North America is home to the largest Tamil community outside of Asia.
A big portion of the next generation of Tamils are born in Canada and America.
And yet, there seems to be many Tamil children who are confused, or neglect being Tamil.
What's causing this confusion and distance?
There’s no doubt children who grow up in North America understand North American culture. From the education system to the media, children are daily absorbing what it means to be North American.
In order to answer this question we must ask ourselves, how much exposure do children get to Tamil, and what are those experiences like?
If a child only gets exposed to Tamil culture two times a year, and during those two times they have a bad experience, of course they will neglect being Tamil.
Then regardless of negative or positive experiences, it can be confusing to be expected to hold on to the traditional customs of Tamil heritage, if there are no proper reasonings.
Especially when children are exposed to various cultures and lifestyles, they can dismiss their own heritage if they do not have strong examples and understandings of what it means to be Tamil.
So when thinking about how children can embrace their Tamil identities, we must think about how we are showcasing Tamil heritage to children?
How are we answering their questions about Tamil heritage?
How excited are we to celebrate traditional holidays, eat Tamil meals or talk about Tamil culture?
Without the proper knowledge and exposure, how can we embrace our Tamil and North American identities?
Saying “that’s how it is” or “we have to do this” is not enough of a reason for our children.
When children have access to various resources exploring North American culture, a frustrated child can leave behind their Tamil roots and only gravitate towards a culture that makes them feel heard or understood.
To help North American Tamil children feel confident about their Tamil identity, and understand what it means to be Tamil, Arivakam Tamil Cultural Academy has Tamil schools across North America.
Our Tamil schools are not just places to read, write and speak Tamil; they are bridges to understanding and embracing one's Tamil heritage and history.
It's a place where children can find answers to the questions their parents might not have been able to address.
It’s a place to connect with other Tamil children their age who also understand what it is like to have to navigate a dual identity.
Arivakam was born out of the need for a space for children to safely explore, and experience what it means to be Tamil.
We believe the key to embracing being both North American and Tamil is a strong sense of community, understanding and exposure.
Arivakam is a place that offers all of this and more for children ages 4-14.
To learn more visit www.arivakam.org
What is my Identity? It's a question that we all seek to answer in our own ways throughout our lives. Each episode of Identity spotlights a different creative, some from the Tamil community and some from outside it, who will be chatting about how we take ownership of our narratives, art, politics and of course who we are. Catch these episodes of 'Identity'!