad, lonely, isolated, worried, stresses, loss, etc. Those are valid feelings because of COVID and because of other life experiences. We have been strong and resilient. I hope we have all found happiness during the past year in some way. As rates of COVID are dropping with the aid of vaccines, I am hopeful to interact in-person again in the near-ish future.

As March 20 arrives, the United Nation’s (U.N) International Day of Happiness, I hope we take time to reflect on what brings us happiness. Consider reflecting on what brought you happiness during the difficult past year. Something that has helped me is becoming more aware of what my body is telling me and the thoughts I allow to stay in my mind. I find the image below to be encouraging:

Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind.

Another thing I like to do when I feel down or stressed is to look at photos of my family. Follow this link to view photos shared by the U.N., they also bring a smile to my face. We all live in different circumstances. May we help one another, as help is needed, to bring and/or enable happiness in others.

A seventy-year-old woman laughs with family members inside a grocery store in Tachilek, Myanmar.

Nowruz, March 21

Nowruz is the Persian New Year across many countries, such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This celebration has happened for over 3,000 years and is held on the first day of spring. Currently, over 300 million people observe Nowruz. The United Nations praised if for encouraging “peace and solidarity” and has proclaimed it a U.N. International Nowruz Day. This 2-minute video made by the BBC and features one of the “oldest Persian supermarkets in London” and explains what the haft sin is (includes objects symbolizing “purity, brightness, abundance, happiness and fertility” for the upcoming year. To read more about these symbolic items, please click here, and to learn more about Nowruz, please click here.

Haft sin

To delight your eyes with delicious Persian foods, watch this 6-minute video by PBS interviewing Persian chef and cookbook author, Najmieh Batmanhlij. Visit her website to see some of her recipes (free to download if one enters their email address).

Food for Nowruz

Here is another 2-minute video produced by China Global Television Network (CGTN) showcasing peoples across the world enjoying Nowruz.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Women's Day, March 8

International Women's Day A























International Women's Day B




















Women’s History Month, March

As we exit the month-long celebration of Black history, speaking as a White person to other White people, let us keep Blacks, Indigenous, and People of Color in the forefront of our minds. Therefore, as we turn toward Women’s History Month, let us ensure we learn about women of all Colors. I'll share a variety of resources.

Below are resources featuring strong women. When I say "strong" women, I do not put limits on it. Strong is creating new technologies, cures, novels, music, foods, designs, etc. Strong is standing up to discrimination and racism. Strong is choosing to be kind and caring. Strong is telling the truth, voicing your opinion and standing with others. Strong is getting through hard times. All women are strong in different and amazing ways.

Women History

his brief video focuses on "her-story" (in relation to history).

Women's Day shares 21 Women's History Month Facts.

The National Women's History Museum offers great info on five African American women in arts and culture

The National Museum of American History (NMAH) promotes girlhood: "Isabella Aiukli Cornell, a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma citizen, used her prom dress to call attention to the systemic violence and abuse faced by Indigenous women. She chose the color red in solidarity for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's movement."

Isabella Aiukli Cornell, a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma citizen, 2018
Isabella Aiukli Cornell, a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma citizen, 2018

The NMAH also shares about Radium Girls (1917-1935). They painted watch face dials with radium so they would glow in the dark. Unknown to dangers from exposure to radium, to achieve a fine point on the paint brush, they would put it to their lips. This caused radium poisoning. Some of the women sued their employers and helped to create worker protection laws.

Radium Girls

Here are many short biographies of women, including Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Hedy Lamarr, Dolores Huerta, Shirley Chisholm, and Sacagawea.

Lots more resources can be found at Binghamton University.

Self-Injury Awareness Day, March 1

There seems to always be something new and exciting that society tells us we should try, or a certain standard of living or behavior that we should be achieving. Whether we buy-in to those various messages or not, it can wear one down. These messages can create a lot of stress and feelings of inadequacy. One message I was taught growing up was to seek for perfection. I have been wresting with that idea the past few years and decided that I do not need it in my life. I then recently read this quote in Daring to Lead by Brené Brown, LMSW: "Perfectionism is addictive, because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. Rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to look and do everything just right.” There is more about perfection in that book, if you are able to check it out at your local library.

Brene Brown Perfection Quote

I started off this section about perfection because I imagine most of us have different ideals set for ourselves. Sometimes our thoughts and behaviors may be damaging—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically. This is when knowing about healthy coping skills is beneficial (another source; another source).

March 1st is Self-Injury Awareness Day. This is an awareness for nonsuicidal self-injury. Self-injury is when a person purposefully damages their body to cause pain or injury. It is done to help the person cope with difficult emotions. Michael Riquino’s, LCSW, offers three steps of advice for when you might find out a loved one injuring them self: 1: Don’t freak out. 2. Find the function (reason for the self-injury). 3. Reflect, validate, and then problem-solve. For step three, that means to listen to them, empathize, and summarize what you heard them say. After giving a lot of time for that, then talk about how you can support them. This could include helping them find professional help.

Self-Injury Awareness Day

Cornell University offers further information, along with ways to help prevent self-harm. May we all remember we each have different life experiences and that we do not know everything about each other. We can be kind and offer a listening ear.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

National Skip the Straw Day, February 23

The oldest straw, a golden tube from Samaria, dates to ~3000 B.C. Another type used in Argentina for centuries is the bombilla. In the U.S., a rye straw started being used in the 1880s but would leave a “grassy” flavor. By the 1960s, plastic straws were being made. Currently, in the U.S., every day we use over 500 million plastic straws. (source for paragraph)

Milo Cress started the Be Straw Free campaign as a child. He calculated that 500 million straws, again, used each day, would fill 125 school buses with straws. That means in a year, 46,400 buses would be filled. This is a big deal because these plastic straws will never go away; they may get smaller, but they will always be there. They have and are entering the food chain.

Milo suggests restaurants first ask if a person wants a straw, instead of just giving them one. Another suggestion is for people to use reusable straws, compostable straws, or to go without. Of course, straws are a fantastic invention, and some people depend on straws to drink. (source for paragraph)

plastic straws and cups

When it gets warm again, and as we are able, we could help pick up trash/plastic on our walks. This is similar to the efforts shown in this 3-minute video. Small efforts do add up.

Rare Disease Day, February 28

"Rare Disease Day is the opportunity to advocate for rare diseases as a human rights priority at local, national and international level as we work towards a more inclusive society.

child with a rare disease

"There are over 300 million people living with one or more of over 6,000 identified rare diseases around the world. Over 6,000 rare diseases are characterized by a broad diversity of disorders and symptoms that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease.

"Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases leading to misdiagnosis and delaying treatment. Quintessentially disabling, the patients quality of life is affected by the lack or loss of autonomy due to the chronic, progressive, degenerative, and frequently life-threatening aspects of the disease.

"The fact that there are often no existing effective cures adds to the high level of pain and suffering endured by patients and their families."

The entirety of this section was directly pulled from the Rare Disease Day website. Click here to read about a few stories of people with a rare disease. Their stories show their great strength and commitment to life. It supports the idea of being kind to others, as we do not know what they live with.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

V-Day, February 14

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against all women (cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence), girls and the planet."

V-Day Core Beliefs

It started by Eve Ensler who wrote “The Vagina Monologues.” This and other works have raised over $120 million dollars for various groups who help survivors of violence. In 2011, V-Day helped launch the City of Joy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They have helped empowered 1562 women who experienced such violence. If you have Netflix, consider learning more with their hour and 15-minute documentary called the “City of Joy.”

1 Billion Rising Gardens

V-Day has also started the One Billion Rising campaign on Valentine’s Day in 2012. It “began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS.” Their 2021 Campaign is to rise gardens this year. One reasons for this is because there are sacred connections in various Indigenous communities with the earth, which too have been violated through colonization, severed treaties, etc. Similarly, many domestic, farm, and healthcare workers are women. One Billion shares that these women are often devalued and unprotected, as has been and is the earth. This year, if you are able, consider growing your own food to honor and remember these women.

Rise for Women and Mother Earth

Random Acts of Kindness Day, February 17

Explore the Good

2021 World Day of Social Justice, February 20

The United Nations (UN) decided this year’s theme for World Day of Social Justice is A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy. Over the last decade a wider divide has happened between societies who have available and affordable access to the internet. This has become more evident during COVID-19. Having such access has been beneficial to those businesses compared to those without. The UN is hosting we free webinar on February 23 at 9am (CT) that will discuss actions that can be taken to shorten this divide. Click here to register.

Person at computer

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, February 7

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2021 theme is “We’re in This Together." This is a day to celebrate “progress in HIV prevention, reducing HIV stigma, and encourage HIV testing and treatment among African American people” (source). From 2015-2019, “there was a 10% decrease in new annual HIV diagnoses among Black Americans.” However, with that progress, in 2019, African Americans represented 13% of the U.S. population but 43% of new HIV cases. 43% should be a lot lower; more around 13%--since that is the percent of African Americans in the U.S.

In 2019, Black American were 13% of US and 43% of new HIV diagnosis

Why is this number so high? There are many factors and they are rooted in systemic and institutional racism. Meaning, this racism has existed for years and is embedded in society and laws. It can be difficult for people to notice/realize it if they do not know about it. Such factors that affect that 43% are poverty, income, mass incarceration and its many affects, etc. (source and source).

social determinants of health and racial inequities on Blacks

To those who are not Black or African American, may we support them. They have been long abused by the medical field and have reasons to not trust them (source; source). They are often not believed when they are in pain (source). If we are in the medical profession, or not, let us think about how we treat Blacks and African Americans. Are we listening to them? Are we believing them?

International Day of Women & Girls in Science, February 11

The United Nations focuses this year’s celebration of International Day of Women & Girls in Science on “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” They are hosting an event on February 11 at 6:00am CT, live from Paris, France. Click here to register. Researchers and experts who are women fighting against COVID will speak.

Women in science

This day exists to remember that gender stereotypes still exists. People today are still told, as an ill-existing tradition, that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields are not fit for girls and women. This is in media, too. There has been a push to encourage girls and women to pursue these jobs and it must continue. “Less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women (source; source). Only around 30% of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education" (source; source).

Black Scientists who are women

Besides a lower number of females in these areas, there are still discrepancies in income between females and males. Women’s median salary across jobs is $0.81 to every $1.00 men earn. When it is controlled to the same job and same qualifications, it is $0.98 for women to $1.00 for men. However, when the data looks at Women of Color in comparison to White men, and they make even less. American Indian and Alaska Native women, black or African American women, and Hispanic women face more discrimination. They only make $0.75 for every $1.00 a White man makes. This data and so much more amazing data is found here.

Gender pay gap by race

Check out this 4-minute video made for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Katherine Jin shares her experiences with gender discrimination and about her innovative product to protect people from spreading Ebola back in 2014.

Red Hand Day, February 12

Red Hand Day is a day to protest the use of children as soldiers. In some places, children are soldiers as young as 8 years old. They work in different areas—on the frontlines, suicide missions, messengers, etc. Girls may be subjected to sexual slavery. Children may join out of necessity or by force (paragraph source).

child solider

“What the children endured was terrifying. If they tried to escape, they were killed. If they disobeyed, they were killed. If they accidentally lost a gun, ammunition, or dropped someone’s pack, they could be killed. The children endured harsh trainings and were told this was necessary to make them into fighters” (source).

There was a trial of a top leader in the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda. This person was abducted as a ten-year-old and forced to be a soldier. In his 40s he was charged for “70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and torture.” The unfortunate and terrible manipulations he lived, from the age of ten, were considered during his trial. Yet for his actions as an adult, he was found guilty (paragraph source).

Child with a red painted hand

To participate in Red Hand Day, consider posting a red hand on social media. You could actually paint your hand red or trace you hand and color it in. You could include #redhandday on your post. A few phrases you could share, “Children belong in school, not in war. No use of child soldiers!” “Children need affection, not small arms. Stop arms exports!” “Children belong in playgrounds, not in combat units. Expand aid programs for child soldiers!” “Children need security, not machine guns. Protection and asylum for former child soldiers!” (paragraph source--will need to select English via Google Translate.)

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Black History Month, February

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) mentions that Black History month is celebrated in other countries, too, such as Germany, Netherlands, and United Kingdom (source). Black History month grew from Negro History Week, which began in 1926. This began with Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson. He is considered to be the “Father of Black History.” Dr. Woodson increased awareness of Black history and promoted its celebration.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson

If you are wondering what you can do to celebrate Black History Month, the NAACP has a list of 28 ideas. A few ideas are to look at your family history/genealogy, read a book by a Black author, support Black media, music, and/or art. For more, click here. Consider reading what the NAACP recommends for the Biden administration. It is important to actively listen to and acknowledge one another and each other's experience.

To read more about Black History Month, you can also visit To attend various free virtual events this month, look at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, here and here.

World Hijab Day, February 1

Nazma Khan endured discrimination for wearing her hijab while growing up in New York. She was often called hurtful names. The hijab was a way for her to follow her beliefs. She decided to start World Hijab Day to help others increase their understanding of why millions of Muslim women who wear the hijab. It was first celebrated in 2013. It is a day when non-Hijab Muslims and non-Muslims can experience wearing a hijab for a day.


The above photo is beautiful and authentic. We all have different perspectives and values. Click here to watch Khan share her story.

National Thank a Mail Carrier Day, February 4

Let us give a big thanks to our mail carriers when we see them or leave a note of appreciation. This past year they continued a reliable service during a pandemic and a U.S. presidential election. They also push through all types of weather—rain, snow, hot, cold, and everything between. Thank you!

Mail carrier wearing a mask mask

Here are a few fun facts from the United States Postal Service. Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General (1775). In 1847, postage stamps were introduced. In 1918, airmail service began. 181.9 million pieces of First-Class mail are processed and delivered every day.

Click here if you want to take a free, virtual tour of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Day of Education, January 24

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) selected January 24 as the International Day of Education. This year’s symposium is titled “Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation.”

Elementary student wearing a face mask

I generally do not copy and paste information directly from a website. I do now because UNESCO has briefly and eloquently captured why celebrating education is necessary.

“Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility.

“Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.

“Today, 258 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school. Their right to education is being violated and it is unacceptable” (source).

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27

January 27, 1945 was the date Soviet troops liberated, or freed, the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Thus, in 2005, the United Nations declared January 27 to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Deportation of Jews from Lublin

This Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp is in Poland. The Germans used existing prewar barracks as the “Auschwitz I” camp. It could hold between 15,000 – 20,000 prisoners. Birkenau camp, or “Auschwitz II,” was build over a Polish village. It could hold over 90,000 prisoners and much of the mass extermination happened there. There is an Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum website one can view to learn more of this camp. They offer a virtual tour of the camp.

Auschwitz Entrance

There is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that provides more information. They have a “Learn About the Holocaust” tab that features a 38-minute film. The film examines the deliberate murder of many Jews, it is called “The Path to Nazi Genocide.” They offer other videos, podcasts, and articles about the Holocaust, as well as antisemitism (prejudice against Jews) and genocide. There are two other tabs. One is “Remember Survivors and Victims” and it has testimonies and reflections from survivors in different formats. The other tab is “Confront: Genocide and Antisemitism.” They highlight The Early Warning Project. This project looks at 160 countries worldwide and strives to assesses their risk of genocide. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has an 11-minute video on YouTube called, “Never Again: Heeding the Warning Signs” that focuses on what happened politically and socially at that time.

I know this is a very sobering topic. I find hope that there is such an organization as the Early Warning Project. May we follow the words shared at the end of “Never Again.” “Our choices in response to hatred truly do matter. Together we can help fulfill the promise of ‘Never Again.’” May we stand against hatred.

There is an opportunity to join a free, virtual event to listen to Holocaust survivors. They were children at that time and will share their stories. To do so, click here. The “Register” button is a pink rectangle on the right side of the page. This is hosted by The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Martin Luther King (MLK) Day, January 18

There are many powerful black and white photos from the 1960s capturing the Civil Rights movement—some of Dr. King. The BBC News featured some of these powerful photos with added digital color, done by Jordan J Lloyd. They are beautiful. Lloyd said, “People have a right to access their history…Color removes a level of abstraction that usually distances ourselves from the past. All of a sudden, the photo feels real, more visceral."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

To learn more about MLK, consider reading what has compiled by clicking here.

If you are interested in participating in our local MLK Celebrations, the University of Iowa has compiled some activities here.

International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, 2021

When I consider the many discrepancies and inequities in this world, I feel both anger and sadness. Not everyone has the same amount of power. A person’s skin color, gender, sex, level of income, wealth and education all influence the power a person has. Along with where they live, their health, etc. People do not just have differing levels of power, but organizations, institutions and governments do, too. Throughout time, White, rich men have held this power. Having power reduced to this one group has not easily allowed the voices of others to be heard or taken seriously.

I can't breathe face mask

There have been movements over the years to amplify the voices of marginalized groups. One large contributing group who have helped have been artists. Click here for a powerful video supporting them. They embody the creative economy. 2021 is a year focused on helping them grow and thrive and be at the decision-making table. One artist, Laolu Senbanjo wisely said, “No one can do everything, but everyone must do something.”

To view some an amazing artwork about COVID-19 and standing in solidarity, click here. As you scroll down, you will see the option to click “enter exhibition” or “start guided tour.” There is also an incredible music video called “’Imagine’: A Youth Anthem” of how youth can “reimage a future in shaping institutions.”

I think we will make greater progress in sharing power and improving lives, as a variety of people and groups work together. We need to understand our different perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences.

International Year of Peace and Trust, 2021

This year the UN will continue helping nations develop friendly relations. They invite the world to recommit to settling disputes and peacefully endings wars. One reason this is important is because up to 90% of casualties in contemporary conflicts are civilians. The UN recognizes that to have peace and trust, people must “listen to, respect and appreciate others”. It is solving conflicts with “mutual understanding and cooperation”. This requires bravery. I believe as we hold ourselves and others accountable for our own/their actions, and accept that accountability, we can attain this goal of peace and trust.

statue promoting peace

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, January

Slavery has not been done away with. It is estimated that 24.9 million people in the world are human trafficked and another 15.4 million people are in a forced marriage—a marriage that they did not agree to.

Human labor

Human trafficking is a loss of freedom. In this situation, the traffickers are those with greater power. They will force, coerce, and/or deceive those with little/lesser power (source). The victims are those being trafficked. They must do sex acts or other labor or services that they do not want to do (source). These victims often experience manipulation, and physical or emotional abuse and threats.

This graph shows the different ways victims are coerced into forced labour:

Means of coercion

This next graph shows how that coercion is broken up between females and males:

Means of coercion, by sex

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has much information and resources about human trafficking. The following is from one of their articles, Recognizing the Signs (). These examples might indicate possible trafficking:

  • “A would-be employer refuses to give workers a signed contract or asks them to sign a contract in a language they can’t read.
  • “A would-be employer collects fees from a potential worker for the “opportunity” to work in a particular job.
  • “A friend, family member, co-worker, or student is newly showered with gifts or money or otherwise becomes involved in an overwhelming, fast-moving, and asymmetric (e.g., large difference in age or financial status) romantic relationship.
  • “A friend, family member, or student is a frequent runaway and may be staying with someone who is not their parent or guardian.
  • “A family member, friend, co-worker, or student is developing a relationship that seems too close with someone they know solely on social media.
  • “A family member, friend, or student lives with a parent or guardian and shows signs of abuse.
  • “A family member, friend, or co-worker is offered a job opportunity that seems too good to be true.
  • “A family member, friend, or co-worker is recruited for an opportunity that requires them to move far away, but their recruiter or prospective employer avoids answering their questions or is reluctant to provide detailed information about the job.”

If you are concerned for yourself or another, please reach out to the Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or call 911.

This video is made by Hope for Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending slavery. It discusses what they do to changing lives.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

World Braille Day, January 4

World Braille Day is celebrated January 4. The day was designated as such by the United Nations because this is the birthday of Louis Braille. He is the person who was said to have invented it. He was born in France in 1809. Braille is used by blind and partially sighted people. It is a vital form of “education, freedom of expression and opinion, [and] social inclusion” (source). There is an estimated 253 million people in the world who are blind or partially sighted.

Blind person

COVID-19 has hit hard for a population that is already marginalized by society. The World Blind Union is an organization that represents over 190 countries. They surveyed 853 blind and partially sighted individuals worldwide about how COVID is affecting them. The top three challenge areas respondents reported were Transportation & mobility; Independence, autonomy, & dignity; and Mental health and wellbeing. One respondent said, “Due to coronavirus it is difficult for me and my guide dog to go shopping and maintain self-distancing. Supermarkets have markers on the ground. These markers are not tactile so I cannot feel them with my long cane and my dog does not know to seek these tactile markers out. There is nothing on the shelves to buy. It’s disconcerting. It is causing me anxiety. I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to do the other things like cleaning and washing. I am not motivated.” It is important to make all new and existing policies inclusive of blind and partially sighted people.

Let us celebrate World Braille Day and how it improves the lives of blind and partially sighted people. These people are resilient and strong. This is made clear in the National Federation of the Blind’s video, “I’m blind, but I’m not….”

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, 2021

There are many different types of fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores. We are very lucky to have that in the United States. Yet, within this abundance there are “food deserts.” This is where an area does not have access to healthy and/or affordable food. It happens because of discrimination toward residents in areas based on their skin color and level of income. Access to transportation is another factor. To learn more, click here to watch a 3-minute video called "COVID-19 & The Food Desert Next Door" or click here for a 25-minute video called "Why Grocery Stores Are Avoiding Black Neighborhoods."

Food deserts may be one reason the United Nations (UN) declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. Another reason is to support education on how fruits and vegetables are important to our nutrition and health. They promote better mental health, a healthy heart, and improved immunity. They can lower the risk of cancer, obesity, and diabetes. The diagram below highlights some benefits from eating different colored foods

Colors of Fruits and Vegetables

For people who do have access to healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables, why do some not eat enough of them? The answer is complex. It includes factors such as availability, affordability, education and culture, and a lack of knowledge. Also, because of competition with alternative food options (fast food, processed foods, etc.), food safety, and national policies. Let us do what we can to help start changing this. That is part of what the UN hopes to improve this year.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, 2021

I vastly underestimated the number of children in the world who work out of necessity. This is child labor. They are either paid or unpaid (source). They are too young and/or work in dangerous activities (source). There are 152 million children ages 5 – 17 in the world who are child laborers (source). To see what is considered child labor at different ages, click here. About half of them work in hazardous conditions. This is devastating. Even if it were just one child, it would be devastating.

Child labor is a cycle, affecting one generation to another (p.3). This is because it reinforces poverty, meaning a lack of income and resources. It is the means by which their families survive (p. 8). It threatens the economies of nations and eliminates children’s rights (p. 3). This labor is not a few hours a week or over the holidays, which could help them develop. It is labor that interferes with their education and harms their physical, mental, and social health (p. 3).

Child Laborers

COVID-19 has limited the learning of students. As many schools have gone to online/virtual teaching, it is important to keep in mind that half the world does not have access to the internet (p. 17). These students are falling behind in their learning. Many children are instead joining the workforce, but with few skills and education. People are worried that if safeguards are not put in place, these children will not return to school and remain as labors once COVID is over.

People and countries can support to create safeguards. Have social protections in place for people, such as access to healthcare, food, income, etc. (p. 23). Allow poor people access to credit to keep their children in school. Provide adequate work for adults. Make sure children receive an education (p. 26). Have local organizations make sure children are not laborers (p. 27). Keep workers safe and protect their health (p. 28). Consider social service workers to be vital (p. 29).

Watch this 4-minute video from the United Nations that was shared in 2018. They stress how fighting against child labor requires a social movement, or change among people, and change within the laws.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Kwanzaa, December 26 – January 1

Dr. Maulana Karenga started the cultural holiday Kwanzaa in 1966, here in the United States. It celebrates, affirms, and validates African American people (source). The word “Kwanzaa” is derived from a Swahili word that means “first fruits” of the harvest. There is an extra “A” added at the end of the word to create seven letters. This is clever, as there are seven candles that they light during this time. One candle is lit each day and focuses on seven principles. Those principles are explained below in the image.

Kwanzaa Principles

During this holiday, people can self-reflect, connect with others, celebrate African culture—some of which is through song and dance. Lastly, anyone can celebrate Kwanzaa, it is not limited to African Americans. For a video explanation of Kwanzaa, click here.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Winter Solstice, December 21

Winter Solstice is when the northern hemisphere has its shortest day and longest night. Since it is based on the earth’s rotation around the sun, it might not always be on December 21 but can range from December 20-23 (source). It marks leaving behind longer, dark nights and returning to longer, light-filled days. Symbolically, it is a time for rebirth and renewal. One religion that celebrates this day is Wicca. Part of the celebration can includes burning a yule log, drinking wassail, hanging mistletoe, clove studded fruit, etc. (source). If you are interested as to why holidays fall around the Winter Solstice, watch this 3-minute video. If you would like to virtually observe the sunrise over Stonehenge, on December 21 at 1:25 CST, click here.

Yule Log

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, December 17

Last week we recognized Human Rights Day. It was a day focused on all people receiving the same inalienable rights. This includes sex workers. They, too, are real people. Juno Mac answers the question, “What do sex workers want?” in a TEDTalk. They what it decriminalized. This means, she states, the “removal of laws that punitively target the sex industry; instead, treating sex work much like any other kind of work.” Like in other work—some days they like going to work and other days they would rather stay home. By decriminalizing it, they are able to work safely, that is what matters. With labor right laws in place, violence against sex workers will decrease because perpetrators will be prosecuted.

Sex worker holding a red umbrella

Decriminalization happened in New Zealand and they collaborated with sex workers while creating this policy. There is so much more enlightening information that Juna Mac shares. I encourage you to watch their TedTalk. To end I will share a quote they cited by Arundhati Roy, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

International Migrants Day, December 18

The words refugee and migrant do not have the same meaning. A refugee is a person “fleeing armed conflict or persecution.” A migrant leaves in order to improve their life, perhaps for a job, education, family, etc. They are not leaving because of a “direct threat of persecution or death” (source). Migrant laws are made by individual countries. Refugee laws are made also by individual countries and at an international level. It is important people use the correct words because they influence how and what society thinks and behaves. They impact how laws are made, too. Whether a person is a refugee or a migrant, they should be treated respectfully. This video, produced by the UN, calls the world to come together. That will be a step toward resolving our struggles. (Information was paraphrased.)

Tree and hand representing International Migrants Day

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Human Rights Day, December 10

Human rights mean that every person should have certain rights. Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

Families affected by COVID

This statement hopes for us to be kind to everyone—starting from within our homes and extending to all others. The UN’s theme for Human Rights Day this year is “Recover Better—Stand Up for Human Rights.” As we move to a life after COVID, they want to make sure that people and their difficulties are not forgotten. They encourage the world to stop all types of discrimination, tackle inequalities, be united to make change, and treat the earth better to be a sustainable planet.

Let us keep in mind what we have experienced throughout 2020, with deaths, racism, violence, misunderstandings, etc. Let us learn from that and work together to help one another.

Hanukkah, December 10-18

Jewish family lighting a menorah

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, often called the Festival of Lights. This time is to remember a miracle from the past where a little oil lasted eight nights. This is why we see menorahs, the candle holder. They often eat delicious latkes, which are deep-fried potatoes similar in shape and size as a pancake. Jews often play a game called dreidel. Click here to watch an informative video about Hanukkah. I was impressed by the person speaking in the video. They said that as they light the menorah, they place it near windows for others to see. They are proud of who they are. They suggest we can all learn from that and all be proud of who we are. We all do not have the same or similar religious or spiritual beliefs. We can and should respect and learn from one another.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, December 12

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the virgin Mary who appeared to Juan Diego. This was in 1531 in Mexico. He was an Aztec who converted to Catholicism. A miracle that happened at that time was her image was imprinted on the inside of his cloak. December 12 is a day to remember her. She symbolizes ideas such as motherhood, feminism, and social justice. This is video that explains more and shows Aztec dancers honoring her.

Children celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

World AIDS Day, December 1

Over the past few decades, there has been more research about HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). People understand it better, how it is transmitted, and how to diagnosis and treat it. Unfortunately, in 2019, there were still about 38 million people living with HIV.

Person with HIV

The World Health Organization (WHO) has several messages to share on World AIDS Day. One of them is to renew their focus to end AIDS. This means to include HIV services with general healthcare services and during this pandemic. There will be a virtual meeting on December 1 that is free to attend. It will be about bringing science and the community together to “prepare for the unexpected.”

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3

Things we cannot easily see in another person are often hidden to us. On the other hand, things we can see often become the first thing(s) we notice. Disabilities come in all types. Some seem “hidden” and some not.

This year on December 3, the United Nations celebrates and focuses on persons with disabilities. They are focusing on creating a disability-inclusive world. Their goal is to make sure that persons with disabilities are well-represented in all of society. This may sound like a good idea for persons who may not have a disability. Or, they may think this is already happening. To persons with a disability, this could be life changing. I do not mean just for physically getting around. I also mean emotionally and mentally, which might be more life changing.

Hero stories

You can hear experiences from persons living with disabilities. You can see how creating that world can be life changing. One opportunity is to attend a webinar, “Share your Story for Development.” It is hosted by USENCO. It will be on Thursday, December 3, 2020. Or you can check out their website, Story4Development, which already has different testimonials. This week consider how you are empowering persons with disabilities.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Native American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month, November

There are thousands of years of Native history to learn and appreciate. One place we can look at on this journey is Their website shares legends, words of wisdom, artwork, photographs, poems, prayers, and more. is another website that shows the Indigenous lands of many parts of the world. By typing in Iowa City on this website, I learned that the Indigenous people of this land were the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Iowa, Sauk and Meskwaki, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ tribes.

Sovereignty is Sacred

Earlier this month the governor of Alaska’s made a proclamation for Alaska Native Heritage month. He states that we need to honor Alaska Natives of the past and those living today. I believe we should work together to give people today the freedoms and opportunities that people in the past had. More importantly, to give them those opportunities which they did not have. The best way to find out what people’s needs are is to involve them in decision-making processes. As a White person I need to make sure I listen and hear what others are saying. I must not assume I know what they want or need.

National Day of Listening, November 27

National Day of Listening is the day after Thanksgiving and is an alternative to Black Friday. It is a day when all Americans can share their stories. This can include interviewing someone, telling stories, and/or recording them. The non-profit organization, StoryCorps, hosts this day. They have over 200,000 conversations recorded from the United States and globally (source). One inspiring video is about John T. Williams, a member of the Nitinaht First Nation and he was a woodcarver. He was wrongfully shot by a police officer. His brother, Rick, shares, “I’ve listened to people, ‘You should hate White people. You should hate cops.’ I find that sad because there’s no way to say that in my language.” Wow, there is no way to say that in his language. What can we learn from that?

John T. Williams

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Day for Tolerance, November 16

We can understand and value people who seem different from us, this is tolerance. We can do this by learning about their culture and getting to know them. UNESCO created the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance in 1995. It says that tolerance is more than a personal decision. It is also action at a political and legal level.

7 Billion Others
The 7 Billion Others project is one way to learn more about others who share this planet. This project interviewed people from across the globe. They asked questions to find out what brings people together and what divides them. Click here to watch some of these interviews.


Word Toilet Day, November 19

When I read that the United Nations (UN) has a World Toilet Day, I was intrigued. It makes sense because sanitation is extremely important for human health. Good sanitation means clean drinking water and safe trash and sewage disposal systems. There has been and will continue to be an increase in floods, droughts, and rising sea levels. This will be a problem for many existing sanitation systems (source).

World Toilet Day

The UN is in charge of the WorldToiletDay.Info website. An article featured there discusses the Brown Revolution: Plant food from toilet waste. Yes, that means to process what goes into the toilet into fertilizer for crops. Even after watching the video I still think “eww.” However, this has been research for ten years in Ghana. They turn the waste into fertilizer pellets (source). This process is successfully being done in Sri Lanka (source).

International Men’s Day, November 19 and Movember

International Men’s Day is to celebrate men who are positive role models. It is a day to encourage them to focus on their health and wellness (source). Research shows that as fathers work toward better health, their children do, too. You can print of an appreciation certificate or posters, and fomd some quotes about men.

Adult male and boy

Movember is also celebrate during November. This organization’s goal is to reduce early death of men by 25% by 2030. Movember uses their donations to research and improve men’s health. They focus on mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer.


Take time during this month, and/or on November 19, to celebrate and thank men who have been positive role models for you. Encourage them to get moving to increase their health and wellness.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

World Science Day for Peace and Development, November 10

All of us live on and share this planet. We all view how we take care of it differently. The United Nation’s World Science Day for Peace and Development hopes to connect us more with science. Here are a few questions to think about. How can scientists help us better understanding earth? How can we help the earth be healthier?

Child wearing a face mask

Their theme this year is, “Science for and with Society in dealing with the global pandemic.” To work toward that theme, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is focusing on three areas. One, to support countries working together within the field of science. Two, to make sure all people have access to water. Three, to care for areas of the earth than need help. Here is a 19-minute documentary on the World’s Water Crisis, click here. While watching it, think about how much water you use each day.  

World Kindness Day, November 13

We recently had the presidential elections. COVID-19 continues. We deal with critics on the internet and in person. These incidents wear on us. Sometimes we get stuck in negative thinking. For me, when that happens, it helps when others reach out in kindness or I do an act of kindness. My challenge to us is to be a kind person, for others and for ourselves.

For ideas and inspiration related to kindness, please consider checking out Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Their goal is to “make kindness the norm.” Their website has many free items related to kindness: quotes, posters, stories, calendars, bingo, and a kindness challenge. I have printed off the challenge and am going through it with my family.

Be Kind

Diwali, November 14

Diwali is a five-day Indian festival of lights. It is important within these religions: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and for some within Buddhism. It is a celebration of the “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance” (Heiligman, 2008). Day three is the main celebration and this year it is on November 14.

The five days of celebration:

Day 1: People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.

Day 2: People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.

Day 3: On the main day of the festival, families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities. 

Day 4: This is the first day of the new year, when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.

Day 5: Brothers visit their married sisters, who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.

Diwali oil lamps

To learn more about Diwali, watch Diwali—The festival of Lights. Look for similarities to your beliefs. What might you add from this festival to your life?

Reference: Heiligman, D. (2008). Celebrate Diwali. United States: National Geographic Society, p. 31.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, November

“Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior” (source). It is, however, not a normal step in the aging process. The disease is progressive—it worsens over time. Currently there is no cure, but there are treatments to help with symptoms.

The Alzheimer’s Association lists warning signs of Alzheimer's (source):

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. 
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. 
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks. 
  4. Confusion with time or place. 
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. 
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. 
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. 
  8. Decreased or poor judgment. 
  9. Withdrawal from work of social activities. 
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

Here are suggestions to help those with Alzheimer’s disease (source): 

  1. Keep a daily routine. 
  2. Don’t overstimulate. 
  3. Be reassuring. 
  4. Don’t yell or argue.

If you want to learn more, the Alzheimer’s Association has a lot of information on their website. They are offering an array of free virtual programs and support groups during November, along with hosting Dementia Super Saturday on November 14. Click here for more information or to register. May we be mindful and empathetic toward those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

National Family Caregiver Month, November

Across the United States and globally, more people are caregiving for adults (source). The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP conducted a study in 2019 that shows ~1/5 Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult (source). 61% of those Americans also work (source). Caregivers may experience hard times while fulfilling that role. It is important to notice feelings of loneliness, how you are managing any medication, and how you are navigating the care system (source). Click here to take an 18 question caregiver self-assessment questionnaire. If you are a caregiver, please take care of yourself—physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, etc. The NAC has several free guidebooks online to help caregivers regarding mental health, memory loss conversation, and fall prevention conversation (source). The Alzheimer’s Association also offers information, some on changes to the relationship, grief and loss, etc.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, October

In the United States we value independence and freedom. Sometimes this and other cultural factors prevents us from involving ourselves in other people’s business—we do not want to bother or intrude. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has contained abusers and those who are abused (source). It is vital if we suspect domestic violence in the lives of others or ourselves, to not be silent but to take action. Reach out to the person or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (call 1-800-799-7233, chat at, or text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474) for advice. Call the police if you suspect some’s life is in danger or that they are being abused. I mentioned above how our ancestors have influenced our lives; we, too, impact the lives of those around us.

Intersex Awareness Day October 26

“Intersex is an umbrella term for differences in sex traits or reproductive anatomy. Intersex people are born with these differences or develop them in childhood. There are many possible differences in genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes, compared to the usual two ways that human bodies develop” (source). 

United Nations Free and Equal shares a beautiful story in a short video, of an intersex baby. The video ends with the words, “1.7% of people are born intersex” and “They are perfect just as they are.”

That last quote is illuminating. Often culture suggests what a “perfect” baby/person is or should be. This quote is strengths-based and proclaims that each person deserves respect as they are. May we self-reflect and see what prejudice thoughts we might have toward intersex individuals and/or toward others. If so, challenge those thoughts and investigate where they come from and why we hold on to them. What can be done to better understand those who we might see as different? It is important to remember that different does not mean bad.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Polish American Heritage Month, October

Polish immigrants first arrived in the early 1600s. In 1619 they staged the first strike for voting rights. Many Poles clustered in the Northeast, and even close by in Chicago, Illinois, is the Polish Museum of America. Some notable Polish Americans include Stephanie Kwolek, who developed Kevlar; Ruth Handler created Barbie and co-founded Mattel; and Leo Gerstenzang invented the Q-tip.

International Stuttering Awareness Day, October 22

Stuttering affects around 3 million people in the United States and is more common in males than females; the causes are unknown, but researchers link it to “brain activity that interfere with the production of speech” and it can be genetic (source).  
This summer the National Stuttering Association held its annual conference virtually, and their conference recordings are available and free to watch here. Their keynote speaker was John Hendrickson, the Senior Editor of The Atlantic, who did an article about Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee for the upcoming election. Both these individuals have a stutter and Hendrickson’s interview has great insight.

This lets us consider the unwritten expectation for speech, that it should be clear and fluid. This places pressure, anxiety, fear, and embarrassment on individuals with a stutter. Let us recognize this social norm and how it impacts people, not just with a stutter, but perhaps other speech or language disorders, or someone not fluent in English. We can also be aware of how we react—verbally and non-verbally.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

LGBT History Month, October

This month,, each day will celebrate a LGBT icon—someone who has been/is a role model and helps build community. This month coincides with National Coming Out Day, which is October 11. This day started in 1988, one year after the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights. To hear the stories of thousands of people who are LGBTQ, visit

Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month, October

As I considered what to share, I reflected upon my Whiteness as a citizen of the United States and my great-great grandparents who immigrated from Italy. Our ancestors played a role in where we are today, as have the actions of others--whether for our benefit or not. October 12 is Columbus Day this year, which is partially why October is Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month. I grew up learning of no wrongs done by Christopher Columbus and later in life learned otherwise. I think it is important to share the good and the bad of our historical figures, and living figures, to remind us they are human. This video was produced by the National Italian American Foundation and interviews Professor Emerita Carol Delaney about the truths and myths of Christopher Columbus.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12

Millions of Indigenous people died in the Americas after the arrival of Columbus and other Europeans to this land; this is something we cannot undo. We can validate their loss and recognize America has lost millions of would-have-been contributions from these people and their cultures. White people can acknowledge the influence of Whiteness in our society, which stemmed from the culture of the European colonizers and continues to be reinforced. We can give space to allow for the voices of Indigenous people and listen to what they share. One place to hear this is at Native News and Talk, hosted by the Association on American Indian Affairs. To learn more about Indigenous Peoples’ Day, click here.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

October is Filipino American History Month, October

Filipino Americans are the second largest Asian American group in the United States. The first known Filipino arrived on the continental U.S. on October 18, 1587. The theme for this year’s month is “The History of Filipino American Activism,” highlighting those who have been involved in social justice movements.

The Filipino American National Historical Society has an online exhibit of photos from their museum as well as three short YouTube videos (no sound). 

World Teachers’ Day, October 5

You make a difference! Yes, I mean you the reader, and it is a phrase we can tell our teachers. World Teachers’ Day is supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and this year’s theme is “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.” Teachers are a huge asset and what they teach helps shape our society and culture. May we find ways to support them now and throughout the year.

World Mental Health Day, October 10

World Mental Health Day is hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the theme this year is “Move for mental health: let’s invest.” The WHO shared some saddening and staggering data, “Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health.”

They continue, “Yet, relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all” (source).

One reason I am a social worker is because I value mental health. I am sure you have all heard the following idea. In society, if we break a bone or have a recurring pain, we go to the doctor for help. It needs to become a social norm to do that with our mind/mental health. I proudly say I regularly see a therapist and they have helped me immensely. Let us tear down stigma, prejudice, and/or discrimination built around seeing a mental health specialist. Let us do it for ourselves and for future generations. Remember…you make a difference!

Learn more here.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

International Day of Older Persons, October 1 

October 1 was selected as the International Day of Older Persons by the United Nations General Assembly on December 14, 1990. Each year has a different theme pertaining to older persons (i.e., intergenerational societies, rights of older persons, age equality, etc.). This year’s theme is “Pandemics: How do they change how we address age & ageing?” 

Considering age and aging has always been important, but it is especially important as the older population is estimated to more than double by 2050, to over 1.5 billion.

Perhaps take time on this day to contemplate how you view aging—positively and/or negatively. What harmful ageist thought might you hold, whether toward yourself, or toward younger or older generations? Inspect any thoughts. Watch this 12-minute video featuring four Centenarians (people 100 years and older) sharing their insights, and keep an open mind. Evaluate if there is something shared, or not shared, that you might want to incorporate into your life.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Ask a Stupid Question Day, September 28

Teachers often say, “there are no stupid questions,” but sometimes people do not believe that. Well, if you feel like you have any, here is a good day to ask! Ask a person or search the internet. Make sure they are reliable sources—where are they getting their information from, who created the webpage, who funds it, etc.?

This past year I asked my classmates what BIPOC meant; I had never heard it before. I felt a little insecure but trusted these individuals to be kind. I learned BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. It is not said as an acronym but is pronounced “buy pock” (“pock” like in “pocket”). I highly recommend reading the amazing information located at

An important note regarding BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folx: They become exhausted by people frequently asking them questions and demanding evidence/examples of the discrimination they face or for their story. Therefore, to respect their wellbeing, search the internet; there are many voices there that have already shared their stories. Stories, such as:

Happy questioning!

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15

September 15 – October 15 is set aside for Americans to celebrate individuals whose heritage is from Mexico, Spain, Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands. Mexico and several countries from those regions celebrate their independence days during this period. Of course, all may participate in recognizing and respecting their cultures.

Have you ever heard or seen the word “Latinx” and wondered what that means? To understand the term Latinx, it is important to realize the Spanish language is based on feminine and masculine words, the former ending in -a(s) and the latter ending in -o(s). For example, the word for “house” is “casa” and the word for “cat” is “gato.” In the U.S., individuals who identify with a Latin American heritage and want to be gender neutral can use the ending -x, thus saying, “I am Latinx.”

The Iowa Department of Human Rights highlights stories of Iowa Latinx and Hispanics.

To hear new Latinx music, listen to NPR’s World Café: Hispanic Heritage Month.

Learn more about the origins of this month, the term Latinx, 20 famous Hispanic people, etc.

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student

Jewish holy days, September

This past weekend Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, which means the “head/first of the year.” It celebrates God’s creation of the earth and is the start of a ten-day observation of the Days of Awe, wherein people are encouraged to reflect and repent. This period ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which this year is on September 27.

What is a shofar? The shofar, a trumpet made from a ram’s horn, is blown to remind people to “wake-up” and pay attention to their lives. Both Jews and non-Jews can consider during this time where they are and where they would like to be. I will add that it is important to be kind to one's self during introspection, realistically recognizing the strengths and limitations in our lives and in the world, while remaining hopeful.

This information and more is found at: and

Written by Julie Sands, UI Master of Social Work Practicum Student