Creating and Sustaining Relationships
To fully understanding our hero, Sheryl O’Bryan, we have to understand the needs and challenges of a “Third Culture Kid”.
A third culture kid is an individual who, having spent a significant part of their development years in a culture other than their parents’ home culture, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience.
This community might be one that we have not considered, so we are very interested in Interaction International. Through a set of core values that include: Prayerfulness, Care, Cohesion, Collaboration and Sustainable Generosity, Sheryl and the team at Interaction International has made a real difference in many lives.
We caught up with Sheryl, who is currently the Director of Communications and TCK Specialist, to ask her a few questions about her involvement in Interaction International.
Who are the founders of Interaction International and why was it formed and what is its mission?
Our roots go back to 1968 when Dave Pollock and James DiRaddo founded the Manhattan Youth Service. Over the next 12 years it morphed into Interaction International as Dave developed two important ideas: a model for the transition process and the “Flow of Care” model. The Flow of Care is at the heart of what we do. It asks the question, “How do we care for TCKs throughout their whole lives?”
After several years in eastern Africa, Dave reorganized Interaction to focus on the Third Culture Kid (TCK) community. TCKs are children who grow up spending a significant amount of time outside of their parents’ passport culture(s). This group includes the children of diplomats, international business people, missionaries, and the military. They bring elements of every culture they live in–and their passport culture(s)–into their lives even though they don’t really feel ownership to any of them.
Interaction exists to care for and equip those in the Third Culture Kid community. We work with a lot of other organizations to make that happen. We love collaborating!
“Today’s voice for Third Culture Kids and internationally mobile families.”
How did you become involved with Interaction International?
I’ve worked in the TCK community most of my adult life. I started teaching at a school for TCKs in western Africa, then moved into a position of caring for TCKs all over the world with my organization. After 30 years, moving to Interaction was the logical step–especially when an opportunity opened up.
What do you personally spend most of your time doing for this organization?
Every day is different, but every day finds me on my computer! Because we’re a remote office, we spend a lot of time on email, Skype, and Zoom. As Director of Communications, I write and/or edit our monthly, quarterly, and annual letters. I also work on our social media–including advertising for programs and publications.
For STAGE (Student Teaching and Global Experiences), I do a lot of troubleshooting as well as planning and executing our training weekends. As Director of TCK Services, I’m involved in TCK Connect, TCK Live, Caregivers Training, College Care. and the Parent’s Education Planning seminar. Sometimes, I also work with other organizations to teach in my areas of expertise. There are no boring days!
Sheryl, please tell us about Interaction International and its current programs.
Where to start? We do so much! Before Covid hit, we were doing a lot. Now, we’re doing even more.
The program we are best known for is our Transit Lounge, a series of programs for TCKs returning to the US. We have a weeklong camp for those who just graduated from high school and are returning to the USA for work or school. We have a shorter camp for younger students (12-16 year olds) who are in the States for a few months to a year. Because of Covid we started an online 10 week program, Wayfinder, for those who couldn’t attend the camp.
We also work with other TCK Caregivers. We have a program for college campuses and another for organizations that send families overseas. STAGE, Student Teaching and Global Experiences, places student teachers at schools overseas and provides them with some cross-cultural training that’s focused on the TCKs and international schools. We also have a program that helps parents figure out how to educate their children outside of the USA.
We also publish two digital magazines. Among Worlds is written and edited by TCKs for TCKs. Interact is focused on the things a TCK caregiver deals with–both in education and care.
Two programs that I have the most fun with originated because of Covid. TCK Connect allows TCKs all over the world to connect with each other. This eases the isolation many of them feel regularly but was exacerbated by Covid.
We have two groups–one for 12-18 year olds and one for college and early career aged TCKs. The 90 minutes of hilarity I spend with the Jr. High and high school students are one of the highlights of the week.
We also do a webcast twice a month. TCK Live is a conversation between me, my colleagues Bret and Michael, and an expert in some area of TCK care or education. We realized a lot of teachers and caregivers were separated from resources and facing new challenges during this era of Covid. TCK LIve is one of the ways we provide more resources. You can find recordings of past sessions on our facebook page and on our website (www.interactionintl.org).
Can you give an example of the way Interaction International makes a difference, or share a story that has touched your heart?
Recently I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the high school seniors in TCK Connect. I sent a copy to his parents. His mom responded by saying, “I must say I was blown away by your extremely eloquent and gracious recommendation letter for my son. I read it to my husband, and we were both so touched by all of your encouragement and insights into our son’s character.”
It was so encouraging to know I captured the essence of this student without ever having been in the same room with him. We email and Zoom regularly. If it weren’t for Covid, I’d never know him and the rest of those we meet with on TCK Connect.
I love how much we all care about people in general, and TCKs specifically. Because we are a faith based organization, we strive to care for people as Christ would. I see this regularly in how we run our programs and interact with everyone.
This spring as college campuses were closing down due to Covid, we realized there were a lot of TCKs who had nowhere to go. Most of their parents live overseas. As borders closed, more and more TCKs were stuck. They couldn’t stay in the dorms, and they couldn’t get to their parents. Our executive director, Michael, knew of a TCK with special health needs in this situation. He worked tirelessly to find a safe place for her to stay for the duration of her need. That’s not abnormal for any of us.
Is there anything that you wish more people knew about this organization, and lastly how can people get involved?
Interaction International does a lot with a little. While it may seem like I’ve told you an exhaustive list of programs and publications, it’s not all we do. If you want the full scope, you need to visit our website.
I think it’s important to know that for most of us our salaries are donated by those who value what we do for others. We depend on our financial partners. Because we want as many people as possible to benefit from our programs and services, we rarely make a profit on our programs and services. We always need more people to invest in us and what we do.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to let people know who we are and what we do!
“I lose patience with those who preach being in the moment as if it’s always a pleasant thing. It’s not and that’s OK.”—Dr. Elvira Aletta
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